I originally wrote this post in February 2012:

Tuesday, February 28 is National Spay Day. Pioneered by the Doris Day Foundation in 1994, this event was created to call attention to the significant problem of pet overpopulation in the United States. We don’t think of cute puppies and kittens as a problem, but they can be. Every year in this country, 45 cats and 15 dogs will be born for every human born. And each of them can have as many as 10 unwanted births in the first breeding season alone – at four months old for cats and six months old for dogs. Those are staggering statistics. Even more staggering is the fact that each year in the US, six to eight million dogs and cats will enter shelters, and only half make it out alive. The remaining three to four million lose their lives, principally because there are not enough homes for them all. And that only accounts for those who make it into shelters, instead of living out shortened lives as strays or ferals.

The good news is that euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats has come down a lot from an estimated former high of 14 million a year, thanks to awareness programs like National Spay Day and the growing availability of affordable spay and neuter services. Yet, there is still a lot more to do. The euthanasia statistics are just not acceptable for a pet-loving society.

Beyond Overpopulation

The reasons to “fix” your dog and cat go beyond pet overpopulation. There are health reasons that are pretty compelling. Your beloved pet will have significantly lower risk of death from breast cancer, uterine infections, and testicular and prostate diseases if spayed or neutered. Altered pets are also less likely to:

  • Roam with the risk of being hit by cars or falling prey to wild animals,
  • Get into fights,
  • Urine mark in your house, and
  • Be annoying and embarrassing when mating season comes around

And perhaps most importantly, a dog or cat who is not obsessed with mating will be a better companion for you. Please discuss spaying and neutering your pet with your veterinarian.

Feral Cats

The subject of feral cats is usually a divisive issue. But in no other area is spaying and neutering more important. Cats are domesticated animals and feral communities exist only because unaltered stray cats have bred unchecked. The solution to feral cat communities is neither killing them nor trapping and releasing elsewhere. The solution is a coordinated approach to trapping, neutering and returning (TNR) these cats to their communities and providing food, water and outdoor shelter where they can live out their lives without reproducing and expanding the feral community. Feeding feral cats without spaying or neutering them only contributes to bigger feral communities. Townships and villages can get feral cat problems under control by enlisting the help of volunteers who will trap these cats and get them to free or low cost spay and neuter services. They then provide care for them when returned. Altered feral cats are ear-tipped so caretakers can easily identify cats that are “fixed”. Over time, feral communities stabilize and shrink because any new members are similarly sent through the TNR process. Providing food to these cats reduces the likelihood that they will scavenge and kill wildlife to feed themselves. This is a long-term, humane solution to feral cat problems.

Please join me in celebrating National Spay Day as a humane path to end the needless suffering and death of unwanted dogs and cats.

Resources at your fingertips

Low-income pet owner and feral cat caregiver spay/neuter services: PetFix Northeast Ohio – www.petfixnortheastohio.org

Free feral cat spay/neuter services: Rescue Village — www.geaugahumane.org/animals/spayprograms.html

For feral cat caregivers: Alley Cat Allies – www.alleycat.org; Best Friends – www.network.bestfriends.org/initiatives/cats/media/p/189614.aspx; Vox Felina — www.voxfelina.com/; Neighborhood Cats – www.neighborhoodcats.org

Carol Peter is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Cold Nose Companions, LLC Dog Training. She offers private in-home training for people and their dogs throughout Geauga County. Carol focuses on resolving problem behaviors and teaching good household manners using positive reinforcement training and behavior modification methods. She can be reached at carol@coldnosecompanions.com.

©2012, Carol Peter, Cold Nose Companions, LLC