The following is an article which apeared in the Spring 1997 newsletter of The Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Dr. Zanders has given his time to help the Feral Cat Coalition over the years and has allowed us to reprint his article here.
When asked to write an article about Spay/Neuter for the Center's newsletter, I figured it was like "preaching to the choir." After all, anyone receiving this newsletter probably knows plenty about sterilizing pets, right? But, surprisingly, there are many facts that even dedicated members of the Center may not know.
For example, the word "spay." I don't know why we call an ovariohysterectomy a "spay" surgery. My Funk and Wagnall says it's from the Gaelic spaive. Webster says it comes from the French, espeer, to cut with a sword. In essence, an OVH is the removal of the ovaries and the uterus. I've had many questions like "Why can't you just take out the uterus and leave the ovaries, Doc?" or "Can't you just tie her tubes?" I especially like it when the owner is concerned that Fluffy won't feel like a woman. "Won't she miss it, Doc?" I refer them to their mother or grandmother for that discussion.
Neuter = castration. Now, that's a difficult term for men to say. Women seem to have no problem with the word "castration." For some men, anything to do with "between their legs" is sacred ground, especially for their faithful hunting dog or tough tomcat. In reality, neutering a male is similar to neutering a female. The gonads are in different locales and the surgical procedure is different, but the end result is the same no more reproduction.
Then there are the "good 'ol boy" questions, like "Doc, don't ya' think he'll miss out on somethin'?" or "Won't he be kind of a sissy?" As far as "missing" something well, I suppose they do.
Have you ever seen cats mate? It's kind of like the Black Widow spider. The female lures the male with wonderful gestures, then they get together for about 10 seconds. To make matters even more "fun" for the male cat, he usually gets scratched and bitten. And it's just as physical for the female. The male grabs her shoulders with his claws and her neck with his teeth. Oh, the joys of sex!
But I am compelled to mention the benefits of spay/neuter . Since most of you have heard the reasons for spay/neuter a million times, I'll be brief. It really IS good for the male or female cat, dog, or rabbit. The reasons include: decreasing aggression toward other animals, preventing behavior problems, reducing the animal's chance of getting cancer, increasing life expectancy, reducing the incidence of injury and disease, reducing the urge to roam, and decreasing the incidence of fighting. And it'll save you money, too.in decreased license fees and fewer veterinary bills.
So as not to appear narrow minded, there are three reasons NOT to spay or neuter:
A spay/neuter article can't end without a tribute to those millions of pets killed in our nation's shelters every year. This is truly a national tragedy. Call any shelter and ask the question, "How many did you have to kill today?" You probably won't believe it. Thanks to a lot of hard working and generous folks like you, we are seeing a significant decrease in euthanasia in San Diego area shelters. But the killing continues day after day. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Share this information with a friend. Speak with your veterinarian. Help us continue the battle against pet overpopulation.
© 1997 David W. Zanders, DVM
[Page updated November 2009]