Do you know how many kittens can result from one unaltered cat? It’s staggering! I learned that the hard way.
When I was a teenager, my first job was seasonal employment at a local resort. The hotel was located on a mountain, and somewhat isolated. It seemed like every week, someone was leaving their dog or cat at this hidden spot in the hopes that the animal would be taken care of by staff or “adopted” by one of the guests. This is how I met Zoe, an abandoned brown tabby with large, chartreuse eyes.
Zoe had initially been taken in by my coworker, Allison, but that turned almost disastrous when her resident dog decided that she really did not care for the new arrival. Reluctantly, Allison asked if I would take her. As a person who considers myself to be a true cat lover, I could not turn her down. This beautiful brown striped girl came home with me. What I did not realize at the time was that she was already pregnant.
At seventeen, I did not know much about a cat’s biology. If I had known then what I know now, the situation would have turned out entirely different. I did not know that a female cat could get pregnant at six months old. (For perspective, a cat is considered a kitten until they reach twelve months of age.) I did not know that a female cat will come back into heat every 1-2 weeks until she becomes pregnant. I did not know that most kittens are born between March and October; this is often referred to as “kitten season.” What I was aware of, was that cats have gestation periods averaging 62 days, or around two months.
Zoe had been with me for about three weeks before it was obvious that she was going to have babies. The average litter size is two to five kittens. That May, Zoe’s litter of eight kittens was born, though only four survived. I had no idea that in four short months, Zoe would be pregnant again. Zoe’s second litter, only seven this time, was born in late September. From that group, three lived to adulthood. In a mere six months, I would have had FIFTEEN additional cats had every kitten survived. Zoe’s spay surgery occurred as soon as the second litter was weaned.
What I learned from my experience with Zoe is how important it is to spay or neuter your cats (and dogs). While her litter sizes were far above average, even two kittens contribute to pet overpopulation. I started educating myself (and anyone who would listen) about why spay/neuter is so crucial. Even if your pet is indoor-only, the procedure has health benefits. The risk of ovarian and testicular cancer is dramatically reduced. Many dogs who are hit by cars are often intact (or not neutered). The reason? They are looking for a female dog to mate with them. Less commonly, there are some associated risks, but these concerns can and should be addressed with your veterinarian.
March is an optimal time to set spay and neuter appointments and get in front of the breeding cycle. If the potential cost is an issue, consider that it is a one-time expense.
Many areas even have programs in place to assist residents with the cost of spay/neuter, or there is a local low-cost spay/neuter clinic. If you are a resident of Northeast Tennessee or Southwest Virginia and need assistance, these are steps recommended by the group Holly Help Spay/Neuter Fund:
1. Contact Animal Defense League at 276-245-6020 and ask for assistance with Spay/neuter costs.
2. Contact the Margaret Mitchell Spay/Neuter Clinic in Bristol, VA at 276-591-5790 to schedule an appointment.
3. While talking to Margaret Mitchell staff, ask for Assistance from Holly Help Spay/Neuter.
I know that a pet can make a difference in a person’s life. I ask that we make a difference in our pets’ lives too. Thank you for allowing me to share Zoe’s story.
Did you know that Fetching Apparel donates 40% of profits to animal rescues and spay/neuter efforts? Go get it!