Loving and Taking Care of Your Best Friends
Are you a cat or a dog person?
Most people have an immediate answer, and can list the reasons why. Dogs are loyal, give unconditional love, are fiercely protective, can understand and connect with us on a deep level, and get us off the couch and outdoors. Cats are intelligent, mysterious, low maintenance, independent yet extremely affectionate, and their unique purr is deeply comforting.
Researchers have said there is proof that living with both dogs and cats improves our health. You’ve probably heard that having a pet can lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety and loneliness, and can even help strengthen children’s immunity systems. Some people find walking a dog can be a great way to meet neighbors and make friends. Whatever the reason, your pets enrich your life as only they can. When your pup brings his leash to you with a wagging tail, hides your shoes, opens closed doors, or just gives you that goofy, tongue-out smile - that is something only he can give you. When your kitty skitters across the floor after a ball, squishes herself into a tiny box, or crawls in your lap with a head boop and a loud purr, that is all part of the special connection you have with her.
To give your best friends back the love they give you is easy: lots of play time, hugs, head and tummy scratches, and most importantly, taking care of their health. Food and fresh water are the basics, but your pets also need protection from fleas, tics and worms, basic vaccinations, and an annual checkup.
Spay/Neuter = Love
An essential part of your pets’ health care is to spay (female) or neuter (males) them.. It is a simple, quick surgery that prevents them from having litters of puppies or kittens. Unplanned litters are a fact of life when your pets aren’t “fixed,” and as adorable as they are, unwanted puppies and kittens are a stressful responsibility that often leads to homeless animals who give birth to more animals, filling the shelters.
Even if your cat is indoor-only and your dog is always on-leash, it can still happen if they aren’t fixed. Unspayed females in heat are determined to find a male, and males not neutered can sense those females and will do their best to find them. Two pets living in the same house will definitely mate. When your female cat is in heat, her behaviors will change. She will meow more often and urgently, and sometimes spray. When petted, she will pop her rear in the air. You might have males show up in your yard or at your door. Your tomcat will be restless, vocal, and possibly spray to mark his territory if there is a female in heat nearby. Female dogs will bleed, be nervous, cry, look for male dogs, and sometimes mount other dogs, and things. Next thing you know, you’ll notice that your female dog or cat looks a little rounder and asks for more food. Your boy might come home in need of some vet care from fighting over females. If your pets have free time in the yard or are allowed to roam the neighborhood, you are almost guaranteed to have new family members. And even though he isn’t the one having the litter, your male pet is just as responsible as the female who did.
If you are lucky enough to avoid unwanted puppies and kittens, spaying or neutering is still a very important part of caring for your best friends; it decreases the risk of reproductive infections and tumors in females and testicular cancer and prostate problems in males. It can help extend their lives, and lessen the heat cycles, spraying, howling, wandering, and fighting. And it is a myth that your dog or cat will be more sociable if they are allowed to have a litter. It is also untrue that spaying your girl will cause her to gain weight and get lazy.
Although pets can get pregnant throughout the year, spring is when new litters begin to arrive in earnest. Everything in spring that was dormant comes back to life - the trees bud and flowers rise from the ground and explode into blossoms. So does the number of kittens. The warm temperatures usher in what is known as “kitten season,” which generally begins in March and ends in October, but can last longer depending on the length of warm weather in your area. Cats are extremely fertile - female kitties can get pregnant as young as four months, and can become pregnant while still nursing. Because a cat can have around 3 litters in a year, a female can create a staggering amount of cats in her lifetime. In one year, she would have about 16 kittens, and the next year she and her offspring and their kittens would total 66 cats! Unchecked, in five years there would be 12,680 more kitties, and just in that one colony. Most of these end up homeless - the lucky ones that survive are found and fostered by rescue organizations, but those organizations can only take in a tiny portion of homeless animals. The others continue to have more kittens, filling shelters that cannot accommodate them. And it’s not just cats; dogs can also have three litters a year, creating a dynasty over a period of a few short years, although there are generally more roaming cats than dogs.
How can I have my pet spayed or neutered?
It’s very easy and safe to have your female or male pet fixed. Pet Community Center provides low cost, high quality spay/neuter surgeries that include free rabies vaccinations at the time of the surgery appointment. For information on how to book appointments and take care of your pet afterward, see https://www.petcommunitycenter.org/spay-and-neuter.
What if I don’t have the money now?
PCC provides financial aid via the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP). Aid is available for pet owners in Davidson County experiencing financial hardship: you are eligible for the program if you receive any type of government assistance such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicare or TennCare, SS Disability, WIC, Unemployment, and/or Public Housing. You also qualify for aid if you are experiencing temporary hardship due to COVID-19, extreme medical expenses, natural disasters, or other causes. Other types of need may also qualify. For more information, you can call (615) 512-5001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there any way I can help take care of the kitties in my neighborhood?
Outdoor cats that are free-roaming are called community cats. They may be friendly or feral, and can be taken care of by providing food, water and shelter outside. But just like your pets, getting them spayed and neutered keeps them healthy by not having the stress of constantly having and raising kittens. Pet Community Center has a community cat program which provides resources and services to improve quality of life for community cats, help them become good neighbors, and humanely reduce overpopulation. For Information on the Community Cat Program see https://www.petcommunitycenter.org/community-cat-program. For more information on PCC’s community cat spay/neuter program see https://www.petcommunitycenter.org/community-cats-metro-page.