It’s simple: Spaying and neutering helps prevent the unnecessary deaths of cats and dogs who are perfectly fine, other than that there are no homes for them.
- Spaying is a veterinary procedure during which the ovaries and uterus of a female pet are removed.
- Neutering is a veterinary procedure during which the testicles of a male pet are removed.
- Both procedures require minimal hospitalization and offer lifelong health benefits.
Every year, 3 to 4 million rejected cats and dogs—of all ages and breeds—are euthanized in the U.S. These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.
Many million more companion animals suffer as strays. It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the US; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. Does that seem like a lot? Not when you crunch some numbers:
Because dogs cannot get pregnant three times a year, the numbers for dogs aren’t quite as dramatic—but keep in mind that some large breeds can have as many as 12 puppies in one litter.
“But my pet isn’t a stray,” you say. “My cat [or dog] is a beloved family member, and I’m probably not even going to breed her.” That’s great—but did you know that unspayed female cats and dogs are at risk of developing ovarian and uterine cancers, as well as pyometritis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the uterus? They also have higher rates of mammary cancer than their spayed pals. As for the boys: Unneutered male cats and dogs are much more likely to urine-mark in inappropriate places, more likely to run away and to fight, and more likely to contract certain communicable diseases. Also, a neutered pet cannot develop testicular cancer.
Quick Stats: Pet Overpopulation and Spay/Neuter
- Approximately five to seven million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and well over half (roughly 60% of dogs and 70% of cats) are euthanized due to a lack of space or resources to adequately care for them. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state.
- Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control.
- Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. It is estimated that 75% to 90% percent of owned pets are spayed/neutered.
- Experts estimate that 2% of stray cats are spayed/neutered.*
- The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to three a year; the average number of kittens in litters is between four and six.
- The average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; the average number of puppies in litters is between four and six.
- Approximately 76 percent of dog owners report that their dogs are spayed or neutered; 87 percent of cat owners report that their cats are spayed or neutered. +
Please be a responsible pet parent—spay or neuter your pets.
* Source: Two published studies, one on a campus in FL and one with seven high-volume trap-neuter-return programs around the country. For the former, 5% of cats had been previously sterilized (6 socialized and 1 feral). For the latter, 2.3% of 103,642 cats from the programs were already sterilized. Based on her experience, Dr. Levy, an author on all these papers, estimates 2% of stray cats are sterilized.
+ Source: 2009/2010 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey.