Dear Ms. Kitty,
I recently adopted an eight-week-old, Snowshoe cat named Ziggy from a breeder. She is beautiful and I’m thinking about letting her have a litter of kittens before I get her spayed. But when I mentioned that idea to my neighbor she scolded me about there being too many kittens at shelters already in need of good homes. What is your opinion? Should I breed Ziggy or have her spayed?

Stumped about Spaying

Dear Stumped,

While I understand that Spring is in the air and so are visions of baby bunnies, chicks and fuzzy, cuddly kittens and that sometimes the thought of breeding your cat, especially a unique variety, and selling the kittens can be an attractivive one – spaying your cat is the better option.

There are several common myths or excuses used when it comes to making the decision whether to spay or neuter a cat. The reasons for not spaying (female) or neutering (male) range from misguided notions about the health of the cat, their behavior and the dangers or cost of surgery to fairness to the cat and the natural circle of life. Let’s take a closer look.

According to the ASPCA, spaying your female cat before her first heat, at 8-12 weeks and at least 2 pounds in weight, will help prevent possible uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 90 percent of cats. In addition, neutering your male cat could prevent testicular cancer, if done before six months of age. Although it is true that a small percentage of sterilized cats may gain weight, especially if the surgery is delayed until they are older, proper exercise and diet will negate this risk.

A spayed or neutered cat will have much less risk of developing behavior issues. Sterilization creates positive changes in male cats making them more social and less aggressive. No more midnight serenades and spraying your shrubs and flower gardens! And you can imagine how much happier a female cat will be without the stress of being in heat for four to five days once a month during breeding season. Breeding season varies by cats and geography, but can start as early as February and run through December! Plus you won’t need to face the possibility of your cat running out the door in an instinctual effort to find a mate and maybe be injured in the process.

Spay or neuter operations are the most routine surgeries performed in a veterinarian’s office. While spay surgeries are a bit more involved, it takes less than 15 minutes to neuter a male cat. Most kittens are back to normal, walking and eating within a few hours after surgery, and acting like nothing happened in 2 to 3 days. Veterinarians will typically prescribe pain medications and post-surgery office visits due to complications are highly unlikely.

As far as expenses go, there are low-cost clinics that offer assistance with surgery costs. And the cost of surgery pales in comparison to the cost of having and caring for a litter of kittens. Two well-known clinics in the Colorado Springs area are the Hamlett Spay and Neuter Clinic located near The Citadel mall (719-475-1800. Costs range from $35-$55.) and the sterilization clinic at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) (719-302-8795. Costs range from $25-$45.) You can also ask your own veterinarian about financial assistance that may be available.

And finally, about those anti-sterilization arguments you may hear about it not being fair to prevent cats from reproducing or wanting children to experience the miracle of birth. The simple fact that female kittens are mature and able to become pregnant at as early as four months and deliver as young as six months coupled with the fact that one, unspayed female can be responsible for up to 125 kittens per year, should be enough of a deterrent to change anyone’s mind.

Cats do not need to procreate to be healthy and happy and there are numerous other ways (books and videos) to share or teach the circle of life with children. Right now, according to the ASPCA, there are
approximately 70 million cats on the streets and in shelters across the U.S. and thousands of cats (and kittens) here in Colorado. There are plenty of kittens in local shelters born as the result of litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.
— Ms. Kitty

[Note from Happy Cats…if you’d like your children to experience the fun and responsibility of kittens, please consider becoming a foster family. You’ll not only get that experience, but also the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped find homes for all those fragile little ones! Please see our Feline Foster page for more information.]