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Spaying, or ovariohysterectomy, is surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus through an abdominal incision.
REASONS FOR SPAYING:
The primary reason for spaying is to prevent unwanted litters and eliminate sexual frustration. A female cat typically goes into a week of heat--also known as estrus--three or more times a year. During that period, the cat may cry continuously, display nervous behavior, and attract neigborhood male cats. She may even try to get out of the house to find a mate. Repeated heats without mating can cause health problems such as pyometra, a common condition in unspayed females several years old who have not been bred. Pyometra progresses from irregular heats to depression, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive urination. Repeated breeding is also unhealthy because it produces nutritional deficiencies in the mother that can be passed on to her kittens. And breeding only contributes to the tremendous cat overpopulation problem.
Early spaying reduces the risk of malignant breast and cervical cancer and eliminates the possibility of ovarian and uterine tumors. Estrogens released during a cat's first heat are believed to contribute to future tumor growth, 90% of which are malignant.
WHEN TO SPAY:
Veterinarians disagree on the optimal time for spaying. Some believe that it should be performed after the cat's first heat at six to eight months of age to ensure the development of a normal adult body shape and to have the least effect on the neuro-endocrine system. But many others think that spaying is most effective in preventing health problems as well as unplanned pregnancies in the period before the cat’s first heat, from eight weeks old to six months of age.
DESCRIPTION OF PROCEDURE:
A spay is a safe and routine procedure. First, the cat is given a preoperative exam to ensure that she is healthy. She should not be fed for twelve hours prior to surgery. This prevents aspiration pneumonia from food in the stomach that may be vomited and pass into the breathing tubes and lungs. General anesthesia is used, but the cat can be brought out of anesthesia in a few minutes if there are any unforeseen complications. Many veterinarians have the same heart monitors used in hospital emergency rooms, along with emergency fluids and drugs. Postoperative complications are rare because sterilized instruments, drapes, caps, masks, and gowns are used. The size of the incision varies and has nothing to do with the skill of the veterinarian; some uteruses are simply larger than others. A spayed cat can be on her feet minutes after surgery, and home the same day or the next day, depending on her age, size, and health. Recovery takes from five to fourteen days. She may need to return to have sutures removed after a few days. During this time, exercise should be restricted and the incision must be kept clean.
Any swelling, discharge, or infection should be reported immediately to the veterinarian.
MYTHS ABOUT SPAYING:
Contrary to popular myth, spaying does not cause obesity and laziness; lack of exercise and overfeeding do that. Another myth is that a cat needs to have a litter for fulfillment. This is a romantic but false notion.
Neutering, or castration, is surgical removal of the testes.
REASONS FOR NEUTERING:
Neutering is performed to prevent reproduction and eliminate roaming, fighting, and breeding behaviors of the intact (uncastrated) male cat. Also, he is not as likely to spray in the house, and his urine won’t have a strong marking scent. Neutering also eliminates the chances of his developing testicular cancer and greatly reduces his chances for developing prostate infection.
The best time to neuter is before the above problems develop, at two to eight months of age. Some veterinarians think that neutering should be delayed until after sexual maturity has been reached at the age of nine to ten months, because they believe that surgery earlier than that will have an adverse effect on bone, stature, and secondary sex traits. This attitude is changing, and neutering of kittens as early as eight weeks old is becoming more acceptable among veterinarians.
DESCRIPTION OF PROCEDURE:
Neutering is a simpler and faster procedure than spaying. The testicles are removed through a small incision in each scrotal sac after general anesthesia is induced. Preoperative and postoperative care is as described above under “Spaying.” Most cats can be sent home the same day. Recovery is uneventful. However, it may take up to a month for the male behaviors to stop, particularly in an older male. This is because hormones in the body dissipate slowly. Although relatively rare, some males may have residual behavior problems after this period.
MYTHS ABOUT NEUTERING:
A common myth about neutering is that it will change the cat's basic personality. In reality, he won't suffer any emotional reaction or identity crisis as a result of neutering. It will also make him less likely to bite. Another myth is that he'll become frustrated and miss sex. This is also erroneous. Cats have no concept of sexual identity or ego.
COST OF PROCEDURES:
The cost of spaying and neutering depends on the sex, size, and age of the pet, the veterinarian's fees, and other factors. But it's a one-time cost—and a small one, when compared to all the benefits. Having a litter and caring for the mother and her kittens through two months of pregnancy and another two months until the litter is weaned is expensive. The cost of spay/neuter surgery is a small price to pay for the future health and longevity of your cat and the prevention of births of more unwanted cats.
Even if your funds are limited, there are several ways to arrange for low-cost spay/neuter surgery. You can call your local animal shelter, which may operate its own clinic. It may be able to refer you to a local clinic that offers subsidized services. It may also offer vouchers to have your pet spayed or neutered at a lower cost by local private veterinarians. You can find the name and number of your local shelter in the Yellow Pages under "animal shelter," "humane society," or "animal control," or by calling Information.
Another option is to call SPAY USA. Spay USA is a national spay/neuter referral network. It may be able to direct you to subsidized spay/neuter clinics in your area. The phone number for Spay USA is 1-800-248-SPAY (1-800-248-7729).
A third option is to call your veterinarian, who may be willing to work out special financial arrangements for you.
IMPACT ON SOCIETY:
If you are still hesitating about spaying or neutering your cat, it's important to be aware that animal shelters are terribly overburdened with surplus animals. In the U.S., between eight and twelve million cats and dogs are brought to shelters every year--one-quarter of them purebred--and four to six million healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized simply because there aren't enough homes for them. Many homeless cats never make it to a shelter; they're strays and ferals that spend their short lives on the streets fending for themselves. They often get into trash containers, and they frighten or anger people who don't understand their situation. Some strays scare away or kill birds and wildlife. Communities end up spending millions of taxpayer dollars to control unwanted animals.
If you decide to breed your cat and manage to find homes for one litter’s kittens, remember that for each kitten you place, a shelter cat has lost its chance to find a good home. In addition, in less than a year, each of your cat's offspring may produce a litter, adding even more cats to the population. A breeding male and female cat can produce 420,000 descendants in just six years.
In conclusion, spaying or neutering your cat will give her or him a longer, healthier life, as well as helping to control the pet overpopulation problem and allowing more homeless animals a chance to live.