How Spaying and Neutering Prevent Pet Euthanasia

None of us like to think of cats and dogs in shelters being euthanized simply because no one comes for them. We don’t like to think about innocent animals – loving, adorable, healthy animals – being put down. We would all prefer America to be a No-Kill Nation. Here’s the good news: there is a way to get there. This month, February, is National Prevent A Litter Month. Preventing more unwanted animals from being born is the key to making that no-kill desire a reality.

Spaying or neutering your pet is without doubt the right thing to do.

It prevents unwanted litters of dogs and cats and has also been found to be medically beneficial to overall pet health. These days, there are lots of low-cost spaying and neutering clinics around the country and there’s no question that animal shelters are playing an important role by first spaying every cat or dog in the shelter before they are available for adoption.

Often I think people tend to ignore the issue because they don’t fully understand the consequences.

Take cats for example. A single unspayed female cat, her mate and all of their offspring, producing two litters per year, with approximately three surviving kittens per litter, adds a dozen kittens to the feline population. From there, the numbers of cats sky rockets quickly because kittens are sexually active by the time they are five months old, and effectively still kittens!

Thus, in a matter of months the original unspayed female and her offspring can number anywhere between 30 and 40 cats. And of course the figures only compound upwards from there.

This ultimately leads to millions of dogs and cats that can’t find good homes and is why sadly so many healthy animals are euthanized every year. Not controlling the pet population also sadly leads to packs of stray dogs roaming around and numerous colonies of feral cats that have to rely on the mercy and kindness of animal lovers to feed them.

When it comes to feral cats, fortunately there any many groups around the country that are stepping up and introducing TNR programs – namely Trap-Neuter and Return. This system works very well. Feral cats under the care of caretakers who feed them can live very happy lives. Often groups build feeding stations and monitor their welfare.

I was recently invited to Palm Beach Florida to be guest speaker at a fund-raiser organized by an organization called Palm Beach Island Cats. This group of caring people takes care of the feral cats living on the island of Palm Beach and they are really doing a great job. Under their care, they have managed to bring the number of community cats, as they affectionately call them, down to 600 and only 23 kittens have been born on the island in the past year. All the cats, once they are trapped, neutered and returned to their colonies also have one ear slipped so that their caregivers can monitor them.

Undoubtedly, one of the most unique and successful feral cat programs is Project Bay Cat, a TNR and humane colony management program run by the Homeless Cat Network in Foster City, California, since 2004. By the time they were founded, there were 175 unsterilized cats living on a long stretch of a popular walking/biking trail along the San Francisco Bay coastline.

While Homeless Cat Network provides the food and necessary supplies, many of the volunteers pay for their own supplies, which helps a lot. Public feeding of these cats is discouraged because that makes it more difficult for the volunteers to trap the cats so that they can be spayed and neutered and returned to live peacefully in the colony.  The organization also has special arrangements with local veterinarians to perform these procedures and offer the cats on-going medical care. In fact, these cats have everything a domesticated cat would have except a permanent roof over their heads.

Since the inception of the project many of the more people-friendly felines have been adopted into permanent homes, reducing the population on the trail by 59%.  Others have passed away with age. Today, there are 72 cats remaining at Project Bay Cat, and 95% are already spayed or neutered. Luckily, the remaining five percent have not procreated, meaning that no kittens have been born here adding to the population.

The needless suffering and euthanasia of millions of pets each yet can be easily diminished if each family has their own pets altered – or strays they feed – before litters are born. If America is ever going to become a no-kill country, this is the answer. It’s the responsible thing to do.

For more information on spaying and neutering and how YOU can help spread the word about this life-saving practice, visit www.spayusa.org.

-Photo Credit: From flickr by Marty1swart

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