By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 19 September 2011)
The best-known reason to spay or neuter cats is to avoid contributing to feline overpopulation. In just a few years, an unfixed cat can produce an enormous number of kittens, very few of which will find good homes. However, there are many additional good reasons to have pets fixed. Despite this, pervasive myths cause owners to delay or avoid the procedure.
Arguments Against Neutering Cats
Common arguments against neutering male cats are based on the following misconceptions.
Myth: Neutering a cat will make him fat and lazy.
In a survey of cat owners, just 25% reported their cats becoming more docile after being neutered, and this perception may be due to the fact that neutered cats are less likely to roam and fight. There is an obesity epidemic among cats, including cats that have not been fixed, due to overfeeding, providing cheap high-carbohydrate foods, and lack of opportunities for exercise. By making minor adjustments to a cat’s diet, providing toys and cat furniture for indoor cats, and playing with their cats regularly, owners can reduce the likelihood of weight gain and lethargy.
Myth: Getting a cat fixed will make him feel less male.
Cats don’t have a sexual identity in the same way people do, so neutering doesn’t bring about any sort of identity crisis. There are also no pressures to conform to any sort of gender identity within the cat world.
Myth: Neutering a cat will have an adverse affect on his health.
The opposite is true. Neutered male cats are less likely to develop prostate problems and suffer serious injuries in fights, reducing the risk of injury-related health problems and costly veterinary bills. Also, because they are less aggressive, neutered male cats are better able to get along with other cats, which may reduce the stress that can contribute to health problems.
Myth: Neutering a cat will ruin his personality.
Neutering stops cats from spraying and roaming far away, as well as reducing the urge to fight. Otherwise, the personality remains unchanged.
Arguments Against Spaying Cats
Female cats that have been spayed will never suffer ovarian cysts or uterine infections, and their likelihood of developing mammary tumours is significantly lower if they are spayed before they go into heat for the first time. In addition, owners don’t have to put up with the screeching of a cat in heat. Despite these benefits, there are a number of myths regarding spaying that cause owners to put off or even forgo this necessary procedure.
Myth: A female cat should have at least one litter before she is spayed.
Many people derive a sense of fulfillment through parenthood, so they believe that cats do as well, but cats don’t feel as though they’re missing out on anything by not having kittens. Cats live in the moment; they don’t speculate as to how their lives might have been different had different choices been made.
Myth: Children should have the opportunity to witness a cat giving birth.
Many people let their cats have kittens so that their children can witness the birth, and this practice contributes to the death toll as large numbers of unwanted cats are euthanized in shelters each year. There are plenty of videos and picture books that can be used to teach children about the birth process.
Myth: Letting the cat have a litter is alright because it will be easy to find good homes for the kittens.
Many people believe that it’s fine to let their cats have kittens because they will find homes for them rather than bringing them to a shelter. The reality is that plenty of seemingly well-intentioned individuals show up to adopt kittens and later surrender them to shelters for stupid reasons. Also, Class B dealers who collect animals to sell for medical experimentation answer “Free to a Good Home” ads pretending to be legitimate adopters.
Myth: Not spaying a cat saves money.
Cats require far more food during pregnancy and while nursing. This extra expense over the course of months combined with the cost of supplies and veterinary services required to properly care for a pregnant cat and then her kittens will add up to more than spaying in the long run. For those suffering financial difficulties, there are a number of charities that help with vet bills. Such organizations often assist with spaying or neutering costs. A local animal shelter or rescue organization may also be able to perform the surgery at a lower cost or recommend a low-cost veterinarian or charitable organization that can help.
Most Cats That Enter Shelters Never Come Out
Approximately 75% of cats in shelters that practice euthanasia will be put to death, and unwanted pets that don’t enter shelters often die from trauma, disease, exposure, or starvation. Animal lovers can prevent this suffering by spaying and neutering their pets before they reproduce, and choosing adult cats for adoption rather than kittens. See Reasons to Adopt an Adult Cat for information on the benefits of bringing home an older cat.
- Plotnick, Arnold, MS, DVM, ACVIM, ABVP. (2006). “Spaying and Neutering: Facts, Myths, and Misconceptions.”
- University of California School of Veterinary Medicine Behaviour Service. (n.d.). “Spaying or Neutering Your Cat.”