Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 15, 2023
3 min read

When you first bring home your new pet, one of the best ways to give them a healthy start is to spay or neuter them.

Spaying or neutering will benefit your pet medically and behaviorally. Whether you are doing it for the greater good or for the good of your pet, spaying your female pet or neutering your male pet has many advantages. 

While you can have your pet spayed or neutered at almost any time, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that you sterilize your cat by 5 months of age. This gives your cat the benefits of being spayed or neutered while still allowing your kitten time to grow. 

For dogs, the AAHA recommends that small-breed dogs which will weigh less than 45 pounds as an adult are spayed before they go into heat at 5 or 6 months, or neutered by 6 months. Large-breed dogs that will weigh over 45 pounds as adults should be neutered when they finish growing by around 9 to 15 months of age, and spayed between 5 to 15 months. 

Your vet can help you select the best time, which may depend on various factors.

Spaying your kitten when she is 3 to 6 months old will virtually eliminate the risk that she will develop mammary cancer when she's older. Additionally, spaying your kitten prevents many different infections and cancers that occur in the uterus and ovaries. 

A study of 460,000 cats and 2.2 million dogs found that spayed cats live 39% longer and spayed dogs live 23% longer than their unspayed counterparts. Like cats, spayed dogs are less likely to develop certain cancers, as well as pyometra, a potentially fatal uterine infection. 

Neutered dogs don’t develop testicular cancer, which is common in older dogs who haven't been neutered. They also have a lower risk of pancreatic cancer, and their life expectancy is increased up to 18%. 

Neutering your cat will also eliminate the possibility of testicular cancer and decrease the possibility of pancreatic cancer.

One of the reasons neutered tomcats live so much longer is that they are less likely to wander away from home and fight with other male cats. Neutering stops the production of testosterone. This hormone causes aggressive behavior. 

The same can be said for neutered dogs. They are less likely to roam in order to find a mate and end up being hit by a car or in a fight with another dog.

Once your dog or cat has been neutered, they are less likely to behave aggressively. They are also less likely to engage in territory-marking behavior such as spraying urine in your house. Finally, they will be less likely to try to mount everything they come into contact with after they've been neutered.

If they aren't spayed, cats will go into heat at around 6 months of age. They will stay in heat for an average of 6 days. The cycle of heat repeats every 3 weeks on average during their season. When they are in heat, cats become very vocal and demanding. They may bleed and even spray urine. 

Dogs generally only go into heat twice a year. They also bleed and urinate excessively during their cycle. Spaying prevents your pet from ever going into heat and exhibiting these behaviors.

Pets become overweight for the same reasons people do. These are usually not exercising enough and overeating. A pet who gets enough exercise and eats a healthy diet in moderation will remain fit and healthy.

You have to pay to have your pet spayed or neutered. However, you will save money in the long term by preventing many serious health problems. If the expense is preventing you from spaying or neutering your pet, check with your local shelter. Many have low-cost or no-cost options available. 

Millions of cats and dogs end up in shelters every year. Having your pet spayed or neutered will help decrease the number of animals in need of shelter. This helps stretch shelter resources. 

Dogs reproduce 15 times as fast as humans. Cats reproduce 45 times as fast. Euthanasia rates are much higher in areas where there are no options for spaying or neutering.