Email: SpayUSA@AnimalLeague.org

The Pet Owners FAQ

Is the spay/neuter surgery for my cat/dog free?

The surgery is not free. However, many places have very low-cost surgeries, especially for people with low income. Some programs and clinics are open to all regardless of income. Each program is different, and we have about 2,000 programs nationwide. We try to match you with the most appropriate and nearest clinic or veterinarian. Clients are required to pay the veterinarian at the time of surgery.

How much will the spay/neuter surgery cost?

Prices vary by region and veterinarian. The price for vaccinations, which are often required will also vary by region and veterinarian. However, they are usually offered at a reduced rate. If you have researched the going rate for spay/neuter surgery in your area, we think you will find that our participating vets and programs offer affordable rates!

How old does my pet need to be in order to be spayed or neutered?

For many years, veterinarians were taught that cats and dogs had to be a year old to be spayed or neutered. Later, they were taught that six months was appropriate. Today we know that kittens and pups can be spayed or neutered at the age of two months (or two pounds). The American Veterinary Medical Association has endorsed this practice called Early Age Neutering; the animals recover more quickly from surgery when they are young. Today some vets will spay/neuter at eight weeks of age, while other adhere to the old practice of six months of age. The average age at which pets are spayed or neutered is four months.

How young can a female cat/dog get pregnant?

"Adolescent" cats and dogs as young as five months can get pregnant. For many reasons, it is important to spay or neuter BEFORE the first litter is born - before six months.

Can brother and sister from the same litter mate?

A brother and sister from the same litter can create their own litters by the age of five months. It is not a good idea to allow this to happen.

How long after my female cat/dog has had kittens/puppies can I get her spayed?

Mother cats or dogs can become pregnant while nursing. It is important to keep a nursing mother away from other adult cats/dogs of the opposite sex. One can spay a mother as soon as the kittens or pups are weaned, (5 to 6 weeks for kittens and 4 to 5 weeks for puppies) and because of the risk of pregnancy this should be done.

Will neutering my male cat stop him from spraying?

It is best to alter males before they reach five months of age, and before they start "spraying" or "marking." Even if a cat has started spraying, neutering may help. It usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the hormones to subside after the neutering. Neutering helps prevent spraying, roaming and aggressive behavior.

I want to have my cat declawed, can you help me?

We are very opposed to declawing cats. It is the equivalent of cutting off the tips of our fingers. It can be painful even after the surgery is long done, and may even lead to the kinds of rebellious behavior only cats can devise. We suggest offering different kinds of scratching posts - corrugated cardboard, hemp, etc, throwing sheets over sofas that are claw targets, using the new sprays that discourage scratching. We ask our vets NOT to give any discounts on declawing.

Will my cat or dog feel pain during surgery?

Your cat or dog will be under anesthesia during surgery, and will feel no pain. You should keep the animal quiet after surgery while she or he heals. Dogs and cats should be kept indoors; dogs walked on a leash.

My cat/dog is sick will the veterinarians give me a discount on medical treatment?

Your animal should be in good health when she or he goes in for surgery. If you have a sick cat or dog, you should speak with your vet about treatment. Other pet owners in your area may know of a good, reasonably priced vet. The vets who work with us have given us special rates for the spay/neuter surgery but this is not an ongoing discount.

Will my animal's behavior change after being altered?

Your animal's behavior will not change except that male dogs and cats will be less likely to fight, roam and spayed females will no longer go into heat.

Will my animal become fat and lazy after being altered?

Your animal will not get fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered unless you feed him/her too much. To keep your pet healthy they should get regular exercise: walking for dogs, toys and scratching posts for cats.

Where can I find spaying/neutering for rabbits?

You should contact House Rabbit Society or if you need to spay or neuter a rabbit.

Spay/Neuter Terminology:

Heat - Estrus ("heat") is the mating period of female animals. When estrus occurs, animals are said to be "in heat" or "in season."

  • Cats: Cats normally have their first estrous cycle between 4 and 6 months of age, with the average age around 5 months. The female cat has 2-4 estrous periods every year, each lasting 15-22 days. If she is bred, estrus seldom lasts more than 4 days.

    If successful mating does not occur, estrus may last for 7-10 days and recur at 15-21 day intervals. It is possible for an unmated female to cycle every 3-4 weeks indefinitely.

    Cats also have an estrous period 1-6 weeks after giving birth, so a female may be nursing one litter while pregnant with another.

    Behavior
    Since there is usually no obvious vaginal discharge or swelling of the genitals during estrus in cats, as is seen in dogs, behavioral changes are the only obvious signs that your cat is in estrus.

    A cat in estrus often carries her tail to one side, keeps her hindquarters elevated and seems unusually affectionate. She will rolling on the floor and seems much more restless than usual. The cat's voice seems more piercing than usual and she may "call" for 1-2 days before she accepts the male.
  • Dogs: Estrus or Heat cycle - The average heat cycle for a dog is approximately 3 weeks (21 days) and since this is an average, some heats are shorter (as little as 7-10 days), others are longer (4 weeks or more).

    Average times between heat periods is seven months but some dogs can cycle as early as every 4 months, some once a year. Lengths of heat cycles and intervals between cycles are different for each dog but most dogs hit somewhere close to the averages.

    Physical Symptoms:
    Include bleeding from the vulva, swelling of the vulva, possible increase in urination and the most noticeable, male dogs hanging around the house.

    The next cycle usually begins about 7 months from the start of the last heat cycle, not the end of that cycle but again this varies from dog to dog. The interval stays the same even if she becomes pregnant.

Spay - the medical term is ovariohysterectomy. In this major abdominal surgery the pet's ovaries and uterus are removed. There is no evidence that a pet suffers from any personality or emotional harm by having their ovaries removed. The uterus is also removed to insure that it does not become a source of infection over a period of time. If the surgeon simply tied or obstructed the Fallopian tubes (the channel where the eggs must pass into the uterus) in order to make the female dog or cat sterile, she would still come into heat, attract males, and attempt to breed. Experience has shown that the best procedure is to perform a complete ovariohysterectomy.
- The Pet Center*

Neuter - another term is castration. In this surgery the doctor makes an incision in front of the scrotum and through that incision accesses each testicle. The fibrous coverings of the testicles are incised and each testicle is removed after securely ligating the blood vessels that attach to each testicle. The benefits of having a dog and cat neutered are well documented. And to simply do a vasectomy to render the male sterile would not alleviate the scent marking, desire to breed, territorial defense and other testosterone driven behaviors. Even in guard dogs and hunting dogs, many owners report improved behavior and manageability when the dog has been neutered.
- The Pet Center*

Alter - Another term for spay or neuter.

Crypt/Undescended Testical - An improperly developed testis may never leave the abdomen, and it may not produce the hormones that induce secondary sex characters. A testis lodged in the canal may well produce these secondary sex characters, but cannot produce spermatozoa. Failure of both testicles to descend is uncommon. Usually only one testis is involved and the other produces sufficient spermatozoa to render the animal fertile.
- Sauders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary (2d ed), 1999
[DC Blood & VP Studdert]