PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Pets: Spaying and Neutering

Did you know that each day in the U.S., an average of 10,000 humans are born? Sure, that's a lot, but get this: on the same day in the same country, an average of 70,000 puppies and kittens are also born! Do the math. As long as these birth rates exist, there will never be enough homes for all the animals. The result is that each day, American animal shelters are forced to destroy approximately 30,000 dogs and cats.

If this makes you sad, you're not alone. These numbers would go way down if every pet owner just got their animal friend spayed or neutered. Here's what you need to know:

What is spaying and neutering?
The terms "spaying" and "neutering" mean the surgical removal of a pet's reproductive organs. Basically, when an animal gets spayed or neutered it will no longer be able to have babies. "Spaying" applies to female animals and "neutering" is used with males. Most people focus on the importance of spaying and neutering dogs and cats, but rabbits are also animals who benefit from this.

Why is spaying and neutering important?
Did you know that:

  • In 7 years, 1 unspayed female dog and her offspring can produce over 4,000 dogs?
  • In 9 years, 1 unspayed female cat, her unneutered mate, and all their offspring can produce over 11,606,077 cats?

To put it simply, spaying and neutering reduces the population of unwanted and homeless animals in the world.

It has other benefits for your pet, too. Spayed animals have a lower risk of some cancers and other illnesses, and neutered animals don't have as many problems with aggression, fighting, roaming, and certain diseases.

The idea that spaying and neutering is "mean" or doesn't let your pet experience a full life is just a myth! In reality, neutered and spayed pets tend to live happier, healthier, longer lives.

When should your pet be spayed?
Most veterinarians recommend that female cats and dogs be spayed before they're six months old and males between six months to a year old. But it's never too late to have this done, even if your pet has already had a litter or two. If you adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue group, chances are that you won't be able to take him or her home until the operation is performed.

How expensive is it? What if my family can't afford it?
Most animal hospitals will do this surgery for under $100, but you can have it done at a discount or even for free. Call your local shelter or animal control department to see if they offer coupons (sometimes called "vouchers") to help cover the cost of spaying and neutering at area vets. You can also contact SPAY USA at www.spayusa.org or 1-800-248-SPAY (1-800-248-7729) for advice on where to go for help in your town.

But won't I miss out on the fun of having puppies, kittens, or bunnies around?
Well, yes. But remember that animals are little for only a few months. At some point you have to find homes for these babies or commit to keeping them yourself. As they get bigger, they'll require more time and energy, especially if you already have one or more pets. So that's a lot of work for just a short amount of baby animal time! Here's an idea: if you're really dying to have a litter of kittens running around your house, talk to your family about being a temporary "foster home" for rescued baby animals. Many shelters and rescue groups are always in need of these!

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