Is Your Cat in Heat? Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Cat · The Wildest

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Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Cat

A cautionary tale about a cat in heat

by Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen
10 April 2024
Cat cleaning themself

I’ll admit it: I had kitten fever. The idea of one day having lots of orange kittens scampering around, carbon-copies of my perfect cat, seemed like a dream come true. “I just want more kitties exactly like her…” I flippantly commented to friends. They were not amused. One threatened to end our friendship if I didn’t get my cat spayed, citing the many reasons why it would be extremely irresponsible. I promised I would.

But then, between languishing through the pandemic, a cross-country move and belatedly finding out that vets in my area were booked for months, I didn’t manage to get an appointment for some time. A few weeks before her slated spay surgery date, it started: frantic yowling that woke me up in the middle of the night. My cat looked panicked, skidding around the house and causing a horrific ruckus. My cat was in heat – the height of her fertility, when the biological desire to mate is overwhelming.

When my vet confirmed my suspicions, I burst into tears. As a pet parent, I felt like I’d failed her. She looked up at me, wide-eyed and uneasy, before resuming her agitated pacing from window to window in search of a male cat. Thankfully, her milkshake didn’t bring any boys to the yard. But the incessant noise continued, night and day, disrupting my sleep and my Zoom calls. “Apologies, my cat is in heat,” I’d explain, leaving my co-workers with confused expressions.

After six days, it stopped and the sweet cat I knew returned. And thankfully I was able to get her spayed before her next cycle.

According to Heather Svoboda Miller, from the charity Cat Adoption Team, the best time to get your cat fixed is before the age of four months – when cats are old enough to breed. “Kittens spayed or neutered at a young age usually recover from surgery more quickly than adult cats do,” she says. And getting your cat fixed ASAP will spare your cat the anguish that mine experienced. “Being spayed or neutered can decrease the urge to yowl or try to escape from your home to find a mate. Neutering male cats can also prevent urine spraying and reduce fighting.”

Experts also point to the serious health risks that unaltered cats face, which should scare any pet parent. “When you have your cat spayed or neutered, you significantly decrease the chances of uterine or testicular infections and cancers developing, so your cat can live a longer and healthier life – and you can save money on future medical bills,” says Steve Gruber, Director of Communications at the non-profit organisation Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. He also dismisses the “misconceptions that one’s cat will automatically become overweight or their personality will change after being spayed or neutered”. As well as “the belief that their cat should not be deprived of the right to reproduce. People shouldn’t project their feelings onto their cats – cats don’t care!” 

Plus, cat overpopulation is a huge problem, with 250,000 estimated stray cats living in the UK. “Male cats can father countless litters annually and female cats can have up to three litters a year – that can translate to well over a hundred kittens in just a couple of years,” says Miller. “That many new animals put a strain on community and shelter resources, and contributes to the homeless cat population.”

If you truly love cats, you’ll help to make sure that yours can live the healthiest life possible. As Miller says, “Spaying and neutering is one of the most humane and scientifically proven ways to reduce stray cat populations, and that means fewer cats entering shelters or struggling on the streets.” Though the idea of bringing more kittens into the world might sound charming, the reality is not so cute when you think of the hundreds of thousands of adoptable cats in rescue centres who need loving homes. If you’re taking in an unaltered cat, set a date for their spay/neuter surgery. I learnt my lesson and can only hope my experience will serve as a cautionary tale for others, too.

Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen

Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen is a freelance culture writer who launched a neighborhood publication called The Pet Times while in elementary school. She is a devoted (read: obsessed) pet parent to Pippi, a spirited little orange cat who was found in the wilds of Michigan in 2020, has since crossed the country three times, and loves to climb trees. 

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