World Spay Day – Seven Great Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Cat During Covid and Beyond

Photo credit: Sam Lion from Pexels

Rescue animals were TIME magazine’s 2020 Pet of the Year and with the new normal associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s really not a surprise. With stay-at-home orders issued across the U.S. in March 2020 and continuing nearly a year later for much of the population, people and families are hungry for the love and companionship a pet can bring. According to a survey published in January 2021 from Porch.com, Americans adopted 750,000 animals from shelters since the pandemic began, a 3% higher rate than the previous year, with 55% of the adoptions, cats.

Given that people’s stress levels have escalated, and it’s been proven cats can decrease depression, stress, anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke by having them around, it’s no wonder the increase in adoptions. But with the desire for comfort and companionship, comes a serious responsibility and commitment to the pet. Especially in terms of the need for spay/neuter for any cat or kitten entering a household that has not yet had the procedure done, something Covid has complicated for many pet guardians and veterinarians, whether due to finances, restrictions on veterinary services, and more.

Photo credit: Deposit photos.com. Graphic design by Deborah Barnes/ZeeZoey.com.

With February Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and today World Spay Day, it’s a subject worth discussing, because Covid can’t be the reason the procedure is put off, and here are 7 important reasons why:

1. First and foremost, for the health of the cat. The overall health and emotional benefits to your cat from spay/neuter will result in them having a longer and happier life. Spaying your female prior to her first heat nearly eliminates the risk of mammary cancer, uterine infections, and uterine cancer, which is fatal to approximately 90% of cats according to the ASPCA. Neutering your male before he is 6 months of age prevents testicular and prostate cancer and greatly reduces his risk for perianal tumors.

2. Even with the best intentions of keeping your cat inside, escapes can happen and if your female cat is not spayed, she might accidentally become impregnated, or your male might find a fertile female to impregnate.

3. Accidental pregnancies quickly add up. Despite the slight increase in cat adoptions over the past year, shelters are still overcrowded and cat homelessness in outdoor communities’ totals in the millions. Based on outdoor colony cat research by Dr. Michael Stoskopf, professor of wildlife medicine at North Carolina State, it’s been determined an unspayed female cat could have between 98 – 200 kittens in her lifetime. When you factor in possible offspring from offspring during that 7-year time frame, that could total a collective astounding 5000 kittens. We are also heading into what is known as “kitten season,” the warmer months of March through October where kitten births are exponentially higher, flooding already-crowded shelters, as well as the streets.

Vector from Deposit photos.com. Graphic design by Deborah Barnes/ZeeZoey.com.

4. Behavioral Benefits. Spaying stops a female’s heat cycle and the annoying vocalization and inappropriate urination that can come with it. Until she is spayed, this cycle will repeat and continue for weeks at a time until she finds a mate. Neutering a male reduces aggressive behavior and his need to mark the house or outdoors with strong-smelling urine. Spay/neuter will virtually eliminate these behavioral issues whether for an indoor pet cat, or outdoor colonies.

5. I’ve adopted a kitten, so I don’t need to worry. False. According to the retired cat veterinarian, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, ABVP, “a female kitten can become pregnant as early as 4 1/2 months of age and a male kitten can impregnate a fertile female at the same young age. Because cats are such prolific creatures, a pre-pubertal spay/neuter is now recommended and is safe with healthy kittens who weigh at least 2 pounds or are 8 weeks of age or older.” He also states you do not have to wait until a female has had her first heat to spay her and contrary to popular belief, a female cat can become pregnant while she is nursing if she is not spayed.

Photo credit: Deposit photos.com. Graphic design by Deborah Barnes/ZeeZoey.com.

6. The safety of your cat. Spay/neuter reduces the urge for a cat to wander and roam looking for a mate which could result in a traffic injury or fatality.

7. All of us are affected by cat overpopulation, whether you have a cat or not. Millions of tax dollars are spent every year to shelter and care for outdoor and shelter cats – much of it to euthanize cats who are either feral or can’t be homed. Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies states, “spaying and neutering immediately, humanely, and permanently stops reproduction.” By adopting responsible TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs, community cat populations decrease and as a result, taxpayer dollars can be used for other programs, such as programs to educate communities about the benefits of spay/neuter.

Even with the compelling evidence of the importance of spay/neuter, there are still those that won’t get the procedure done for their cat or have concerns. For example, fear of weight gain in the cat, which can happen. However, with proper diet and exercise, that can be managed. Some also worry that the procedure is dangerous, and yes, while it can be scary to think of our feline friend being operated on, spay and neuters are the most routine surgeries performed in the veterinary world and are very safe. They are typically quick, and most cats are walking and eating within a few hours after the surgery and back to normal behavior in a couple of days. There are prescribed pain medications after surgery as needed and complications are not common, especially if the caretaker follows all post-surgical care guidelines.

For many, it’s strictly a lack of finances, especially with the burdens Covid has brought. But there are many low-cost, even free clinics that offer assistance as well as subsidized programs. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian or local shelter for options. The ASPCA also has a low-cost spay/neuter database provider available on their website to help provide guidance.

With all that said, there should be very little reason not to have your new pet spayed or neutered. Most veterinary offices are now open, typically with curbside dropoff and pickup for Covid safety reasons. Check with your local vet or clinic before making the appointment so you know the proper guidelines before you bring your pet in.

Sterling before the pandemic, back when he could educate in-person. He currently uses Zoom technology to spread the word about TNR. Photo courtesy of Sterling Davis.

And there is some good news for community cats, too. Sterling Davis, CEO and Founder at TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions of Atlanta, Georgia shares that while TNR has been adversely affected by Covid, with many vets/locations short-staffed and limiting clinic hours, on a positive note, because everyone has been stuck inside on Zoom calls, he says, “that has given us more time to do virtual presentations and educate others. Normally I would be out a lot more but this past year I’ve probably educated more people than I have since I started and that’s a good thing. Hopefully, once things go back to normal, we’ll have some new people coming out to help fight the good fight!”

We couldn’t agree more, Sterling. We all need to do our part, and it starts by being responsible in our own households.

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February is nationally recognized as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, with the purpose to encourage people to have their pets sterilized before the spring and summer months (typically March through October but varies across the country) when there is a rampant overproduction of puppies and kittens and when most animal shelters experience an unmanageable increase in animal intake.

World Spay Day first started as Spay Day USA, an annual event created by Doris Day and the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) in 1995, to encourage people to save animal lives by spaying and neutering companion animals and feral cats. In 2006, DDAL merged with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), continuing the tradition under the HSUS as World Spay Day.

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  1. Brian Frum says:

    Such an important topic. We’ll never understand why some humans just don’t get it.

  2. Leah says:

    Within our adopted litter of kittens (from a feral mom who is now spayed) we saw the signs of early fertility, so I can attest that it really does happen early. We got them all spayed or neutered last year right before the pandemic lockdown. Our savvy vet was already practicing safe distancing, fortunately.

    Yay Sterling Davis!

  3. Very good reasons. I still can’t believe there are people who don’t get their pets spayed or neutered.

  4. Ellen Pilch says:

    Great post! I don’t need convincing, I always spay/neuter as soon as I find a kitty.

  5. meowmeowmans says:

    Great post! Spaying and neutering is SO important, for so many reasons!