When it comes to spaying and neutering there are a number of myths and misconceptions that prevent people from choosing to have their pet altered, even though they don’t wish to breed. Spaying is the only reliable way to prevent your female pet from falling pregnant, and neutering makes it impossible for your male pet to impregnate another pet. We’re going to address some concerns about spaying and neutering to put your mind at ease and help you make an informed decision about desexing your pet.
Myth One – “Neutering my pet will make him less masculine”
Quite often you’ll hear owners of male pets say that they don’t want to neuter their cat or dog because they believe it will make him more feminine and leave him feeling like “less of a man”. If a dog is neutered after he has reached sexual maturity there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that he feels less masculine.
Anthropomorphisation is where humans project their own way of thinking and feeling onto other animals, and is one of the biggest reasons for miscommunication and misunderstanding between humans and animals. It is a mistake to assume that animal behaviour, thought and sense of self runs parallel to human psychology. Your dog or cat will not understand that he has been castrated, so he will not feel emasculated by it.
Myth Two – “Spaying/neutering makes pets gain weight”
Strictly speaking this myth is false; spaying and neutering itself will not cause weight gain in pets. However, many owners do see their pets’ waistlines grow after this operation. So, if it’s not the alteration that causes the weight gain, what is it?
Well, a pet should have a certain amount of resting time after a surgery, and owners will often want to comfort their recovering pet with treats and goodies. The extra calories, paired with the physical inactivity, can quickly lead to your pet putting on some extra pounds.
Additionally, having your pet spayed or neutered can cause a change in their metabolism. Because of this, their bodies don’t burn as many calories to function. They will burn off less energy than usual, which means that they don’t need to ingest as high a caloric intake as before their operation. This calorie management can be done through portion control or a low-calorie pet food. Generally, a caloric reduction of 25% will allow your pet to maintain their weight after a spay/neuter operation.
Myth Three – “It is healthier for an animal to have a litter before they are altered”
Folk wisdom has long held that animals, especially females, should be allowed to have a litter before they are spayed/neutered but scientifically speaking, there is absolutely no benefit to waiting for a pet to procreate or even copulate before they are altered. If you are concerned that they will in some way “miss out”, this is just another case of anthropomorphisation. Entire animals do have a drive to breed, but this is lost once they are sterilised so they won’t have a sense of having missed out on anything. In fact, choosing to neuter a dog after he has been allowed to experience mating can actually lessen the behavioural benefits of neutering such as decreased leg-cocking, undesirable humping and territorial aggression.
What’s more, younger dogs and cats have lower quality sperm, which could cause problems for any babies they sire. Ultimately there is no good reason to allow your pets to reproduce before spaying/neutering.
Myth Four – “I should get my kitten/puppy spayed as soon as possible”
There is a growing trend for people neutering their pets as soon as the testicles have descended, not necessarily after they have reached sexual maturity. While this does fully eliminate the likelihood of your pet impregnating another, it does mean that your male pet will not have fully started testosterone production, or production of some key growth hormones. By neutering very early, you do run the risk of your pet not growing as much and potentially having some developmental abnormalities. It is best to consult your vet, as they will give you a good idea of when it will be appropriate to neuter your pet.