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Spay and Neuter Cats

Why Spaying and Neutering Cats is Important

by Margaret Schill

All cats should be spayed or neutered (sometimes called "desexed", "fixed", "sterilized", or "altered"), unless they are part of a controlled, professional breeding program. There are health benefits for cats that are spayed or neutered. Living situations for both the humans and cats are improved. Spaying and neutering cats save lives, because each year around the world, millions of homeless cats are euthanized. Pet overpopulation is a serious problem.

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures that remove the reproductive organs, making cats incapable of reproducing. When a female cat is spayed, it is an ovariohysterectomy with the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Neutering of males is complete removal of their testicles.

It is generally advised to spay or neuter cats by 6 months of age, before they reach the age of sexual maturity. Some female cats have their first estrus cycle as young as 5 months of age.

Health Benefits

Reduced Cancer Risk

Cats can and do get mammary (breast) cancer. It is the third most common cancer in cats. Reproductive hormones are one of the primary causes of mammary cancer in the cat. Female cats who have been spayed have a much lower risk of developing mammary cancer than those who have not been spayed. Spaying before age 6 months results in an even greater reduction in risk.


Neutering male cats prevents testicular tumors and testicular cancer.

Prevent Uterine Disease

Feline Pyometra is a severe uterine disease that may develop in unspayed female cats. Without treatment, the cat will die. The uterus becomes infected with bacteria, and it becomes filled with pus. Toxins and bacteria leak into the bloodstream causing life-threatening effects. The more "heat" ( estrus) cycles a cat goes through, the greater the risk. Spaying completely prevents pyometra.

Pyometra in Cats, by Ernest Ward, DVM

Decreases exposure to infectious diseases and bite or scratch wounds

Even if one tries to keep one's cats indoors, Intact male and female cats will try very hard to escape a house in order to mate. The mating urge is very strong.

FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) are incurable diseases that can be contracted from bites from an infected cat. Male cats get into serious fights over an available female in heat, and wll bite each other. This can lead to the passing on of FIV or FeLV.

Bite wounds usually become infected and can develop into abscesses. This will require veterinary cate, and for some abscesses, surgery is needed to drain the wound. (See

Reduction or Elimination of Undesireable Behaviors

Eliminates urine spraying in the vast majority of male cats,

Reduces fights due to the removal of hormonal influences.

Lessens the smell of male cat urine. Intact male cat urine has a very powerful odor.

Female cats no longer exhibit "heat" (estrus) behaviors, such as loud and persistant calling or yowling that can go on for days. Cats go into heat every two or three weeks. Estrus cycles can start as early as five months of age, and will continue until the cat either becomes pregnant or is spayed. The loud, frequent vocalizations of a cat in heat is disturbing to humans, and being in heat on and off every few weeks is disturbing to the cat.

Reduces cats roaming far from home. Unaltered cats roam quite a distance in search of a mate. This increases the chance of a cat becoming lost, hit by cars, or becoming prey of dogs, coyotes or another animal. Neutered cats do not have the drive to search far and wide, so tend to stay closer to home.

Reduces or eliminates stray tomcats urine spaying outside your home and perhaps your doors, and getting into loud fights at night under your windows, if you have a female cat that is in heat.

Reduces Pet Overpopulation

One breeding female can have three litters a year, with about 4 or five kittens on average. Those kittens start breeding on average at about 6 - 9 months of age. In just two years, one breeding female and her offspring can wind up having produced 144 or more cats.

Even a cat who lives indoors only may escape and produce kittens if not spayed. A pregnant house cat that gets outside near her delivery date will often have her kittens outdoors in a hidden area. By the time the location of the kittens are discovered, the kittens may be feral. If so, they can be tamed with some work, but if they are not located, they will join the ranks of stray, feral cats and will go on to procreate, adding to the feral cat population.

Some people think they will be able to find homes for all the kittens their cat produces, but often, that doesn't happen.

Animal shelters, rescues and human societies are overloaded with homeless cats. Millions of healthy cats are euthanized each year because they are not adopted, and there is no more room in the shelters. No-kill shelters run out of room, and turn away cats. Those that don't get a spot in a no-kill shelter wind up in kill shelters, or dumped on the streets.

The only way to stop the cat overpopultion crisis both in shelters and strays on the streets is for everyone to be responsible and spay or neuter ther cats.

Don't Litter, Spay or Neuter Pets

Homeless kittens in cage.
Photo courtesy of Alisha

With so many kittens in shelters already, do they have a chance for a home?

Spay and Neuter Resources provides an up to date searchable database of USA Nationwide low cost or free spay & neuter resources for pets and feral cats.

North Shore Animal America's SpayUSA is a nationwide network and referral service for affordable spay/neuter.