Widespread misunderstandings about spaying and neutering still persuade many people to avoid having their pets undergo this important surgical procedure. Below are some common myths about spaying and neutering, as well as the facts.
Myth: “I can’t afford it”
Chicago is very fortunate to have several low- or no-cost spay/neuter clinics. The Anti-Cruelty Society’s affordable Spay/Neuter Clinic is the oldest and is available to everyone in the community. Since feral cats are a serious issue in our community, we provide free spays and neuters for these animals. Each year, our staff of veterinarians performs thousands of spay/neuter surgeries. Some people are skeptical about the low cost, but we believe that sterilization is the answer to preventing unwanted animals, and because of the importance of these surgeries, we use our valuable resources to finance the costs to make it affordable for everyone. We can do this thanks to an endowment from Ruth and Henry Dawson. And since our veterinarians do so many of these surgeries each year, they are truly experts. Remember, the cost of the surgery is far less than the cost of properly caring for a litter.
Myth: “It’s better to let my female pet have one litter before spaying.”
Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, and spaying before the first heat cycle offers the best protection from these diseases. Cats can become reproductively active as young as 4 months old. Many veterinarians now sterilize cats and dogs as young as 8 weeks of age. Talk with your veterinarian about the appropriate time for these procedures for your pet.
Myth: “My pet will undergo negative psychological trauma after it is sterilized.”
Pets do not mourn their lost ability to reproduce. They reproduce solely to ensure the survival of their species. Female pets nurse their young for a few weeks, teach their kittens or puppies rules, boundaries, and limitations, and then send them off into the world. Male cats and dogs are not “fathers” in the human sense of the word and do not actually recognize kittens and puppies as their own.
Myth: “My pet will get fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered.”
The truth is that pets gain weight because their owners feed them too much or don’t give them enough exercise, not because they are sterilized. The weight gain that people may witness after a spay/neuter surgery is most likely caused by continuing to feed a high-energy diet to a pet that is reducing its need for energy as it reaches adult size. Exercise in the form of play can help encourage activity to keep the weight off and muscles strong.
Myth: “My pet needs to be at least 6 months old to be sterilized.”
Today we know that kittens and puppies can be spayed or neutered at the age of 2 months (or the weight of 2 pounds). The American Veterinary Medical Association has endorsed this practice, which is called Early Age Neutering; the animals recover more quickly from surgery when they are young. Your veterinarian can advise you on the most appropriate age to spay or neuter your pet based on its breed, age, and physical condition.
Myth: “My male dog or cat will feel like less of a male.”
Many people have a difficult time sterilizing their pets, because they impose upon their dogs their own feelings about losing their reproductive abilities. Male pets do not have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering will not change a pet’s basic personality. He doesn’t suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when he’s neutered. Neutered pets have less desire to roam, mark territory, or exert dominance over other pets. Sterilized pets are proven to be more affectionate and less likely to bite, run away, or become aggressive.
Myth: “Spay and neuter surgeries are risky.”
There are always risks involved with any anesthesia or surgery, but the overall incidence of complications is very low. These surgeries are the most commonly performed veterinary procedure. Our staff veterinarians perform thousands each year!
Myth: “I want my children to experience the miracle of birth.”
Frequently, animals go off by themselves to give birth or do so during the night, so it is unlikely that your child will see the birthing process. While the birth of baby animals may teach children a love for life and living things, this lesson can be taught in many other, more humane, ways and not at the expense of your pet and its offspring. The miracle of birth is quickly overshadowed by the thousands of animals that are euthanized in communities across the country due to the overpopulation of companion animals.
The facts are simple: Spaying and neutering saves lives. There are just too many pets and not enough homes. It is one of the most important decisions that you can make for your pet. Not only does it help him or her live a happier, healthier life, but it will save the lives of many others, as well.