Celebrating World Spay Day: 15 Years Ago This Month
World Spay Day is February 28, 2023.
Celebrate by preventing the births of any unwanted kittens!
Personally, I’ve been celebrating Spay Day every chance I get, and I’m glad for all the unwanted kittens whose births I’ve prevented, and didn’t have to eventually rescue or watch suffer and possibly die. And helping all the mother cats who will no longer suffer from the constant strain of reproduction on their bodies. Oh, and those boy cats too—even though we’re celebrating “spay” day, they aren’t off the (ovariohysterectomy) hook.
Fifteen years ago this month I helped Mimi stop her habit of carousing and getting herself into trouble, although her kittens were purrfect. I had her and her kids spayed and neutered. Here are some thoughts about spay and neuter, and don’t miss Mimi’s telling of her story too.
If looks could kill, I’d be splattered against the wall.
But she is glad to have been spayed (see below), though I’m sure she hasn’t forgotten the experience yet.
I had Mimi and all of four her babies spayed and neutered in two successive weeks, on Tuesdays, the girls the first week, the boys the next, using the same low-cost voucher program and a veterinarian who participated in the program. The Four were just about seven months old and normally I’d get it done before that, but with five at once, even with vouchers, I had to save up after all the kitten stuff—exams, shots, lots and lots of food, and even medical bills from earlier in the year when Lucy, Mimi’s daughter and the Four’s half-sister, was ill. And it was when I had Lucy spayed that I saw the first symptoms of the feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) that killed her only three months later. I think I wanted as much time as possible with them in case the same thing happened.
Luckily no one had gone into heat yet, except Mimi whose biological clock rang loudly shortly after the kittens were born. She started calling and prancing around and was out of heat for about 15 total minutes from then until I had her spayed. No wonder she’d had six litters of kittens. I’m not sure the lady wants you to know that about her past; this is certainly not the Mimi everyone knows today.
She was to be spayed much earlier. Because her kittens were there, even though I tried to keep them physically separate, she kept producing milk, and it’s okay to spay when they are in heat and producing milk, but if you can wait a while and hope one situation or the other will resolve you reduce possible risks. So she ended up being spayed with the rest of them.
And because of my experience with Lucy, I wanted to be as careful as possible with her mom. With that history of FIP in mind my veterinarian suggested, and the veterinarian who would do the spays and neuters agreed, to do a little extra exploratory when they spayed Mimi, looking for any possible lesions on internal organs typical of some cats with FIP and checking into some of the lumps in her mammary glands. Mimi was probably about four by then and her body had been through a lot in that time living largely outdoors and bearing six litters of kittens. Her incision would be larger and instead of stitches she would get staples.
Did you know that staples are easier than stitches for a cat to get her teeth around and pull out? I observed Mimi and Mewsette the evening I brought them home and neither showed any interest in their incisions and acted completely normal, good appetite, litterbox use, social, affectionate, but still I put a soft collar on each of them at one point in the evening.
The next morning they were both wearing their soft collars turned backward around their armpits like blue tutus—I think they had worked on each others’ collars and loosened them, but not managed to get them off.
A section of Mimi’s staples were missing, and her incision was open. I ran her back to the vet, who sedated her, cleaned the incision and replaced the staples. She also gave me the hard plastic collar.
I don’t care how the cat feels about the collar, I want the cat to heal. Mimi really didn’t complain either. She’s very tiny, though, and even though I placed her food bowl on an upended water bowl the collar still bumped into the floor when she tried to eat. And you can see by the speckles on the collar that an awful lot of stuff ended up inside.
This was also when I learned what a deeply sweet cat Mimi really is. When I took the collar off her and gave her food, she ate breakfast. I put it back on her. Same for dinner. She never once acted in any way threatening, no growls or other noises, never lifted a paw, didn’t even stiffen her muscles when I settled the collar around her neck.
Two days later I fed them breakfast, Mewsette’s incision looked great, Mimi’s was no longer inflamed after having replaced the staples. The phone rang. I ran downstairs. I didn’t come back up for hours. I hadn’t replaced Mimi’s collar. Half her staples were gone again.
