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Neuter your pet

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Neuter or spay your pet to help minimize the population of stray and feral cats and dogs. Neutering or spaying helps protect your pet and local wildlife and reduces the burden on overcrowded animal shelters.

How to get your pet neutered

Neutering refers to removing the testicles of a male cat or dog, while spaying refers to removing the reproductive organs in a female cat or dog. Neutering can also refer generally to the sterilization procedure for both sexes. Additional terms for neutering include getting your pet fixed or altered. An un-altered animal is sometimes referred to as intact.

The neutering or spaying operation can be performed by your regular veterinarian, or possibly at a lower cost by certain organizations. Check for alternatives at Pets 911 or Spay/USA.org

Neutering your pet helps you go green because...

  • It helps minimize the number of stray and feral animals, which can harm native wildlife.
  • It reduces the amount of resources and supplies needed to support unwanted pets.
  • It helps minimize the overwhelming number of unwanted pets in animal shelters.

One fertile female cat can mate three times a year, producing four to six kittens each time. One fertile female dog can reproduce twice a year, producing six to 10 puppies each time.[1] Over seven years, a female cat and her offspring may together produce as many as 420,000 kittens, while one intact female dog and her puppies can produce up to 67,000 puppies over six years. In the US, 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters annually, half of which are eventually euthanized.[2][3] Millions more unwanted pets are abandoned, which contributes to problems with strays and feral animals. The waste that the unwanted pet population produces every year is a serious environmental issue. A single dog produces 274 pounds of waste annually.[4] It can be assumed that all waste from feral populations ends up in waterways, since there are no caretakers to remove it. Nutrients, bacteria, and viruses found in the waste can contaminate water sources as they are washed away by rain. In California, sea otter deaths have been linked to a parasite found in cat feces.

Stray and feral cats and dogs

Stray and feral populations are often a result of irresponsible pet ownership. When owners allow their unaltered pets to roam free, they can mate with [[Neuter strays and help perpetuate feral populations. Feral populations usually live on the edges of human society, scavenging for food and raising unsocialized young. Feral cats and dogs can carry diseases and often display predatory behavior. Feral dogs may also attack livestock and wildlife depending on the availability of other food, pack size, and other factors.

Stray and feral cats kill about 1 billion birds and small mammals annually, which can include those listed as threatened or endangered. Additionally, because feral cats are often supported by humans, they have an unfair advantage over wild species. Therefore, they can out-compete native wildlife for resources, and can spread diseases to wild animal populations, as well as contract other diseases from them. Trap-neuter-release programs—individual animals are trapped, taken to a facility where they are neutered, treated for parasites and vaccinated, and then returned to their original colony—aim to control the feral cat population (almost 60 million in the US), thereby limiting the risk to native wildlife.[5]

Controversies

Some pet owners are reluctant to neuter their pets for various reasons: high cost, fear of changing their pet's personality, or assuming that it's best to have one litter first before spaying. The Humane Society of the United States does a good job debunking many common myths associated with neutering on its list of myths and facts.

Another controversy surrounding this issue has to do with feral populations. Although feral cats do pose a significant threat to wildlife, policies that advocate simply trapping and euthanizing the animals are mainly ineffective. Competition among feral cats for food and water is fierce, so the cats quickly fill vacant territories. Because of this, euthanizing feral cats does little to control the population and ultimately may result in an increase. This is called the vacuum effect. Trap-neuter-release programs are considered the only effective way of controlling feral populations over the long-term.

Related health issues

Neutering your male pet can improve his health by reducing the risk of prostate disease, testicular cancer, and infections. Spaying reduces the risk of uterine infections and breast cancer, as well as pyometra, an infection in the uterus that can be life threatening and is common in older, unspayed females.[6]

Dogs and cats are both susceptible to diseases carried by wildlife, such as rabies. Because feral animals live close to human populations, they are often perceived as threats to human health, since they can contract the disease from encounters with wildlife and subsequently pass it on to humans in later encounters. Feral cats can also carry toxoplasmosis and Cat scratch disease (CSD), diseases to which humans are susceptible.[7] Trap-neuter-release programs that include a vaccination component have been found to be the most effective way of controlling both feral populations and the spread of disease.

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