by Mary Grace Mauney February is “spay/neuter your pet” month, and we here at Mister Migs support that wholeheartedly! As someone who volunteered in an animal shelter for a year, I can’t express enough how important this is. There wouldn’t be half as many animals in shelters, pounds, and rescues if more were spayed and neutered. I’m not just talking about unwanted litters, but lost pets as well.
A male dog can smell a female in heat from three miles away, and if he’s not fixed, he’s going to take off after her, and probably be unable to find his way back home afterwards. It doesn’t matter how loyal a dog is or how much he loves you, once instinct takes over, there’s no stopping him---he’ll be off like a rocket, and chances are he’ll end up at the pound, possibly one very far away from where you live. Worse, he may run across roads and be injured or killed by a car, bitten by a snake, shot by someone when he enters their property, or any other number of possible misfortunes. If males were neutered, this wouldn’t happen. If females were spayed, this wouldn’t happen. The same applies to cats; cats of both sexes will wander in search of mates when nature calls, and suffer the same consequences for it. In addition to wandering and running away, fixing a pet can eliminate many behavioral problems as well, be they a cat or a dog, male or female. Aggression, urine marking, demands ‘round the clock to be let out, noisiness, and more can all result from an animal overcome by the urge to mate, not to mention that owners of female pets will have to deal with crowds of male cats or dogs around the house and fence howling for the female whenever she’s in heat. Plus, it’s less messy who wants to clean up after a female dog in heat gets her period? Not only is an altered pet more convenient, it’s healthier as well. Cancer and infections of the reproductive organs are much less likely to occur in pets that have been fixed. Between preventing health issues and curbing dangerous roaming behavior, it’s no wonder that statistical studies done show dogs and cats live longer if they are fixed!
So, why aren’t more people getting their pets spayed and neutered? It has so many benefits, and aside from the slight risk that comes with every medical procedure, no drawbacks. The answer is that, unfortunately, there are many myths and misconceptions about fixed animals. Here are a few of them:
- Many people believing that it is healthier for a cat or dog to have a litter before they are spayed, or even that they have to have one before the procedure can be done. This is NOT true! In fact, many veterinarians recommend spaying a female before she even has her first heat.
- They want their children to see “the miracle of childbirth” or “teach them responsibility” by looking after the litter. This is, frankly, irresponsible. What does one plan to do with all those little “miracles” once they happen? What if the children don’t learn responsibility and don’t take care of them? Many people think that they will give away or sell the litter, especially if they are purebred, imagining there will be a high demand for them. This is not the case. There are already six to eight million dogs and cats entering US shelters each year. At least 25% of the dogs are purebred, and 2.7 million of the animals that are euthanized are put down not because they are sick or aggressive, but simply because there is no room for them and no one adopted them despite being friendly, loving, etc. If so many friendly, sweet animals are already unwanted, including purebred ones, the odds are NOT good for your pet’s litter. If you want to teach your children responsibility, teach them about that instead. And as for the miracle of childbirth, there are many videos available online of animal births, or, if it’s really that important that they see a live birth, look into nearby farms that might have pregnant livestock and see if the owner will allow them to watch the birth.
- They believe that fixing a pet is unnatural. Yes, it is, but so are rabies vaccines. Something not occurring in nature does not make it bad. Domesticated animals are ‘unnatural’ in the first place anyway, so using that as a reason to not take care of them by getting them fixed simply makes no sense.
- They think that it will make the pet fat and lazy. This is not true. Proper diet and exercise is all any pet needs to stay fit and trim.
- They think that it is too expensive. In fact, the cost of fixing a pet is less than it will cost to take care of a potential litter. If you cannot afford to have your pet fixed, then it is likely you are also unable to afford other medical treatments such as vaccines, and thus should not be owning a cat or dog in the first place. Please do not keep pets you cannot afford to take care of, as it is unfair to the pet.
- They project human qualities on to the animal that do not exist. For instance, at the shelter where I volunteered, we required animals to be fixed before they were adopted out; the adoption fee covered this procedure. So many men—it was always men---wanted a way out of fixing male dogs. Not because they planned to breed them but because they just didn’t think it was a right for a male dog to lose his…you know. Funny how that doesn’t matter for the equivalent bits on female dogs, huh? Guys, please, stop projecting. The dog is not you, he does not care, and he will be safer this way. And that’s more important that human ideas about masculinity or dignity or whatever this hang-up is about.
Next time---what about small pets and exotics, like hamsters, snakes, and lizards? Should they be fixed as well? Stay tuned to find out!