When I was a kid my mom found a young cat while driving home from work. The calico cat dodged in and out of traffic and mom had to swerve to avoid hitting her. My mother was not a real animal lover, believe me. There were a lot of heated conversations when I begged for a pet as a kid. However, she felt bad for the cat and decided to pull over and put her in the car.
Unsure what to do, she drove home and called the animal shelter. When she found out the shelter was closed for the evening, mom put a blanket, some tuna and a bowl of water in the bathroom with the cat and told me to leave her alone. We lived in an apartment in New York that didn’t allow pets, so we had to sneak her in the building and hope we didn’t get caught. For me it was like mom brought home a gift. I was so excited to have a furry visitor for the evening, I spent the night on the bathroom floor tending to her needs. I named her Spots.
We were off to the shelter by nine the next morning. Tears in my eyes, I begged my mother to let us keep the cat, but she reminded me that we could lose our apartment if she stayed even another hour. Mom halfheartedly promised to ask around at her work to see if anyone was interested in coming to get the cat as she handed her over to the man at the counter. Even though I only knew Spots for a few hours, a piece of my young heart was left at that counter, too.
Insisting mom call the shelter the next day to check on Spots, we learned she had become a mom of six kittens overnight. Apparently she wasn’t fixed and clearly had a rough time out on the street. That day, I made it my mission to find Spots and her babies a new home. I told my teacher and friends about her. I drew pictures and hung them up in the building lobby. I called everyone I knew asking if they could take “my” kittens home. Using every bit of determination I had in my little fingers, I managed to find someone to take the whole family, foster them, and ultimately find them all great homes.
Jumping forward almost 30 years later, I can’t help to think about the thousands of cats like Spots that have come into the shelters where I have worked. What was their story? Were they lucky enough to find someone to care about them? Did they find a home or were they euthanized because of illness? How many cats’ lives could have saved if someone had taken the time to spay or neuter them?
Kitten season is approaching and now is a great time to make a spay or neuter appointment for your cat. Female cats are spayed, while male cats are neutered (although the term neutered can be used to describe females and males). More formally called sterilization or altering and less formally called fixing, spay/neuter surgery is performed by a licensed veterinarian to prevent animals from having babies.
There are many reasons to consider neutering your pet. Spayed and neutered pets are less likely to wander and owners see a reduction in nuisance behaviors like fighting, spraying, yowling and aggression. It prevents certain cancers and helps your pet live a longer life. Even pet licenses are cheaper if your pet is spayed or neutered. Finally, pet overpopulation is a real problem at shelters nationwide. Most of us are familiar with the older animals who cannot find homes, but there are also thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens euthanized each year nationwide simply because there are too many animals and not enough homes.
Fortunately, there have been many positive measures to increase the number of sterilized pets. In our area, it is the law that all animals must be spayed or neutered before they are adopted. There are even cities within Los Angeles County that require owners to spay or neuter all dogs and cats. Spaying and neutering your pet is easier now than ever. There are so many options! From private veterinarians to free and low-cost clinics, there is a great option for every family and budget. This April the Pasadena Humane Society is offering a “You’ve Gotta Be Kitten Me” promotion offering $20 spay/neuter surgeries for all cats between April 18-22. Visit pasadenahumane.org/snip to make an appointment or to find out more about spay/neuter or about other wellness services.