Sometimes I just sit and marvel at how much my way of thinking has changed in the past couple of years. While this is normal and to be expected with age, there’s another element that affects how much we do or don’t change: the decision to embrace or reject willful ignorance. When we got our cat Jose, I had wanted to get him declawed and neutered because that’s all I knew. I wasn’t deliberately being uneducated on any of these topics, but I also wasn’t actively pursuing that knowledge either. So when my husband didn’t want to do either of those things (because that was all he knew), I simply went along with it because it wasn’t something I felt strongly about. I will say, that my perspective on this was based off of the notion that he was purely an inside cat. Had we intended to let him out at night I would’ve objected to not neutering him. All of this to say, my cat isn’t neutered and you may think it’s hypocritical of me to promote a procedure that one of my own pets hasn’t even gone through. However, the decision made four years ago was made in ignorance and I think it’s important to admit that and to help spread accurate information to others.
The most obvious and primary concern is pregnancy. Intentional or not, allowing your pet to bring more critters into the world is only adding to a considerable overpopulation problem we have. Consider the fact that 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized every year. So, if you intentionally bring more animals into the world in order to sell them, people are buying a pet from you instead of getting one from the shelter, which could’ve literally saved a life. If you unintentionally bring more animals into the world, well they’ll probably just end up at the shelter then anyway. The animal shelter I worked at was a low-kill shelter. This means that they do euthanize animals that are sick or have severe behavioral issues, but never due to space. I’d see animals come in that had been abandoned after being forced to breed numerous times. I’d see strays come in that had likely been on the streets for much, if not their entire lives. Irresponsible breeding causes suffering that you may not ever have to hold witness to, but if you could prevent adding to that suffering by a simple procedure to your animal, why wouldn’t you?
There are preventative health benefits to spaying/neutering your pet. They are less likely to experience Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). It also prevents testicular, ovarian, and uterine cancer and reduces the chance of prostate or breast cancer. There’s also the fact that your pet will not feel driven to find a mate, making it less likely they will go to extreme measures to do so, like jumping a fence or crossing a busy highway (possibly hurting themselves in the process).
There’s also the physical and behavioral impact of not spaying/neutering them to take into account. If you have a female dog, she will go into heat and she will bleed. If you’re not prepared for that, she may leave drops of blood wherever she goes during this time. Female cats also go into heat and while they don’t necessarily bleed, they do… act out. They cry, get moody, sort of like human women do. Then there’s the whole spraying/marking things. This is very common among intact males. I can’t say with absolute certainty that Jose has never done this, but if he has, it’s few and far between. We’ve been lucky that it just really hasn’t been a thing. Something that has been a thing though is the fact that he does like to masturbate. Yes, he likes to take one of ‘our’ soft blankets, have his way with it, then drag if off the couch when he’s done with it. So, if you’d rather not have that be thing (you don’t want this to be a thing), then maybe consider not leaving them intact.
A common concern (and one that we had back in the day) is that the procedure will change your pets personality. I specifically remember my husband saying he didn’t want Jose to become docile and “lose his spunk”. He is a sassy boy and I do love the little heathen. It’s true that neutering/spaying your pet will generally make them more docile, but that’s exactly what most people want. You want them to be more aggregable in order to facilitate them getting along better with other pets or people. Also, it’s less stressful for them to not feel the strong urge to mate when that’s something that won’t be fulfilled. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t be sad to see our little Jose lose such an integral part of his personality. But then I look at our girl Ember, who is spayed. Of all the words I would use to describe her, docile is not one of them. She’s so goofy and playful, but she’ll give us a piece of her mind from time to time as well. Clearly this procedure doesn’t necessarily have the ill effects we once feared, however I do maintain that it would be disingenuous to state that it definitely won’t. Different pets will be affected differently.
So, is it ever too late to get your pet altered? There may be slightly higher risk of complications (especially if there are other health concerns), but these are typically able to be managed by your veterinarian. Doing the research for this post has shown me that I am still guilty of willful ignorance. I had thought that it was too late to neuter Jose and that doing so would have a negative impact on him. However, I’ve learned that that doesn’t appear to be the case. This is something that my husband and I can reevaluate and discuss with out vet in the future. This is a decision that needs to be centered around what’s best for your pet and not what’s the most comfortable for you. Even if you still come to the decision that it would be best for your pet to be left intact, then please, at the very least, consider the larger ramifications and keep them indoors.