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Cats, dogs, neutering, etc. - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Cats, dogs, neutering, etc.
In the Warriors books I've been reading, one of the major points that makes the hero cat decide to leave his humans and move to the forest is understanding that they plan to "alter" him... like any red-blooded male, he's not keen on the idea. (I'll speak in terms of cats, but it goes for dogs, too.)

I have to admit, I'm a bit torn on the issue. On the one hand, yes--population control has reached a critical point. On the other, the very cats who end up being "altered" are often the ones who are healthy, smart, and would be good for the feline gene pool. The cats who are allowed to breed are in the endlessly inbred "pure" breeds--they exist to breed, and are therefore not neutered and spayed. Any genetic defects get passed around the breed endlessly until they're endemic. The cats who can't be controlled in their breeding are often the unhealthy wildcats who are carrying diseases. So the feline population isn't just being shrunk; it's also being diminished in a fundamental way.

On the other hand, cats aren't sentient creatures, no matter how well we cat people believe we understand them. They don't have a strong grasp on the concept of long-term thinking. You can't appeal to their logic to control the population on their own, because they act on instinct, and animal instinct is to increase the population until resources run out and they start to die off. If we don't act in their interest, they certainly aren't going to start doing it for themselves.

Sigh.

I guess it's one of those times where it's the worst thing to do, except for everything else we could do. It's just kind of sad that my poor little Merlin at home is the end of the line for his genes. They'd be good cat genes. But the ASPCA neutered him as soon as they got their paws on him, so bye-bye good genes.
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Comments
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: July 20th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know. There are a lot of "patio kittens" out there that have no particular pedigree, and are simply bred to be sold relatively cheap. That's how we got Olympia. He had Siamese and Angora in him somewhere, though his markings were tuxedo. I don't think there's any danger of domestic cats dying off.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah? I only know about getting cats from the shelters or free from a neighbor (Popoki was of the latter variety--her mother was just an unspayed barn cat who was a hell of a good mouser and had a litter that needed to find homes). I never heard of actually buying a mixed breed! It's a good idea; I'm glad to hear of it, and may look to that the next time I want to get a cat.
sreya From: sreya Date: July 20th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Ugh, strange bring this up now. I just adopted a kitten last week, and one of the "requirements" by the shelter is that she be spayed. I go back and forth myself, but I think what finally balances out is that being spayed is also supposed to reduce the risk of a lot of health problems, like cancer. And after losing one dog to breast cancer as a kid and my mom's dog suffering from it now... that's a HUGE plus.

I also wonder if it's perhaps kinder to the cat to dampen that urge to go out and breed. We had one cat that we couldn't get spayed, because we were overseas and the only clinic that could do it had a 2 year waiting list. When she hit puberty and went into heat, she was absolutely inconsolable about not being allowed outside where the male was responding to her howling. You can't sit a cat down and explain that she can't follow their instincts and head outside because she might get pregnant (and the equivalent for the toms). Nature's just telling them they should be following orders. So if a cat as a pet isn't going to be allowed to respond naturally, isn't it a little cruel not to spay/neuter, too?

Argh, definitely one of those tough philosophical questions. At least if you take animals seriously.
eir_de_scania From: eir_de_scania Date: July 20th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC) (Link)
If you have an "unfixed" female - can you find good homes for her kittens? And if its a male - they don't make good indoor pets. They piss on the walls, not to make a too fine point... Unless you let them roam free, but then they will come home with their ears in tatters from fighting other males. If they come back at all, the other male might be tougher and chase off your pet.



angua9 From: angua9 Date: July 20th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, though it makes me sad that my two wonderful cats and my terrific dog won't ever pass their genes on, I don't see that the present system is harming the species at all. The continued breeding of purebloods maintains variance in the population -- if cats or dogs are allowed to breed naturally, they inevitably converge upon the "basic" type, as seen in wild dog populations. We would lose a lot of attractive features like long silky fur and exotic colors if we didn't deliberately breed for them.

And the cats and dogs who are breeding "wild" are actually facing severe selective pressure for survival and are likely to be smarter, tougher, and more disease-resistant than our beloved pampered housepets (just as coyotes and wild sheep are far smarter than dogs and domestic sheep). Yes, wild animals have diseases and fleas and such, but they don't pass those on in their genes! Instead, they pass on the ability to resist diseases and fleas and such.

If we're lucky, our adopted housepets will have the beauty of purebreds and the intelligence and toughness of the successful local mouser (if we're unlucky, it'll be the other way around).

Of course there are excellent reasons to want to reduce the "wild" cat and dog populations, but I don't think improving the species is one of them.
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: July 20th, 2006 08:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Word! I live in an area where the native wildlife has been devastated by feral cats and introduced foxes, and people still keep half-wild cats in their dairies for natural pest control - there's no shortage of variety or hardiness out there.
noblevyne From: noblevyne Date: July 20th, 2006 11:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a fervent supporter of spaying and neutering your cats, we have purebreds but they are all taken in for the snip snip as soon as they hit sexual maturity; it makes the boys nicer cats, the girls aren't attacked by rogues and in general, makes for a more peaceful life for them.

