Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Cat

Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Cat

Cat overpopulation is a very serious problem in the United States. There are simply too many cats and not enough people to care for them. Responsibility is the key to cat ownership, and a major part of that responsibility is guaranteeing that your cat doesn’t reproduce.

Neutering and spaying are two of the most commonly performed elective procedures.  Not only do they help curtail cat overpopulation, they also bring many health and behavior benefits to both you and your cat.

Spaying is the procedure used for females.  The ovaries and uterus are removed, and the cat can usually go home the same day.  There are several advantages to spaying such as; no more heat cycles, no more crying, yowling, or trying to escape outside, no more unwelcome visits by unneutered male cats, no uterine infections, no ovarian cysts, and greatly reduced incidence of mammary tumors if spayed before the first heat.

Neutering/castration is the procedure used for males.  The testicles are removed, and the cat can go home the same day.  Advantages of neutering are; a reduced urge to roam, the mating drive is stopped, urine spraying will stop (or not begin), a lower incidence of prostate problems, and less aggression (which reduces the likelihood of cat-fight abscesses).

Myths Vs. Fact Regarding Spaying and Neutering:
Many cat owners are concerned that spaying or neutering their cat will result in undesirable changes in their behavior.  One concern is that the cat will become fat and lazy.  The truth is that most cats get fat and lazy because they are fed too much and they don’t get enough exercise.  After spaying or neutering, you should monitor your cat’s appetite and activity patterns, and adjust the diet accordingly.

Some people feel that neutering their male cat will result in him feeling like less of a male.  It’s understandable to feel this way, however, cats don’t have any concept of sexual identity or ego and they don’t suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.

A popular misconception is that it is better for a female cat to have one litter before spaying.  Medical evidence, however, shows the opposite to be true.  Dogs that are spayed before their first heat rarely, if ever, develop mammary tumors.  The same holds true for cats.  This is important, as feline mammary tumors are much more malignant than those seen in dogs and they carry a worse prognosis.

Dogs and cats are not being deprived of parenthood by being spayed.  Unlike people, dogs and cats do not experience a sense of fulfillment by giving birth or by the mothering process.

Some people want to breed their cat because they are hoping that the kittens will be exactly like the mother. This is a misconception.  Breeding two purebred animals rarely results in offspring that are exactly like one of the parents, and with mixed breeds, it is virtually impossible to have offspring that are exactly like one of the parents.  The idea that a cat should have a litter so that children can witness the miracle of birth is troubling.  There are countless books and videos available to teach children about birth in a responsible manner.  Letting a cat produce offspring that the family has no intention of keeping is teaching children irresponsibility.  Those of us who have seen animals euthanized in shelters due to lack good homes know the truth behind this dangerous myth.  In fact, as former employees of The ASPCA, we at Manhattan Cat Specialists believe that the most important reason to have your cat spayed or neutered is to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens. More than 12 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year. Approximately 75% of all cats entering shelters are euthanized.  Yes, you may be able to find homes for all of the kittens in your cat’s litter, but each home you find means one less home available for cats at shelters and humane organizations that need good homes.  If any or all of your cat’s offspring were also to have his or her own litter, you’ll be adding even more animals to the population.  Having your cat neutered or spayed is a sign of responsible pet ownership. You can rest assured that you've done the right thing once you have your cat sterilized. 
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Reader Question: How Can I Get My Cat to Stop Urinating Outside the Box?

How Can I Get My Cat to Stop Urinating Outside the Box?
CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, offers solutions that can help an adult cat stop spraying after the arrival of a new kitten.

Dr. Arnold Plotnick is one of CatChannel's feline health experts. Check out more of his CatChannel answers.

