By Julie Jacobson, Director, Spay Tennessee
The good news is that most people realize that spaying and neutering is the right thing to do for their pets and provides a lifetime of health benefits. The bad news is that most people do not realize WHEN to spay or neuter.
Spaying and neutering does prevent unwanted litters; unfortunately, most pet owners
do not fix their pets until after their first “oops” litter because they simply didn’t make it a priority or understand how soon their pets hit puberty. All of those unwanted litters are why shelter euthanasia remains the leading cause of death for cats and dogs across our country. We are using the death penalty as birth control and there is a smarter way. Just like in the criminal justice system or with personal health, prevention of the problem is much more cost effective than treatment. Prevention of pet overpopulation is much cheaper and more humane than treatment through animal control, sheltering, and killing healthy and adoptable pets. The first step to no-kill is no-birth.
The best way to reduce shelter euthanasia is to reduce shelter intake! The best way to reduce shelter intake is by fixing pets before those accidental litters happen! Shame on any shelter or rescue group that adopts out intact animals. Studies prove that less than 40% of pet owners fix those pets before an “oops” litter has happened. Shelters that do not alter before adoption are only adding to the pet overpopulation problem in their community. Simply put, an animal has not been “rescued” until it has been fixed.
Pets can safely be fixed at two months old as supported by numerous credible animal medical associations. The American Veterinarian Medical Association supports the concept of pediatric surgery (surgery under 16 weeks old) for pets going up for adoption as a way to reduce the numbers of unwanted pets. Most pets done this young are up for adoption and fixing them prior to adoption is the only way to ensure that they will not continue to add to the overpopulation problem.
We are seeing cats in heat as young as 3-4 months old. This means kittens are easily mothers before they are six months old. This is not healthy for the mother or the kittens and another reason we must spay cats early – Fix by Four months!
Owned pets typically may be fixed older than two months and pet owners should talk to their veterinarian about when to schedule the surgery as part of puppy and kitten wellness visits. Spaying females prior to their first heat cycle practically eliminates their chances of getting mammary tumors and breast cancer in their lifetimes. Neutering males can prevent prostate and testicular cancer as well.
If your pets are not fixed, YOU are part of the problem. If you want to save 100 animals, please spay or neuter one, preferably your own! And please consider supporting a spay/neuter clinic or program near you.