By February, winter is winding down and we’ve all got our minds turned to warmer weather and the brightness of spring. Unfortunately, spring can also bring tons of unexpected litters in cats and dogs, causing the overpopulation problem to grow. That’s why February is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month.
Why does it matter?
Did you know that by just the fourth year of fertility a single cat can have 20,736 offspring? A dog can have 4,372 puppies and grandpups by its seventh year of fertility. That’s a lot of paws on the ground and mouths to feed, and sadly, too many of them do not find suitable homes.
In fact, an estimated 6.5 million unwanted companion animals enter shelters every year. Stray and feral cats and dogs can also cause health hazards and nuisances in communities, making it difficult for responsible pet owners to take their pets outside and costing lots of money and volunteer hours to try to manage the problem.
What can be done?
The best way to reduce the number of unwanted animals is to take responsibility for our pets and get them spayed or neutered. This ensures that our furry friends won’t be contributing to the overpopulation problem.
Spaying and neutering procedures are common veterinarian practices with straightforward recovery routines. Both kittens and puppies can be spayed or neutered at around 8 weeks of age, and juvenile procedures are preferred because younger pets heal faster and have fewer complications. However, adult animals are also eligible.
Why choose to spay/neuter?
Many people think that spaying or neutering is unnecessary because they don’t intend to let their pet outside unattended and that there is no risk of reproduction. However, there are plenty of benefits to spaying and neutering even for pets where reproductive activity is unlikely.
Without the procedures, both females and males will have behavioral and physical conditions that many pet owners find undesirable and inconvenient. Female cats and dogs that have not been spayed will go through heat cycles. During this time, the animal may experience behavioral changes, appetite changes, and bleeding. Heat cycles can last 2-3 weeks. Dogs may experience a heat cycle up to three times a year (especially smaller dogs). Cats can experience very frequent heat cycles, with some going into heat every three weeks.
Male dogs and cats that have not been neutered will also have behavioral conditions associated with their drive to reproduce. Roaming, attempts to escape the house or yard when a nearby female is in heat, aggression, urine marking, and mounting (of objects, other animals, and even people!) can all be seen in unneutered male animals.
In addition to eliminating these unwanted behaviors, choosing to spay a female animal has health benefits. Both dogs and cats that are spayed have much lower incidences of uterine infections and breast tissue cancers. When the spaying procedure is performed before the female cat has had her first heat cycle, the risk is lowered even more.
Where can you go?
If you are looking to take a responsible step and get your pet spayed or neutered during the month of February, keep an eye out for specials.
Residents of Mecklenburg County can get on the waitlist for free spay and neuter services from Animal Care and Control.
If you live outside of the county boundaries or don’t want to wait, there are some other local options as well:
The Humane Society of Charlotte offers services for dogs ($85 spay and $65 neuter) and cats ($50 spay and $35 neuter), pricing that includes post-surgery pain management.
Stand for Animals Veterinary Clinic offers monthly specials that often include spay and neuter services. Be sure to check out their February deals!
Wherever you choose to go, make sure that you take the time to schedule this important procedure for your furry friend. It’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that your pet has a long, healthy life and to keep your community safe as well!