Q: I have had my 2-year-old spayed cat since birth. Ever since we got a new kitten four months, my adult cat has been peeing on the walls. It smells horrible in the basement. My mom wants to give them away because of this. If I give my kitten away, will my older one stop spraying on the walls? Also, is there a way to stop her spraying?
A: Cats mark the locations where they live in a variety of ways, such as cheek rubbing, scratching and urine spraying. It is a way of sending a message that says “I was here” and “this is mine.” Cats will also mark their territory when they feel threatened or stressed. This can occur with a change in household routine, addition or departure of new people or cats, and other environmental and social changes. It seems pretty clear that the new kitten is upsetting your 2-year-old cat, and she’s trying to send a territorial message to the kitten.

An unspayed female is more likely to spray, but your cat is spayed, so this is not an issue. Although this sounds like a behavioral issue, a urinalysis, urine culture, and possibly an X-ray should be performed to rule out medical problems.

Sometimes, simply adding one more litterbox can help reduce spraying. Ideally, the minimum number of litterboxes should equal the number of cats plus one, the litter should be cleaned daily and changed at least once a week, and proper odor neutralizing products should be used on any sprayed sites. You need to use a product that doesn’t just mask the odor, but actually gets rid of the odor molecules, for example, something like Nature’s Miracle.

Ideally, the treatment is aimed at eliminating the motivation for spraying. Since the problem seems to be due to the arrival of the new kitten, you may need to keep the cats in separate parts of the home with their own litter and sleeping areas. Reintroduction of the cats may be possible when they are properly supervised. Allowing the cats together for positive experiences — such as feeding, treats and play sessions — helps them adjust to each other’s presence and associate the experiences with things they enjoy.

There is a commercial product called Feliway that may help curb your cat’s urine marking. It is a synthetic facial pheromone. When sprayed on areas where cats have sprayed or on those areas where the cat is likely to spray, the likelihood of additional spraying in those areas decreases. Feliway also comes as a diffuser that when plugged into the wall, will diffuse through the air, resulting in a calming effect on the cats in the house. This may reduce anxiety in your adult cat, and help reduce or stop the spraying.

If these methods fail, medication can be administered that often results in cessation of the spraying behavior. The drug of choice for this is Prozac. If the spraying stops when Prozac is administered, the drug can be tapered, and in some instances, the cat can be taken off the Prozac completely with no return to the spraying behavior.

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What We Tell Our Clients When their Cat is Diagnosed with Ringworm


Despite the name, ringworm is not a “worm”.  It is a fungal infection (dermatophytosis) of the hair and skin.  It is also one of the few feline infectious diseases that can be transmitted from cats to humans. 

Cats may become infected with ringworm if exposed to infective spores. The most common sources of ringworm spores are an infected animal, a contaminated object, or a contaminated environment.  Once the spores land on a cat’s fur, if they survive the cat’s natural defense mechanisms (for example, grooming and sunbathing), they adhere to and invade the hair shaft and skin, initiating the infection.

            Cats of any age, sex, or breed are susceptible to infection.  Kittens in general are the most susceptible population, with the head, face, ears, and forelimbs primarily involved.

            Although ringworm can have a variety of appearances, the classic look of ringworm includes one or more areas of patchy hair loss with mild or moderate crusting or scaling.  A definite diagnosis is made via fungal culture, where hairs are taken from affected areas and placed on a special fungal culture medium. Shining a fluorescent light, called a Woods Lamp, on the hair coat may help better identify infected hairs, for better sampling for the fungal culture.  The culture medium contains a color indicator that turns the medium red when ringworm starts to grow on it.  It takes 4 or 5 days for the fungus to grow.   If the culture medium turns red in 4 or 5 days, it is considered a positive test for ringworm. If a cat tests positive, a fungal culture should be performed on all other animals in the household.

Cats that test positive for ringworm need some kind of treatment.  Treatment plans may vary somewhat for each individual cat, but they all involve three basic steps – topical therapy (bathing) with some type of shampoo, oral medication, and environmental decontamination.

