Q: Both my parents are from the "old country" and neither believes in having dogs or cats neutered. They prefer to have our two-year-old tomcat remain intact and "natural" as "nature had intended" (in their words). How do I convince my parents that it is in the cat's own best interest to be neutered? Maybe you could list all the benefits of neutering male cats in your column and I could show it to them.
A: Most pet owners are aware their pets should be neutered. However, not all pet owners are aware of the many reasons why neutering is beneficial, especially in male cats.
Male cats are neutered (i.e. castrated) for several reasons. Intact male cats make poor house pets, while neutered cats make better pets and tend to live longer. There are many reasons for this: intact male cats tend to fight one another in order to defend their territory and to win the right to mate with a female in heat. These fights lead to scratch and bite wounds that often become infected, leading to abscesses. Castration is 85-per-cent effective in reducing or stopping fighting.
Unneutered male cats also roam great distances and come home only to eat and sleep. This tends to increase the chances of being hit by a car or getting into trouble. Castration is 90-per-cent effective in reducing roaming.
Besides these health reasons, neutering is beneficial for other reasons. Intact male cats mark their territory by spraying a strong-smelling urine on objects such as drapes, furniture and carpeting. Besides being unsanitary, the urine odour and stains are extremely difficult to remove. Castration is 90-per-cent effective in stopping urine spraying and gets rid of the strong, unpleasant odour of male cat urine.
Intact male cats also tend to be poor groomers, causing them to become matted and scruffy-looking. Neutered male cats tend to pay more attention to themselves and keep themselves clean.
What does castration not do to male cats? Neutering does not make a cat fat and lazy or change its personality, nor does it hunt or play any less than an unneutered male. Contrary to previously held theories, castration is also not a significant contributing factor in the development of urinary tract problems in cats, particularly one disease called "Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease" (FLUTD).
Finally, there are some very solid environmental and humane reasons for neutering male cats.
Allowing a tomcat to wander and mate at will contributes to the existing pet population problem and overburdens humane societies, which must ultimately euthanize those animals for which no homes can be found. In short, neutering is also the responsible thing to do.
Dr. Bernhard Pukay is an Ottawa veterinarian