Filomena Marta

Filomena Marta

About spaying/neutering

The decision to neuter our animal indicates the level of responsibility we assume towards him.
There are many taboos and beliefs around this topic.
We intend here to clarify doubts and elucidate you about the importance of spaying and
neutering your animal.

What is spay/neutering?

  • It is a surgical method through which the veterinarian (and only veterinarians!) remove the reproductive organs.
  • It does not hurt. It is done under anesthesia and is considered as routine surgery, when performed in healthy animals.
  • Blood tests must be carried out before surgery. The postoperative period is generally quick and complications free, though care must be taken in the first days after the surgery so that the animal remains calm and with controlled mobility.
  • Before the surgery, fasting for at least 12 hours is imperative (leave the cat without food and water, if there is more than one animal at home, all must be without water and food or the animal that will undergo the surgery must be isolated/alone).
  • In males, the testicles (gonads) are removed. It’s called castration, but it’s usually referred to as neutering.
  • In females, the ovaries and uterus are removed (ovariohysterectomy – OVH). It also enters the castration’s category, only it is usually referred as spaying.
  • Gonads and ovaries are the organs responsible for the production of sexual hormones as well as the reproductive process (which includes the uterus). Hormonal production disappear but the intrinsic personality of the animal does not change.

Advantages of spaying/neutering

  • When a male reaches sexual maturity he may develop territory marking behaviors. It is an ancestral and instinctive process, to warn other males (their competitors for mating) that a certain territory belongs to him. This marking can really be extremely unpleasant, as it is not just urine, but a “spray” thrown at various objects, loaded with hormones and with a very intense, permanent and extremely difficult to eliminate smell, even with thorough washing of the affected materials.
  • Females in heat can vocalize intensively, day and night, calling the male.
  • Sexual maturity in cats can happen at any time after six months of age. Precocious heats can happen in females as early as five months. Indesirable pregnancies become a real risk, even because both males and females are more prone to try to run away, in search of a mate. Therefore, it is always advisable to sterilize before the first heat (even to prevent behavioral problems), which usually coincides with five or six months of age.
  • In aggressive and/or dominant cats, both males and females, this tendency may be attenuated or disappear, due to the absence of hormonal production. Males lose the need to actively control their territory against other males, and do not mark territory anymore.
  • Females no longer have heat, consequently, they no longer have situations in which they suffer. Yes, heat is a huge stress and discomfort factor for a cat that cannot fulfill the natural reproduction cycle! The heat season can also be unpleasant for the family, as there are females that vocalize a lot, day and night, as a mating call, while males start marking territory with a very intense and unpleasant odor for humans.

Adding up to all said, neutering is an extremely important factor for animal protection: it is the
only effective method against the indiscriminate reproduction and consequent overpopulation
of dogs and cats, which leads to abandonment and systematic slaughter.

In females:
Eliminates the possibility of contracting ovarian or uterine cancer. Lowers the chances of
breast cancer in over 90%.
Prevents pyometra, a serious and dagerous infection of the uterus which, if not treated in
time (treatment includes sterilization), leads to death;

It avoids pseudocyesis, known as psychological pregnancy or false pregnancy, an hormonal
disorder quite common in females;
In females spayed before the first heat (around six months old) there is a very low risk of
developing mammary tumors.

In males:

Helps reducing general aggressiveness, especially towards other males and mating fights;
• The ritual of demarcating territory with urine and possessive or dominant behaviors also
tend to decrease;

Decreases anxiety and the urge for escaping, as well as “mounting” other animals and
people, or even furniture, such as pillows and blankets;
Eliminates some instinctive reactions related to the reproductive system and, for example,
the males become much calmer;

Prevents testicular tumors, perianal hernias, tumors of the hepatoid glands, tumors of the
perianal glands, prostatic cysts and tumors, among other possible cancers.

Decreases the risk of contracting venereal diseases, sexually transmited, or diseases
transmitted by bites from other animals (territorial fights for dominance), such as feline AIDS.

. Neutering/spaying also reduces the risk of being run over, because the tendency to run away

It’s important to point out that, concerning dogs, neutering does not change the instinct for
territorial defense and aggressiveness due to fear, that is, sterilization does not make the dog
less or more fearful, nor does it interfere with its guarding instinct. The animal’s personality
stays the same.

