…but kittens are SO CUTE!
I know, and I don’t blame you for wanting kittens around. If it were up to me, humans would give birth to kittens instead of human babies. But I’m going to assume that if you are responsible enough to own a cat, then you are smart enough to think through a few things.
There are many websites that explain the benefits for spaying and neutering: how it prevents tumors/infections/cancer, stops unwanted behavior, combats cat over-population. A quick Google search will teach you the ins and outs from a clinical perspective.
But for me, numbers and abstracts are hard to process. Instead, let’s look at what your own sweet kitty will go through if he/she remains un-speutered*.
The Mating Process
Have you ever seen cats mate before? It’s horrific. I’m not over-stating things when I say that the mating process for cats is brutal and bloody and cats do not always survive it.
Un-neutered males wander in ever-expanding territories, dodging cars, dogs and kids with rocks, to find a female cat who is in heat. He fights with other male cats, and then with the female, for the right to mate.
Have you seen those Tomcats with missing eyes and chunks taken out of their ears? That’s from battling other cats during mating. And do you think those other male cats are vaccinated? What kind of parasites, funguses, and deadly diseases is your boy being exposed to?
An intact male will spray urine in your home. The benefits of spaying a male are so significant that I am not being overly dramatic when I say that unaltered male cats do not make good house pets. Keep your sweet boy close to home and out of the boxing ring by neutering him.
Un-spayed females have it even worse. Cats in heat are obnoxiously vocal. They’ll keep you up each night howling at doors and windows in an effort to escape. Their screeching is nerve-wracking and will attract a great many male cats.
Trying to keep her indoors while she’s in heat is like trying to staple Jell-O to a wall. She will literally claw and chew her way out of your home for the chance to mate.
If you think you can wait out the heat cycle, you’re in for a surprise. If your kitty does not mate, she will keep going into heat every few weeks until she mates.
And the same concerns mentioned above for males also apply for females: your sweet kitty will mate several times over the course of a few days with several males. There will be scratching and biting, and if the males are un-neutered, it’s very likely they aren’t vaccinated either. What infections, diseases and parasites are you exposing your little girl to?
If you don’t quite understand how violent the mating process is, go to YouTube and watch some cat mating videos. Is this what you want for your sweet kitty?
The birthing process
Not all cats survive the birthing process, and neither do their kittens. Every time I foster a pregnant cat, I read through the Pregnant Cats and Kittens Forum on The Cat Site to brush up on my kitty-midwife skills. While the forum is educational, it’s also heartbreaking: thread after thread about people whose darling kitty-girl died giving birth, or who caught an infection and passed away a day or two after delivery.
Not only are these cat owners devastated at the loss of their cat, but now they have newborn kittens that must be fed every two hours around the clock. Do you have the bandwidth and lifestyle that can accommodate bottle-fed kittens? Or do you have the funds necessary to pay an emergency vet to perform a C-section or other life-saving procedure on your cat?
To get an idea of what feline labor and delivery is like, read through a few pages on the forum tagged above, and ask if you are prepared to put your pet (and yourself) through this.
Some people feel that it’s beneficial for their children to witness the birth process. Might I suggest that it would be much better to demonstrate what responsible pet ownership looks like? Teaching your children to be responsible, kind, and caring to animals will be a better lifelong lesson than having them watch a cat deliver kittens. Still not convinced? Consider fostering a pregnant cat: you experience the miracle of life, the shelter pays for vet visits and vaccines, and finds home for the kittens.
If you cannot afford to spay your female cat, how will you be able to care for her and her kittens? Caring for a cat plus her 4-6 kittens is more costly than you might think.
If you cannot afford to neuter your male cat, how will you afford the vet bills when he is seriously injured wandering busy streets and fighting with other male cats?
Good news! Vets and shelters are eager to help you! Many offer free or low-cost spaying and neutering. Click here: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs to find low-cost programs near you.
Here is the best part ….
…. you can still have kittens around, while keeping your own sweet pet safe and healthy. How? By fostering!
Think about it: you get to play with kittens for a month or two; the shelter pays for all vet care and vaccines; once the kittens get to the insane destructive phase, they are adopted, and you start over with tiny, sweet kittens.
There are so many wins here! You get kittens, your cat gets to stay alive, and you’re helping animal shelters. Hooray for you and your awesome cat-parenting skills!
Interested in fostering? Here is how to get started: Fostering 101 – Saving Lives From Home
A quick addendum:
As you know, my Instagram account is followed by people all over the world. Here in the United States, kittens can be speutered when they weigh two pounds, a weight they generally reach by about 8 or 10 weeks old.
Invariably when this happens, I get comments from people in other countries where things are done differently: where the kittens are not altered until they are older.
Rather than responding to their concerns each time it comes up, here’s a little explanation of why we alter kittens at this age:
In warmer climates with longer daylight hours, cats can go into heat year-round. Cooler countries, particularly Scandinavian countries, have fewer kittens born throughout the year than in warm countries where the days are longer.
Since countries like the U.S. have more kittens born each year, the goal is to spay/neuter kittens before they reach sexual maturity. Female cats can go into heat and become pregnant as young as four months old. Obviously, we try to find the balance between spaying her as soon as she weighs enough to handle anesthesia, but before she can become pregnant. Two pounds is believed to be a good rule of thumb.
Obviously, ever country has different cat populations and different vet practices. Breeders have the luxury of keeping the kittens with their mother for many months. But here in U.S. shelters, we need to make room for more kittens, and we just don’t have that option. Simply put, the right age is the one where we can make sure the cats never reach sexual maturity, but can withstand anesthesia.
In my fostering experience, kittens rebound quickly from their speuter surgery. Their incisions are so tiny that stitches aren’t even necessary – vets just use a special glue to close the incision site. And with no sutures to lick, kittens don’t need to wear cones, either. By the next day, kittens are bouncing around like nothing happened. Older kittens and cats require more care and have a longer recovery time.
Phew. Now instead of typing all that ^^ out every time someone questions the speuter age, I can just direct them here. 🙂
*speuter: a combination of the word ‘spay’ and the word ‘neuter’ which is way easier to say and type, and should become an actual word in an actual dictionary someday.