February 2009 Issue

Spaying: Very Important

The procedure, while helping to curb feline overpopulation, will also benefit your female cat's health. Here's why.

When your purebred kitten reaches maturity, you may want to breed her, and you may already have a carefully worked-out strategy for doing so. Otherwise, there is no good reason to avoid having the little animal spayed while she’s still in the early months of her life — and there are a number of good reasons for doing so. First and foremost among these reasons, says Andrea Looney, DVM, a lecturer in anesthesiology at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, is that spaying — also called ovariohysterectomy — will help curb rampant feline overpopulation. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, millions of feral and unwanted domestic cats are born each year. They are either abandoned or relegated to frequently overcrowded shelters and a dismal existence that is often relieved only by euthanasia. Moreover, Dr. Looney points out, spaying a female kitten at four to six months of age — when her reproductive organs are nearing maturity — will dramatically reduce her susceptibility to several life-threatening disorders associated with the feline reproductive system. For example, spaying a kitten prior to her first heat — before her breast tissue develops — will virtually eliminate her risk for mammary cancer later in life. Also, since spaying entails the removal of a female’s uterus, Dr. Looney notes, the procedure rules out the possibility of pyometra, a potentially fatal collection of pus in that reproductive organ. Other conditions that are prevented include vaginal hyperplasia, a gross swelling of the vaginal wall that occurs during the normal heat cycle; uterine torsion, a twisting of the uterus that may occur late in pregnancy; uterine prolapse, the bulging of the uterus into the vagina; and a variety of infections, cysts and cancers of the uterus and ovaries.

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