Aren’t we working against nature?

  • No.
  • Before the natural right of the female to reproduce, there is the right of the litter not to be killed in horrendous ways. For example: thrown into a river with a few days of life, or drowned at home, or thrown in garbage cans, alive and trapped in plastic bags, thus dying of cold, hunger and crushed inside a garbage truck… and in so many other cruel and inhumane ways.

The Human Being exercises over himself the right to reproduce or not, through the use of
contraceptive methods. Nowadays, with the possibility of avoiding pregnancy, no woman has
as many children (one per year) as she has childbearing years and no man, or society, demands
it. Nature has dictated the same laws for everyone. Animals do not have the possibility of
managing birth control. We humans have to help them!

Are we going to deprive the animal of having a sexually happy life?

  • No. Animals do not experience sexuality like humans do. They do not experience sexual pleasure ou gratification. Reproduction is Nature’s mechanism for he preservation of species.
  • For an animal sex is just the hormonal process of reproduction. Just as eating and drinking are the guarantee of individual survival, sex is the guarantee of the survival of the species.
  • For a man, sex is an end in itself; for the animal is only the instinctive conception of other individuals.
  • The proof is that the female only accepts the male when she is in heat, that is, when her body has a hormonal appeal. If not in heat, she will aggressively reject the male, which means that for her there is no situation of pleasure related to sex, but a situation of hormonal need.
  • It should be added that their sexual act, copulation, does not mean pleasure at all, rather the opposite: the withdrawal of the male cat’s penis after ejaculation causes intense pain in the female cat, a process that tells the body to release the egg for insemination, which is why the female cat turns suddenly and aggressively towards the male.
  • The male only looks for the female when he receives the chemical information that she is in heat.

Dogs and cats do not have a concept of sexual identity or ego. Sterilizing do not change the
basic personality. They do not suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis.

Should we feel sorry for neutering the animal?

  • No.
  • Especially because we love him/her, we must think that it is a surgery that will be beneficial for all. It will be positive both for the animal and the family.
  • If there are annoying territorial marking behaviors, they will disappear.
  • We naturally tend to humanize them, to put the animal in our place. When the veterinarian suggests castration for a male, the male human tends to “protect” himself, as if it were suggested to him. It is a normal and logical reaction, but the decision to sterilize an animal is for the good of both the animal and the human family.

Does the animal get fat after spayed/neutered?

  • An animal that has an inadequate diet will get fat, it is as simple as that.
  • Whether or not sterilized, the animal’s diet must be balanced and of good quality.
  • In the particular case of sterilized animals, the food must be adequate, suitable for sterilized animals, lower in calories and fat, and they must have frequent physical exercise. Play with your cat, making him move.

There are already specific foods for sterilized animals, nowadays, with less calories, to prevent
weight gain, available at veterinarians and specialized pet stores.

Does the personality of the animal change?

  • After castration, only behaviors related to hormones are modified, such as marking territory by spraying.
  • Often, the one who changes character is the tutor, who becomes more protective and friendly with his animal: either because he regrets having castrated him, or because the animal “no longer bothers him so much”. In either case, change is always positive.

Must a female have at least one litter?

  • No.
  • This idea is false.
  • Reproduction is a hormonal and chemical process. Having a litter doesn’t make your female cat healthier.
  • Once the females are sterilized, they do not have heat, there is no reproductive urge or process. Nor will they have psychological pregnancies.
  • There is clinical evidence that females spayed prior to their first heat are typically healthier.
  • Currently, many veterinarians sterilize dogs and cats as early as eight weeks of age: this is called early sterilization (practiced for several years, for example, in the United States of America).

You should always consult your veterinarian about the best time to sterilize your pet.

Don’t vets suggest spaying or neutering just to make money?

  • Veterinarians are qualified professionals to make this suggestion, as their duty is to care for animals, both animals that already exist and animals that will be born from unwanted litters.

Does neutering benefit animals born undesirably?

