“In general, there are a lot of behavioral issues that are countered,” said Diane Blankenburg, community programs director for the Nevada Humane Society (NHS).
Dogs and cats that are "fixed" don't feel as great a need to mark their territory because they are not in search of a mate. Also, other animals that may be spayed or neutered aren’t as ambitious to seek out the smell of others because testosterone levels are so low that “they’re not driven by nature,” said Denise Stevens, operations director for NHS. They’re also less assertive and not as prone to fighting with other animals, hence preventing physical injuries.
In addition to fewer incidents of marking, sterilizing a cat decreases its need to roam. Male cats, in particular, could have their roaming radius reduced from 10 miles to 1 mile, Blankenburg said.
“They’re not out there for ‘the event’ (of mating), ” she said. “It keeps them from getting into other kinds of problems.”
She added if an animal roams less it decreases the likelihood of it crossing a street and getting injured.
NHS spays and neuters every dog, cat or rabbit it cares for as a birth control measure, but physiologically it also lowers the likelihood of the pet getting cancer, Stevens said.
“After 5 years of age, the chance of (a pet) getting testicular cancer rises,” Stevens said.
In female dogs and cats, the risk of pyometra, or cancer of the uterus, can be life-threatening.
“It always happens in the middle of the night when you end up in the emergency room with your pet and they have an infection of the uterus,” she said.
The Nevada Humane Society has seen a slight increase in the number of animals it holds because people have been surrendering or abandoning pets they can't afford, Stevens said.
At NHS, kittens undergo the procedure not by a certain age but a certain weight, Blankenburg said.
“Cats are done at a weight of 2 pounds, which is usually around 8 to 9 weeks old,” she said. “That has shown to be very effective. When I was younger, it was about 4 to 5 months old. But there’s lot of research that shows there’s no risk at all with them. When they’re young, they bounce back real fast.”
Recovery time can be shaved off by about 24 hours between a young kitten and a more mature cat, according to Stevens.
With preparation time, neutering a male cat can take about 10 minutes and spaying a female cat can take 15 minutes. Depending on the size of a dog, neutering takes about 15 to 20 minutes and spaying a female about 20 to 25, though if a dog is in heat or is heavier than most, the procedure takes longer, Stevens said.
Blankenburg added that there are myths surrounding spay and neuter recommendations, such as the healthiness of allowing the animal to have one litter.
“That probably came about around the same time that it was said black cats are bad luck,” she said.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Web site, www.aspca.org, also debunks several myths pertaining to spay and neuter procedures, such as whether the procedure would alter a pet’s personality. The ASPCA also denies that the animal would gain weight and become lazy. On the contrary, the Web site states, sterilized pets live two to three years longer than those that have not been spayed or neutered.
“It’s a safe thing to do,” Blankenburg said.