Fascinating felines: The surprising truths about 5 common cat myths

Americans’ love affair with pets continues to grow with approximately 69 million households owning a pet, according to American Veterinary Medical Association. In fact, pet ownership has tripled since the 1970s, and today there are 74.1 million owned cats alone. Felines are great companion animals, but there is still a surprising amount of widely accepted misinformation about cats – and it’s causing a multitude of issues.

“Cats are fantastic pets for both young and old, but misconceptions can cause a host of problems for cats, from their individual health to overpopulation,” says Esther Mechler, president of Marian’s Dream: Philanthropy for Animal Advocates. “Understanding the facts isn’t just interesting, as it can literally help you save lives.”

Check out these top five cat myths and the surprising truths behind each:

Myth: There are plenty of shelters and foster homes to help pets in need until they find their forever home.

Fact: Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, including 3.4 million cats, according to ASPCA.org. “More than 70 percent of cats in shelters do not find homes,” says Mechler. “Fostering is limited and unfortunately many shelters refuse to admit cats if no empty cages are available. This begs the question of where these unwanted cats can go. Millions of cats are euthanized annually or abandoned into the wild – where they often face injury, sickness and death.”

Myth: Cats don’t need to be spayed or neutered until they are 6 months old.

Fact: Most shelter cats are fixed at two months of age prior to adoption, but many households cats are not fixed until much later, which dramatically increases the odds of unexpected litters. By six months, most cats have gone through at least one heat cycle and many have already produced a litter. “‘Fix felines by five’ is our recommendation,” Mechler says. “This reduces the chance of unwanted litters and benefits the cat’s health and the community as a whole. Don’t delay longer than five months!” Learn more at www.mariansdream.org.

Myth: Cats won’t mate with their siblings or parents.

Fact: Cats do not limit which cats they mate with – this includes littermates and parents. This is another valid reason to proactively spay and neuter cats by five months of age. “A surprising number of people do not realize that siblings can and will reproduce,” says Mechler. “But it happens all the time, so expect it.”

Myth: Limiting unwanted litters is the only reason for spaying.

Fact: “Cats spayed before their first heat cycle have a 91 percent lower risk for developing mammary cancer,” says Mechler. “This is a wonderful benefit, because mammary gland cancer kills an estimated 75,000 cats every year. In fact, cats have a greater risk – by 1,500 times – of dying from mammary gland cancer than from contracting rabies.”

Additional benefits of spaying and neutering include many positive behavioral changes, such as:
* Reduced roaming behaviors
* Reduced aggression
* Reduced marking
* Reduced howling and other heat-related behaviors

Myth: Cats mate most often in the summer.

Fact: Cats may seem to mate all year long, but peak mating times correlate with the seasons (equinox). When the days start to get longer in January and February, additional sunlight signals a female cat’s pituitary gland to start ovulation and she will go into heat. “This is why spring is considered kitten season,” says Mechler. “After about 62 days of gestation, litters are born and there is always a flood of kittens going into shelters each spring. But cats can get pregnant at almost any time late winter or throughout the summer in most regions, even just  few weeks after giving birth to a litter.”

In conclusion, pet owners are often unaware of how early cats can go into heat – to prevent mammary cancer, unwanted litters and ‘bad behaviors’ like howling, spraying and roaming it is best to have them fixed by five months of age, as recommended by Dr. Richard Speck in The Case for Neutering at Five Months of Age published in Today’s Veterinary Practice.

Marian’s Dream continues to work hard to inform people and their vets about the importance of earlier spaying and neutering through the “Fix by Five” campaign. Learn more and find a qualified vet near you at unitedspayalliance.org/program-locator-map.


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