We held off for awhile on getting one of our boys neutered and it turned out very badly, his tomcatting lead to him getting in infected with FIV (not sexually, through fighting), so there are other risks apart from unwanted litters of kittens.

I work at a vet clinic and have assisted on the spaying and neutering procedures (want to scare men? Take them to a neutering procedure), it's quick and apart from them being scared and a little bit sore after the procedure, relatively painless. My boss says that the number of kittens being born has gone down signifiantly (he also runs the petstore which I occasionally work in and sometimes you do have droughts) since the local councils have introduced fines and registration costs that are higher for cats who haven't been desexed, but he does say it's a good thing because they've been getting less strays, less kittens who have been dumped, but there's still a good supply of people who can't afford the procedure or are naive enough not to do it (those people usually let the cat have one litter and then realise the cost of a raising said litter and bring the cat in for spaying because she will breed every year after that). Domestic kitties won't be dying out anytime soon and hybrid-breeds are becoming the new thing (which is undoing some of the wrong caused by selective inbreeding).
matril From: matril Date: July 20th, 2006 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a knee-jerk "Nooo!" reaction to spaying and neutering, because the cat we had when I was little had a bad reaction to the anesthesia and was pretty sick after his neutering...but he did get better, and it was probably better for him in the long run. When I think about it rationally, I have to admit it's the more compassionate thing to do.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Po, the kitty in my icon, lost a litter because she was too small to carry properly, and we ended up spaying her.

It's compassionate to an extent, but you could say the same about forced human sterilization, which is odious. I think part of it, for me, is not trusting the SPCA particularly, and loving a lot of kittens who wouldn't have been born if their parents had been treated that way. (Also, they spayed poor Merlin when he wasn't even six weeks old--even his vet, who is a total advocate of spaying and neutering, was hissing and spitting about that, and had us watching for bad scar tissue that could have endangered his life.)

As to the neuter and release program for wild cats, taking away that aggressive instinct could put their lives in danger from other cats.
matril From: matril Date: July 20th, 2006 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Neutering and then putting them back in the wild? Ugh. Now that's wrong; I have no doubt about that. It's not just their reproductive abilities they're taking away. Housecats can survive without those instincts, but wild cats need them. Poor kitties. :(
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 20th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I was very surprised to hear about that... especially advocated by a feral cat society as a more humane alternative to euthanizing them.
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: July 21st, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wasn't aware that spayed/neutered cats had any reduction to their other instincts. I've known neutered males to be good fighters and mousers.
eir_de_scania From: eir_de_scania Date: July 20th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Neutering and putting them back in the wild again? Now THAT'S cruel! Not done over here... if a good home can't be found, they're put down. Not nice, but an easier death than the one they'll meet in the wild. It's from starvation and/or illness, and cats are tough. They take a long time to finally succumb.

You can't compare human sterilization to animal neutering. Animals live in the here-and-now, they do not miss their lost chances of having babies. They don't even know they've lost it.

gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: July 20th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Speaking as someone who was kept up all hours listening to the feral cats in the gully behind my house "going at it" -- I'm all for neutering. But if you capture a feral cat and neuter it, why release it back into the wild? Take it to an SPCA and some nutty cat person like my maiden Aunt (who has, like 40 cats already, those people aren't urban myths) will grab it up.

I'm not worried about the cat gene pool -- I think there are still enough mixed bred un neutered cats out there for the species to survive and continue.

Of course, I'm technically a dog person (though my personality is more cat-like), but I'd say the same of dogs and neutering too -- I've just never been subjected to the mating sounds of wild dogs while trying to get some sleep between shifts at work.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 20th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I lived in a country for a while that had tons of street dogs. They were the sickest, sorriest animals I've ever seen. Dogcatchers get a lot of bad press (they are inevitably the bad guys in dog movies and fiction, it seems). Since seeing what a world without them is like, I've loved and adored dog catchers.

We had a joke about how you never had to worry about dogs there, however. They were either trained to stay put, restrained to stay put, or too sick to worry about. I saw dogs with diseases I couldn't name. I remember one who had either suffered an injury that had all his guts dragging in a football sized sack of skin in the dirt (you could see what looked like intestines pressing against the skin) or else he had some of the largest, grossest parasites I ever saw in his reproductive organs and that's what was dragging against the dirt (it really could have been either. Obviously, it was pretty messed up whichever it was).

There were three things you always heard from Americans in their first month there. 1. It's so different. 2. But I'm loving it. 3. I want to take a gun and put all those poor sewer dogs out of their misery.

That was regardless of their stance on gun violence and hunting, by the way.

