While I was out blog-surfing, I began to notice a disturbing trend. I kept seeing blog entries about pregnant cats. I don’t mean “the strays in my neighborhood are at it again” sort of thing. I mean, “I am so proud/happy/thinking these kittens are all going to have a magical life” sort of posts. I can’t help but wonder, do these people know what they are doing?
I personally handle roughly 30-40 kittens a year through the foster program. I know that the shelters I volunteer for take in about 1600 kittens per year together. A lot of kittens actually grow up in the shelter. No one at the shelter is thrilled to see yet another box of kittens come in. Sure, they’re cute, but in most cities, they are unlikely to find homes. Most shelters have to euthanize a lot of animals every day for space. When I lived in Tallahassee, FL I saw an article in the newspaper about the euthanasia rates. They published a picture of a huge room full of dogs that were euthanized that day – not for health or behavior reasons. Just because no one wanted them fast enough. I assure you, no one at the shelter wanted to do that, they just had to.
Kittens given away without dealing with the shelter situation don’t often fare much better. There are people who collect “stray” animals and sell them to labs for animal testing. They often answer ads for free kittens. Sometimes people will take free kittens because they want to do terrible things to them. I remember a case in college where some teenaged boys put a kitten on a hot grill to see what it would do. Someone here in San Francisco lit a dog on fire and set it loose in a park. They just figure that the animal was free, so who cares?
I hear so many people make excuses about why they cannot or will not get their animals spayed or neutered.
1) They fear that the surgery will impair the cat in some way. Well, no. Animals have no sense of “missing” reproductive organs. The obesity that often occurs after the surgery is due to overfeeding and under-exercising the poor animals. To top it all off, there is just as much of a risk, maybe even more, of a pet dying in childbirth as there is of complications from surgery.
2) They say it is too expensive. I assure you, raising litter after litter of kittens is much more expensive than having the surgery once. There are a lot of volunteer and low-cost organizations that will do a cheap or even free spay/neuter surgery for pets.
3) They think their pet should have a litter before he/she is altered. Think this through. A cat can reproduce as early as 6 months of age. There is an article about this on about.com. A cat’s gestation period is about 63-64 days (roughly 9 weeks) and the average litter size is 4-6. If you do the math, it turns out that a cat can potentially be responisble for about 31 kittens in her first year of breeding, and by year five, she can be the common mother through great, great, great grandmother to a total of 255, 871 kittens. Most of them will not find a home.
I hear that Oprah had a great episode about the shelter situation and puppy mills. I have included the link here, both for myself and for others who might be interested in reading the article about the show: http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200804/tows_past_20080404.jhtml. I’ll admit, I haven’t read it all yet, but still it’s worth looking at.
There are benefits to having pets spayed or neutered.
1) Reduced future medical costs. Ovarian and testicular cancer cannot happen in altered animals, given they no longer have the requisite parts. Cancer is very expensive to treat.
2) Reduced chance of aggression, spraying, and other undesirable behaviors. Many aggressive behaviors in pets are directly linked to establishing territory and and mating. Cats spray their territory to mark it (and man does it stink!). Female cats get obnoxious and loud when they are in heat.
3) Reduction in pet overpopulation. As I said before, most shelters have to euthanize for space. That means perfectly well behaved, healthy animals will die just because there are too many of them.
One last thing to consider. Trap, Neuter, Release programs do work. San Francisco shelters have had such success educating the public and altering feral cats that shelters in San Francisco are able to import animals from shelters with high kill rates. There are still plenty of kittens and puppies to go around, but now there aren’t so many that they are just being put down. Isn’t this the more humane route?