  • There are studies that prove that a female dog, with her reproductive cycle, gives rise to 6,000 animals within 6 years.
  • Half of the dogs die early: due to illness, or because they are thrown into rivers, put alive in plastic bags, in garbage containers, etc. Of those who survive, only a small part is lucky enough to be adopted. The other thousands of animals are systematically slaughtered in kennels and roads.
  • There are no national numbers, but US statistics can be extrapolated to the reality of other countries, such as Portugal:
  1. Between 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters every year, besides the individual
    animal protection associations.
  2. Between 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year
  3. 25% of animals in kennels are purebred
  4. A fertile cat can have an average of 3 litters per year. Each litter can have between 4 to 6 kittens
  5. A fertile bitch can have an average of 2 litters per year. Each litter of a female dog has an average of 6 to 10 puppies.

The recent laws that penalize animal mistreatment and the prohibition of slaughter kennels
have not yet had a positive impact on stray animals control, as well as on the number of
abandoned, mistreated and/or neglected animals.

And if the dog/bitch is purebred, should we neuter it?

One in four animals that are found abandoned and enter public kennels are purebreds. What is even more cruel for purebred animals, is the superior need for more veterinary care. When the tutor is fed up with one of these animals, because he no longer wants to spend Money caring for the animal, he gives him/her to someone who accepts the animal only because is a purebreed. But the problem remains… and they live without conditions for their breed or may even end up being abandoned. Of the so called pedigree animals, 90% are not born in legal breeders, but in backyard breeders, without veterinary supervision or adequate hygiene conditions, not surviving the first months of life or leading to chronic health problems. This “illegal” breeding of purebred animals leads to the death of thousands of animals every year.

Is the neutered dog / bitch good for guarding?

Spaying does not affect a dog’s natural instinct to protect the home and family. The animal’s personality depends on the genetic heritage, the environment and training, not on sexual hormones. But in case you want an animal just for guarding, we suggest you buy an electronic alarm.

And when people want to have puppies from the family dog?

People often want to have puppies from their pets for two reasons: because they want to “keep” the animal they love so much with them forever, or because they want their children to watch the “miracle of life” in their own home and not through a television program. In the first case, always remember that, as with people, no two animals are alike… and the probability that a young from your cat or dog will be just like the mother or father, is less than the probability of winning the lottery.

In the second case, that of the “miracle of life”… remember that each young born at home is robbing the possibility for adoption of animals that really need to be adopted, those born in the streets (because their parents were abandoned one day!), those victims of abandonment, those born from unwanted litters (due to the lack of the essential neutering)… and those in state kennels and catteries, in associations and with private protectors… assuming they survive the hell on the streets. Remember that there are no stray animals: there are animals that one day someone abandoned to their sad fate, because the urban jungle is not a natural habitat for any species other than Humans.

Even if a child manages to see the birth of an animal – which is unlikely, as it usually happens at night and in hidden places – the lesson they learn is that animals can be raised and discarded at will by adults/Humans. This is not a good lesson. Instead, it should be explained to children that the real miracle is life, and that preventing the birth of some pets can save the lives of others.

A baby animal is a fragile and unprotected being that inspires a lot of compassion. If you want to live this sublime experience at home and teach your children the respect for Life, it is not necessary for your dog or cat to have a litter. Call any association and welcome a female about to give birth or already with her litter. You will be able to take care of them until they can go for adoption. It will be a doubly rewarding experience: that of new life and that of generosity towards abandoned animals.

And when people insist on having a offspring from their animal?

No child of an animal will be a perfect copy. Even when it comes to purebreds. One in five stray animals is a purebred.
Once our animal dies, it’s better to think of him as an irreplaceable and unique being. And when you’re ready, consider adopting another one. Sadly, there are so many thousands of animals waiting for adoption.
People always say that they take responsibility for the offspring… Nobody doubts that. But the worst comes later. Imagine you will have a litter that you will give to people close to you, who in turn also want to have a litter. Considering that a female only has two litters in her entire life – if she is a cat 12, if she is a bitch 20 litters – and taking into account that half of the offspring are females, who breed in the same proportion, with a 100% survival rate of the descendants in five years 300,000 animals will be born. Of these, most will end up being abandoned and will die in slaughter kennels, while others will be poisoned, mutilated, run over… and all that will be due to the first tutor.



Charles Darwin
British scientist and naturalist
father of the theory of  evolution’s theory

“Compassion towards animals is of the highest noble virtues
of human nature.”

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