So, I'm very for spaying or neutering. The alternative isn't that we have fewer sick dogs and cats living in the streets. The alternative is that we have just as many sick animals only we take advantage of the people who can't bear to see animals suffering like that, hire some of them to put the poor creatures out of their misery, and then villefy them for doing the only thing that could be done to stop the suffering we'd started.
methe From: methe Date: July 21st, 2006 02:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Purebred cats

The various members of my immediate family have six cats - each one has come from a different place, the SPCA, newspaper ads, alleys, breeder. I got my purebred cat by accident, she was born with a minor heart murmur (it closed before she was six months old, but the breeder wanted her to be a pet, and I'm in healthcare) so I paid her vaccination bill and nothing more.

My purebred cat is the most loving, caring sweet animal I have ever known. She was raised in a small household and handled from the day she was born. She loves _everyone_ and all other cats.

Frankly, most of the cat breeders I've investigated tend to be very responsible. The good ones will make you sign a written contract detailing the care of the cat. From what I can tell, kitten mills are far less common than puppy mills. Moreover, purebred cats are closer to what cats originally were. You don't really see any teacup cats or cats with odd physical features, with the exception of the persian breeds. (Okay, there are those ugly-ass hairless cats, but I think everyone should just ignore those. Yick.) I haven't really heard about that many congenital defects running in purebreds either. I believe my baby was born with a patent foramen ovale, but that could happen to anyone. If someone does know of a cat breed with characteristic defects (like retrievers and their hips), I would be fascinated to learn about it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 21st, 2006 02:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I gotta respectfully disagree with the idea that Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs are inhumane. It seems to me that removing a feral cat's gonads wouldn't make a cat more vulnerable (de-clawing on the other hand, is probably a different story), and may even help since you are eliminating a big reason for cat fights: sex. Most TNR programs (like the Aggie Cats at http://www.cvm.tamu.edu/afcat/) are done with colonies that are returned to a locations with some volunteer feeders, and with often much healthier, reduced populations.

Many people have found that just killing off the feral cats doesn't really solve the problem, since once cats are removed, more move in and begin breeding. See http://www.feralcat.com/sarah2.html

As for trapping-neutering-adoption, that would be nice if that was possible in more cases, but often isn't. A feral cat is terrified of humans, and will often hiss, bite, and scratch when people try to handle them. When so many pets who *are* able to be handled are dropped off at the shelter each day, the ferals are going to lose in the fight for space. Kittens under 4-6 months and ex-pets who went feral after being abandoned or lost can be (re)socialized, but it takes a lot to time and patience, resources the shelters often don't have. An adult cat who has never had positive human contact in its life is pretty much doomed except for a few rare cases. So although they won't completely solve the problem, the TNR programs can stabilize the colony and prevent new cats from moving in, and reduce the number of cats in shelters that have to be euthanized.

I think spaying/neutering goes a long way towards preventing future problems for the animals and making sure that a higher percentage of them are in good homes and not on the street. Too many litters of puppies or kittens are born, and someone thinks "Oh, how cute!" and takes them home. If it's a cat, the animal will start to mature at about six months of age, losing its extreme cuteness. Then Tom starts to spray everywhere or Fluffy goes into heat and keeps the house up all night. At this point the owners dump the cat and contribute to the feral problem, or send the cat to the pound (I think this is what happened to my cat, since she was 7 months old and un-spayed when rescued from the shelter). Of the about 6-8 million cats and dogs that go into shelters each year, only about half find homes, and the rest are killed.

Sorry, that probably was more than my $0.02 worth.
Jen
jetamors From: jetamors Date: July 21st, 2006 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Eh. They do TNR because otherwise tomcats don't survive for more than about a year in the wild. They get into really nasty fights over the queens in heat.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 23rd, 2006 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Having worked at a vet's office and done quite a bit of volunteering for the local animal rescue league

SPAY AND NEUTER!!!!



Approximately half of the animals born have no hope of living a good life.

We humans have taken away the natural population controls (which isn't entirely a bad thing - starving to death, getting eaten by larger predators, and diseases and parasites aren't the best ways to die. Most were lucky to live to two years old, if that). Of the ones that manage to get cared for by people, many are mistreated, and others dumped once they aren't cute little puppies or kittens any longer.

There is no logic in worrying about "good genes" when there are fine genes in the population in general. That is like feeling upset because some person who died in 1472 couldn't put their genetics into our population. There are too many of us, too.


Every cat or dog should be a "wanted" cat or dog. Until that time is reached,

SPAY AND NEUTER!!



very sincerely,
McGonagall's Cat

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2006 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is like feeling upset because some person who died in 1472 couldn't put their genetics into our population. There are too many of us, too.

Um... I do get sad about that, actually. I read family history and look at all those kids who died young, or people who died without leaving anyone behind, and yeah... it always makes me sad. Mostly because, at the rate I'm going, I'm going to be one of them, some lonely little footnote in someone else's genealogy.
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