Back to the vet, apologizing for this, saying I really do know how to take care of a cat who’s been spayed! We had to start her on antibiotics and pain medication and the collar had to stay on even if I was sitting right there, but I could test her as time went on. Veterinarians know wily cats, and Mimi was, and is, nothing if not wise. The staples stayed in for ten days, though she didn’t have to wear her collar that whole time. For the next five days I did take the collar off for a few minutes and washed it while she ate her meals and nothing could make me leave her. Then I tested her for longer periods of time and the combination of the healing itself, the pain medication and the antibiotic helped to reduce the irritation so she quit pulling on the staples.
The veterinarian found nothing unusual in there. Mimi healed fine. And now she wonders what all the fuss was about before she was spayed, but at least she has these four lovely children to show for it. I thank Lucy for bringing this wonderful family to me.
Mimi still says, “I Love Being Spayed!”
Mimi Celebrates World Spay Day
“No more kittens for me,” Mimi says. “I stopped at 24—I’m so glad my human had me spayed!”
Mimi, super catmom of at least six litters of perfect (mostly) black kittens, is now a happy housecat extolling the virtues of spayed bliss.
“I used to love my assignations in the neighbor’s driveway, then feeling my kittens grow and giving birth and nurturing them, it was all so easy,” Mimi says. “But when I realized I wasn’t the only one giving birth to a dozen kittens each year, and what happened to many of them…I’m embarrassed at my behavior and sad for cats who lost their lives because of me.”
“You know, I was totally powerless against my hormones, and I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens,” she continues.
If you won’t listen to a person about spaying your cat, listen to the cat herself. Mimi gives us 30 good reasons to spay your cat and hopes that you’ll celebrate Spay Day USA by either getting your cat spayed or convincing someone else to get their cat spayed. The big day isn’t until February 25, but for Mimi this is the most important holiday on the entire calendar.
Take it from Mimi, and read why Mimi Says, “I Love Being Spayed”.
I Prevented the Birth of 420,000 Kittens—I Spayed My Cat
Turnabout is fair play. Even though this total is so incredibly inflated that it could never ever happen, let’s play with it. If the figure of 420,000 kittens potentially being born to one unspayed female cat—and her kittens, and her kittens’ kittens, etc., etc.—is constantly tossed about by both people who think cats should be spayed and by those who think they should be eradicated as noxious pests, then certainly we can turn it to a positive light.
If you have your cat spayed prior to the birth of any kittens, then you have certainly saved the birth of 420,000 unwanted kittens. 420,000 kittens who will never grow to adults and caterwaul in the alleys and have unwanted kittens in your backyard. 420,000 kittens who will never kill a single endangered songbird. 420,000 kittens who will never be killed in shelters because there are no homes for them. 420,000 kittens who will simply never exist because a responsible human took one simple step—they had their female kitten spayed before she had the chance to have a single litter of kittens.
Celebrate Spay Day USA with Mimi and Me
If preventing the birth of potentially 420,000 kittens…okay, 420,000 is a highly inflated figure, but several hundred kittens is typical of an unspayed female and one or more unneutered males and all their progeny, and preventing the birth of that number is just as good. If preventing the birth of realistically several hundred kittens isn’t a good enough reason to have your cat spayed, then I have a few more reasons to give you, and so does Mimi, mother of 24 and a huge advocate of spaying.
The issue of feline overpopulation, and why humans are part of it
Cats left unspayed and unneutered whether in free-ranging colonies or in your own home will produce as many kittens as their bodies will allow, leading to disease and suffering and way too many kittens, who then go on to produce more kittens. Some hoarding situations begin with two kittens who were never spayed and neutered, and many stray/feral colonies begin with one pregnant female who someone tossed out to fend for herself.
It’s not likely, but a cat can have up to five litters in a year, bearing 6 or more kittens per litter over the course of as many as ten years, which adds up to about 300 kittens from one female cat in the course of her lifetime, not to mention the kittens her kittens produce.
More realistically, say she only has three litters of four kittens per year as Mimi did, that’s still a dozen new kittens; Mimi gave birth to 24 kittens in two years. All of Mimi’s kittens survived, but even with an average 50% survival rate, that could be as many as 60 kittens born over five years. Now add in all the kittens that those surviving kittens produce in addition to their mother, and it’s just out of control.
Ever-expanding colonies are also often the targets of abuse and “extermination”. Shelters are already full of cats who need homes, so rescue is possible but unlikely.
Why now? There’s still snow!
