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The Benefits of Neutering Your Pet

Too many pets, not enough homes

Each year, around 15 million pets are turned into animal shelters across the country. Only 25 to 30 percent of these animals are reclaimed by their owners or adopted into new homes. The rest, some 11 million dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens, must be put to death because no one wants them.

This terrible waste can be easily reduced by reducing the number of puppies and kittens being born. And the best way to do that is to neuter your pets. Neutering is a simple surgical procedure which prevents pets from reproducing by removing their reproductive organs.

When neutered, pets offer you what you got them for -- affection, companionship, and being the center of their world.

As a pet owner, you can add to the overpopulation problem or help end it. Don't fool yourself into thinking that if you find a home for each of your pet's offspring you avoid adding to the number of homeless pets. Actually, you've only eliminated potential homes for other waiting puppies and kittens. Only so many responsible, caring homes exist, and finding a home for one of your pet's offspring inevitably dooms some other cat or dog.

Besides giving other pets a chance at a loving home, neutering your pets gives them and you a lot of benefits you may not be aware of:

Your pet will be a more content family member

Because they're domestic animals, dogs and cats naturally take to, and need, people, but this natural affection gets overpowered by the drive to reproduce. This urge to mate leads to roaming, fighting, aggression, excessive barking, howling, and other unwelcome behaviors. Neutered pets are freed of this urge and the resulting bothersome behaviors, making a calmer and more content pet who prefers to stay home and concentrate on you. If your have more than one pet, you'll find that your neutered pets get along much better with each other.

Your pet will be healthier

Because the urge to search out mates is eliminated, neutered pets are less likely to roam from home and be injured in fights or killed in traffic. In fact neutered pets have twice the average life expectancy of unneutered pets, partly due to a much lower chance of suffering from breast, uterine, prostate, and testicular cancers.

Dogs and cats can be neutered as early as eight weeks or anytime beyond that age. Females can be neutered when they're in season or early pregnancy, but the risks are somewhat greater. (Be sure to inform your veterinarian of her condition.) The best and easiest thing for you and your pet is to get her neutered as early as possible and before she comes into season the first time. Waiting until after her first heat period does nothing for either of you. Make an appointment with your veterinarian. If the expense if a problem, ask your local humane society about the low-cost spay/neuter clinics in your area.

You won't have to put up with staining or spraying

During their "heat" periods, female dogs and cats experience a flow of blood. So, unless you're prepared to diaper your pet (and can anticipate the timing) or deal with the stains on your rugs and furniture, spay your pet and eliminate this problem entirely.

Unneutered male cats can also stain your floors and furniture, but it happens year round, and it smells terrible. As active reproducers, unneutered male cats must tell everyone that this is their area and they're willing to defend it, so they mark territory by "spraying" objects inside and outside of the house with strong smelling urine. If neutered early, male cats rarely develop this habit. Older "sprayers" usually stop within a few months of being neutered.

A lot of expense goes into producing a litter. To keep the mother and offspring healthy, there'll be special diets, vaccinations, and plenty of veterinarian visits. Profits are rare.

You won't have to fight off suitors

When your female dog or cats goes into heat, the males for blocks around will know it. Walking her will be like going into battle. Every loose mail dog in the neighborhood will follow, and nothing will drive them away. Your dog will normally come into heat twice a year, and she'll attract males for almost three weeks.

Cats are incredibly efficient reproducers. During breeding season (approximately February through October), females come into heat as often as every two weeks, and won't stop unless they're allowed to reproduce. They'll also go into heat while nursing their current litter. Cats needing to mate will wail, rub, and dart out the door at the slightest opportunity. They become almost magical in their ability to escape.

If you don't want your pet to breed, you're in for a very trying time. You'll get no cooperation from your pets because all their instincts are compelling them to find a mate. Nor is a fenced yard sure protection. Dogs will achieve the "impossible" when motivated to mate, and the number of puppies conceived in safely fenced yards number in the hundreds of thousands.

You won't have to find homes for the offspring

When you read the columns of the classified ads selling puppies and kittens you'd think breeding your pet could make you rich. Don't count on it. A lot of those animals are never sold and end up being given away or taken to a shelter.

If your pet isn't a purebred, you'll have trouble giving the young away. Even if your pet is purebred, she must be mated with another purebred, and the pups or kittens properly registered (for a fee) for any hope of profit. And it's very likely your pedigreed female will make a shambles of your best-laid plans by mating with the first mutt or alley cat she meets.

You won't have to spend extra money

Purebred or not, it costs money to bring a healthy litter into the world. The mother will need periodic check-ups by a veterinarian and a special diet during her pregnancy. Medical costs will mount if she has problems during the pregnancy or delivery, or if the puppies or kittens have health problems.

The young won't be ready to leave home for eight weeks, which means two months of housing, cleaning and feeding them. In addition, they'll need to be checked and vaccinated by a veterinarian before putting them up for sale.

All this takes time and money, not to mention the cost of advertising and the days spent waiting by the phone and showing the animals to prospective buyers. If you don't screen the buyers carefully, you may also end up carrying the additional burden of conscience for letting a puppy or kitten go to a home where he may be ignored, mistreated, abandoned, or abused.

Worst of all is the heartbreaking decision about what to do with the leftover puppies and kittens you just can't find homes for.

You won't add to the fatal population explosion

No one likes to think about the healthy, beautiful affectionate cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens losing their lives because no one wants them. Shelters, which offer food, warmth, and medical attention, care very much about these animals, but the volume of pets entering shelters greatly outnumbers the families looking to adopt. Euthanasia protects the unwanted ones from the pain of a life without companionship. A better solution is to limit the number of animals being born until they equal the number of people who want and can care for them. So please contact your veterinarian or animal shelter and get your pet neutered.

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Page Updated: Tuesday March 08, 2011