I Prevented the Birth of 420,000 Kittens—I Spayed My Cat

closeup of black cat
“No more kittens for me!”

Turnabout is fair play. 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

black cat with hard e-collar
Mimi wears her collar and hides her spay sutures.

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.

“No more kittens for me,” Mimi says above. “I stopped at 24—I’m so glad my human had me spayed!”

Take it from Mimi, and read why Mimi Says, “I Love Being Spayed”.

The issue of feline overpopulation, and why humans are part of it

stray cat nursing kittens outdoors
Moon, Sputnik and Thistle, a stray and her kittens.

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 26 by either getting your cat spayed or convincing someone else to get their cat spayed.

black cat on sidewalk
Big Daddy comes for Mimi (actually coming to the door)!

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

Cats in carriers and cages
Cats in carriers and cages waiting for their time in surgery.

We had fun with January’s spay/neuter clinic , teasing the big old toms about waking up without their spare parts, it brings the point home that there are still too many homeless cats—and something very easy we can do about it. SPAY AND NEUTER! And don’t think of only your own cats. It’s up to those of us who know spay/neuter is the right thing to do to convince others and even help them carry it out, or to rescue and assist cats we suspect are stray or feral and keep them from reproducing on the streets.

I transported five cats to the low-cost clinic for a local woman who has been rescuing stray cats from her neighborhood and trying to rehome the cats and their kittens though craigslist, not knowing any other alternatives. Michelle Miller, manager of the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) who organizes the clinics, looks over craigslist entries for people giving away or selling cats and kittens and approached the woman about spaying the mother cat, then learned about the other cats she has. The woman was glad for the assistance through HCMT and has two more cats to be spayed at the next clinic in three weeks, and she’ll pass the word around her neighborhood. Others have found HCMT through this same sort of outreach, and from there also found access and information to other clinics as well as assistance in trapping and transporting cats living outdoors.

Other volunteers and participants in the clinic transported cats for individuals as I did, and still more trapped and transported cats from stray and feral colonies they are watching or managing, often four or five per person, and will take them home for recovery then release them in to the colony when they are ready, move them to a safer place than where they’d been, or try to socialize and rehome the friendlier ones. No cats will be sent to places that are unsafe or where there is no one to feed and watch over them.

That was a network of caring people all working together for one goal: reducing feline populations, and getting as many cats off the streets as possible in the most humane manner available.

Available Clinics in Pittsburgh and Beyond

March 3 with Homeless Cat Management Team

March 9 with Frankie’s Friends

In Pittsburgh, the Homeless Cat Management Team offers “Trap-Neuter-Return”, or TNR, services for stray and feral cats which is an internationally-recognized method of helping to solve feline overpopulation. Both females and males are altered as well as any kittens, and where possible kittens are removed from the colony to be socialized and find a permanent home. They just can’t produce any more kittens—and they don’t engage in the most annoying feline behaviors, such as spraying, calling for mates, caterwauling and fighting, noisy and odorous activities that often turn people against cats and colonies of strays and ferals. This service is also available for rescue cats, household pets or even cats simply kept outdoors if they are owned by a person. For more details on the process and a list of clinic dates, please visit the Homeless Cat Management Team’s website at www.homelesscat.org.

Upcoming HCMT clinic dates

Fast Track $30 per feral
March 3
April 14
May 5
June 16
No-Charge (ferals only)
March 24
May 26

Keep those dates in mind, and visit the HCMT website for information on how to register.

Frankie’s Friends

Also available to Pittsburgh residents is Frankie’s Friends with low-cost surgery days scheduled monthly in their clinic in Tarentum and every two or three months in their mobile spay/neuter surgery unit. Clinics in Tarentum fill up fast—the March 2 clinic is full so they’ve scheduled another for March 9. Call 724-889-7011 and leave a message for your appointment.

Low-cost clinics through shelters

Other low-cost clinics are available in the area as well. The Animal Rescue League has a weekly program where form Tuesday through Friday you can have a cat spayed, neutered and given basic veterinary care for $50.00, and a special clinic for strays and ferals for $20.00 or $30.00. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society also has a low-cost spay/neuter program for cats and dogs, a $65.00 Spay Day just for cats, and ongoing TNR services for feral cats only for $30.00.

Find a low-cost clinic anywhere in the country

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.


Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals on Etsy.
Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals on Etsy!

Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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