Two of the cats we spayed at the end of January were pregnant with a total of 11 kittens. One of the most important considerations is to do it NOW, before cats start breeding in earnest, before last year’s kittens who may not be spayed and neutered answer the call of nature as the days grow longer and we start talking about “kitten season” again. While you may find new litters of kittens in the middle of the winter, a cat’s reproductive system responds to the length of the day, likely a biological response to keep them from reproducing during times when, seasonally, there isn’t enough food or the weather is inhospitable to kittens. Fellow blogger and vet tech Teri Thorsteinson, formerly a breeder of Cornish Rex cats, has written an excellent explanation of “Kittening”, explaining a cat’s reproductive cycle and giving birth.
Why we need to step in and help cats
“You know, I was totally powerless against my hormones, and I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens,” Mimi, a great advocate for spaying and neutering, tells us each year. If you won’t listen to a person about spaying your cat, listen to the cat herself. Mimi gives us 30 good reasons to spay your cat and hopes that you’ll celebrate Spay Day USA on February 25 by either getting your cat spayed or convincing someone else to get their cat spayed.
The boys don’t have kittens, but they are still part of the problem
Boys do have babies, they just don’t give birth to them. But that doesn’t leave them off the hook for issues of animal overpopulation, not to mention the nasty behaviors unneutered cats indulge in. I had a friend who thought she lived too far from anyone else and decided not to neuter her male kitten, but not to worry, the girls found him! Read about that and why, just as we spay our girls we also need to neuter our boys and encourage others to do so as well.
Chances of feline breast and reproductive cancer, reduced to nearly nothing
Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” Spaying between 1 and 2 years of age only reduces the risk by 11%, and after two years it doesn’t reduce the risk at all. Actually giving birth to kittens doesn’t change the risk factors, either. Read more about feline breast cancer.
Yes, it is expensive, but affordable alternatives are available
Please check my Shelters, Assistance, Spay/Neuter page for opportunities in Pittsburgh and beyond.
Find a low-cost clinic anywhere in the country
Ir you or a friend or family member find a spay for your cat to be more than you can afford, check this link to search for a low-cost spay or neuter by zip code all over the country sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, PetSmart Charities and the ASPCA. If you’re not near Pittsburgh and you’d like to find out if there is a TNR organization near you, visit the Feral Cat Organizations listing on the Humane Society of the United States’ website. You can also find information on the Alley Cat Allies’ website under Make Connections. You can find yet more resources on the ASPCA website under TNR and Colony Management.
You don’t need to manage a colony top help feral cats. You can donate to, assist or even start a local TNR program in your area. The HSUS’s article What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats covers finding local organizations, listing options and how to pursue helping or starting a local organization, and they also have a Program Fund that you can donate to in order to assist them in helping local organizations form and operate.
Read more articles about the need to spay and neuter our cats
I have heard since I was a child, in so many ways, that cats were disposable because there were always “more where those came from”. This broke my heart as a child, and still does today. I am convinced that this flippant ideal of disposability through overpopulation fuels disrespect of cats and devalues each cat, even underlies the fact that otherwise loving cat owners take their cat to the vet half as often as dogs visit the vet. Reducing the unwanted cat population elevates every cat.
I have a lot to say on this subject, in part because the flip side of it is a lot of cat rescue and a lot of unhappy endings because of all the unwanted kittens born all the time. Sometimes it honestly feels like there are 420,000 unwanted kittens born every day, but just several hundred is too many. Click here for an archive of articles on spay/neuter, fostering, assisting shelters and doing all you can to help reduce the population of homeless cats and kittens.
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2 thoughts on “Celebrating World Spay Day: 15 Years Ago This Month”
We TNR’d Sweetie in 2009, now she’s living as an inside-only kitty in her retirement from being a community cat.
If I, the biggest wuss in the world, can trap cats, then anyone can, and we all need to get with the spay/neuter program…ALL OF US.
So what do you think of Mimi in her cone?
I can tell you that TNR, outreach to neighbors and focusing on every intact female in the neighborhood made a huge difference in my neighborhood. In about three years we went from about six litters of kittens each year that we knew about to, this year, one, from a cat who was new to the neighborhood and friendly, wearing a collar. We all worked together, I got the traps and mostly did the trapping, and spayed and neutered everything, socialized all the kittens we could and have kept in touch to take care of cats as soon as they show up.