Did you know that between 6 and 8 million cats and dogs end up in animal shelters each year? It’s true, and to make matters worse, over 3 million of them are euthanized on a yearly basis. Worst of all? Most of these pets are perfectly healthy and could have been adopted.
What is going on? So this is all a consequence of a “little” problem called pet overpopulation. You’ve probably heard of this term, but just in case you haven’t, pet overpopulation refers to a surplus of homeless cats and dogs. Basically, it’s a result of allowing animals to reproduce carelessly, a.k.a. with little to no chance of finding homes for their offspring. Another part of this heartbreaking problem are abandoned pets, or cats and dogs that are no longer wanted by their owners.
We’re not sharing this horrible part of the reality just to ruin your day; we’re sharing it to help you become more aware of how poorly animals are treated in a first world country; now just imagine some of the horrors that animals have to suffer through in some less-developed parts of the world.
The good news is, we can make this world a better place not only for our pets, but ourselves as well. And the first step that every single pet parent can take to help the environment and reduce pet over population? Yep, you guessed it, spay or neuter their pet(s). Now, don’t just take our word for it; read why and how spaying or neutering your cat can help the environment, as well as your pet itself. Stick around for some cons of spaying and neutering as well, plus solutions to the potential problems.
Spaying and Neutering Slows Population Growth
A healthy, unspayed female cat can have up to three litters per year, with each litter containing between two and six kittens (an average of four). This means that in just one year, an average cat will produce around 12 cats, all of whom can then multiply themselves. That, my friends, is a LOT of cats, anyway you slice it.
And as mentioned, pet overpopulation is a real problem both for the animals themselves and the environment. Homeless or abandoned pets lead horrible lives, whether they live on the streets or in the shelters. Some end up being euthanized (out of roughly 3 million euthanized pets, 1.5 million are cats), others spend their lives being sick, hungry, thirsty, and in constant fear of predators, until they meet their untimely death.
To help reduce this serious problem, please, please consider neutering or spaying your pet(s). While you alone cannot solve pet overpopulation, you can help by not contributing to it.
Neutering and Spaying Helps Preserve Wildlife
According to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stray and feral cats destroy more wildlife such as birds, reptiles and critters, than any other human-caused threats, including vehicles and poisoning. Of course, feral cats, who have no relationship with humans whatsoever are the biggest threat to the ecosystem, but stray cats (those you may occasionally leave kibble out for) also kill wildlife. In fact, according to Pete Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, stray felines kill three times as many animals as owned cats. If you want the specifics, research shows that cats are responsible for the extinction of 63 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Cats have such a natural talent at killing wildlife that in 2015, Australia announced they will kill two million feral cats (!) in an effort to protect the country’s indigenous wildlife, more specifically, threatened marsupia and rodent species. Needless to say, the feral and stray cat problem is not good for the wildlife or cats themselves.
We all love our feline companions, so this can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for those who see their kitties as pure, harmless, and cuddly beauties. However, this is the reality we all share and it’s important not to shut our eyes at the truth. If you’re on this website, we presume you love both your cat and the planet (as we all should), in which case, you really should consider neutering or spaying your cat, especially if they’re an outdoor pet. Speaking of which, outdoor cats are a bad idea according to many ecologists; most if not all cats should be indoor pets, but this is a topic for another conversation.
Neutering and Spaying Reduces the Number of Shelter Euthanizations
As we mentioned in the beginning of this article, around 1.5 million of cats are euthanized in shelters each year. As if this high number wasn’t heartbreaking enough, most of these cats are healthy and could have been adopted – what a waste of innocent feline life!
By spaying and neutering your cats, you’ll help prevent the number of shelter euthanizations, thereby reducing the problem in general. Not only this, but you’ll also give older and senior cats who are already in shelters a chance for a better life – a chance to get adopted. As most of you can guess, kittens always have a better chance of getting adopted than adult and older cats, so when they get submitted to animal shelters (which is what happens when people who don’t want kittens don’t spay their cats), the older cats who have been waiting for months or years to get adopted are put aside.
Spaying and Neutering Reduces Health Risks for Cats
If you don’t really care about the wildlife or feral cats, we’re sure you care deeply about your own feline companion. Well, the good news is that neutered and spayed cats live longer and healthier lives than their non-sterilized counterparts!
A study by Banfield Pet Hospitals revealed that an average spayed cat lives 39% longer than an unspayed female cat, while an average neutered cat lives 62% longer than an intact male cat. So why do sterilized felines live longer? Apparently, it all has to do with the reduced risk of certain types of cancer: for example, neutered male cats cannot get testicular cancer and have lower rates of prostate cancer, while spayed female cats cannot develop ovarian cancer and have a lower incidence of breast cancer. The benefits of spaying a cat will be even greater if you do it before her first heat (offers the best protection against various diseases).
On top of this, neutered cats are much less likely to roam the neighborhood and fight with other cats, which in turn, reduces the risk of developing several diseases. Also, neutering male cats is very likely to reduce aggression and problematic behavior in general.
Potential Cons of Spaying and Neutering
Okay, so neutering and spaying clearly have numerous benefits both for your pet and the environment, but what about its potential cons? Are there any reasons not to neuter your cat or spay them?
No More Kittens
So this “con” is the most obvious one – if you spay or neuter your kitty, they will be sterilized; in other words, no more kittens. Naturally, if you wish to breed your cat, you shouldn’t spay or neuter them.
Possible Weight Gain
Some cats may gain excessive weight after sterilization. Intact cats typically have a strong mating desire so will spend a lot of their time, as well as energy in seeking a mate and reproducing. Female cats will also spend a lot of their time and energy nursing their kittens. After spaying or neutering your cat, they will no longer have this energy burden, so if they continue eating the same amount of food, they may indeed gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Thankfully, you can avoid this potential con by feeding your cat either a low-calorie food or food specifically designed for sterilized cats. You should also make sure your kitty exercises or has some sort of physical activity every day.
All in all, by spaying or neutering your cat, you will not only help the environment but your kitty as well by improving their health and increasing their longevity. But when all is said and done, this is a personal decision. If you don’t want to neuter your cat or spay them, don’t – however, do make sure that each new kitten has a home.