Those of us that grew up watching The Price Is Right remember host Bob Barker telling us at the end of every episode to “help control the pet population; have your pets spayed or neutered.” This month, the Humane Society of the United States is asking us to do the same thing: February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, and Tuesday, February 28th is World Spay Day.

Spaying and neutering our pets is important for two primary reasons: 1) it helps control the pet population, keeping unexpected and unwanted pets off the streets and out of shelters where they are unfortunately frequently put down, and 2) it provides a host of health and behavioral benefits.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million homeless pets enter animal shelters each year; of these, 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters annually, many of which are the offspring of family pets that the family was unable to care or find homes for. Spaying or neutering your pet can prevent this overpopulation, and help ensure that every puppy or kitten is wanted and has a forever home.

Spayed kitten. Photo by Adrigu via Flickr.In addition, spaying or neutering our pets helps their health and behavior. Spaying females eliminates the discomfort of being in heat, and can eliminate the risk of uterine cancer and greatly reduce the risk of mammary cancer. Neutering our male pets makes them less aggressive and less likely to roam, spray or fight, prevents testicular cancer, and reduces the risk of prostate cancer.

Neutering (or castration) is a simple, minimally-invasive outpatient procedure in which a male animal’s testes are removed. The operation takes very little time, and the male pet is usually able to go home in a matter of hours after the surgery. Oftentimes he will be fitted with an “e-collar” (Elizabethan collar or “cone of shame”) to keep him from licking or biting at the incision site, but he should experience minimal discomfort from the procedure and be his normal self in no time.

Spaying a female pet is a more complicated procedure, as it generally requires the removal of all the female reproductive organs and necessitates opening up the lower abdomen. After spaying, females are generally kept overnight for observation, and allowed to return home the following day. They are also fitted with an “e-collar” to keep them from disturbing or contaminating the surgical site or removing stitches. Laparoscopic surgery is now a possibility for this procedure and may shorten recovery time, but there is often a higher cost involved.

Luna with her "Cone of Shame." Photo by Sonny Abeshamis via Flickr.Your veterinarian can help you decide when the best time to alter your pet would be. Many healthy dogs and cats can be spayed or neutered as young as 8 weeks old. Older animals can have the procedure as well; it’s not a surgery reserved for puppies and kittens. The recovery period may be longer and slightly more uncomfortable for older animals, but most bounce back just fine. For more information on spaying and neutering procedures, contact your local veterinarian.

Many people list cost as a reason for not having their pets altered. Thankfully, many low-cost spay/neuter programs exist now to help ensure that pets are able to be safely and affordably spayed or neutered. To find a program near you, visit any of the following sites: or call 1-800-248-SPAY Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm EST.

If you are interesting in getting involved in Spay Day and Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and finding activities near you, check out the home page at


Photo credits (top to bottom):
Featured Image: “Cone Puppy” by Geoff Stearns (CC BY 2.0)
Cone of Shame” by Sonny Abeshamis (CC BY 2.0)
IMG_4437” (spayed kitten) by Adrigu (CC BY 2.0)