Topical therapy involves bathing the cat (and other animals in the household) twice weekly with an anti-fungal shampoo. For the shampoo to be effective, it is important that there be a contact time of 10 minutes with the cat’s fur.  Longhaired cats may need their coats clipped.  This removes infected hairs and minimizes continued shedding of hair fragments and spores into the environment. It also allows for more thorough penetration of the anti-fungal shampoo.  Shorthaired cats usually do not need to have their coat clipped. On days that the cat is not receiving a bath, applying an anti-fungal lotion (for example, Conofite lotion) to affected areas on the coat may be beneficial, as long as the cat doesn’t lick it right off.

            The cornerstone of treatment for ringworm is systemic therapy with an oral medication.  There are many drugs that are effective against ringworm.  Terbinafine is particularly effective, and it usually only requires two weeks of treatment.  The drug is extremely safe, although in rare instances, cats may show poor appetite and elevation of some liver parameters.  This should be monitored.

The protocol we recommend is as follows:

Initial visit:
Thorough physical exam; sample hairs for fungal culture.
Prescribe terbinafine orally, once daily, for two weeks.
(Give medication with food for maximum effectiveness.)
Bathe all animals in household with anti-fungal shampoo twice weekly for four weeks.

Four weeks later:
Sample hairs for fungal culture.
Perform a chemistry panel to check liver parameters.
If the culture is negative, continue twice weekly baths.
If culture is positive, begin a second two-week course of terbinafine in addition to bathing.

Two weeks later:
Sample hairs for fungal culture.
Two negative cultures, two weeks apart, indicate that the ringworm infection has resolved.

The third aspect of treatment is environmental control.  In any ringworm infection, infective hairs and spores are always shed in the environment.  These hairs can be a source of re-infection for the cat, and for people.  Owners of infected cats can maximize the chances of eradicating the infection by limiting environmental contamination in the home.  Here are the currently recommended environmental control measures for treating ringworm:

·        Confine all infected cats to one easily-cleaned room during the treatment period.
·        Thoroughly vacuum floors and furniture, to remove infected hairs and spores.  Throw out the vacuum cleaner bag.  Disinfect the canister with bleach if using a bagless vacuum.  (Many people like to use an inexpensive vacuum that can simply be thrown out when the ringworm episode is over).
·        Wash floors and other contact surfaces with detergent and water.
·        If possible, disinfect hard floor surfaces with a 1:10 diluted bleach solution (1½ cup bleach in 1 gallon of water).  This diluted bleach solution will kill 80% of fungal spores with one application and any surface that can be bleached, should be bleached. Ten minutes of wetting time is ideal.  Bleach will not kill spores in the presence of dirt so it is important that the surface be properly cleaned before it is bleached.
·        Dust other surfaces with Swiffer™ or other electrostatic cloths.  These are very effective at removing spores. (Throw out after each use.)
·        Launder area rugs, cat bedding, bed linens that the cat may have slept on, etc.  Use hot water, and set the dryer to the hottest setting.  Launder (or discard) pet toys, too.  Disinfect (or discard) any grooming brushes you’ve used on the cat.
·        Vacuum (and disinfect) any vehicles and cat carriers used to transport the cat.
The above cleaning measures should be performed twice weekly.  The ringworm fungus can remain infective in the environment up to 18 months, so cleaning is essential to avoid re-infection.
Because ringworm is contagious to people, you should consult with your doctor if you notice any unusual skin lesions on family members, especially after contact with animals suspected of having ringworm.  The fungus takes advantage of skin belonging to those with reduced immune capacity. This puts young animals and children, elderly people and pets, those who are HIV-positive, people on chemotherapy or taking medication after transfusion or organ transplant and highly stressed people and animals at high risk.  In general, if you do not already have ringworm at the time your pet is diagnosed, you probably will not get it.

            Ringworm is a nuisance, and treatment is labor-intensive. However, ringworm has no serious health consequences for most cats, and most cats are easily cured with no lasting negative effects.

Please feel free to ask us if you have any questions or concerns at 

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