Responsible Pet Ownership
by Debbie Sentes, Past President, People for Animals of Saskatchewan
So You Want to Adopt a Pet?
Every animal’s life has value, and each one is a unique, irreplaceable individual with needs and feelings, just like us! Responsible pet ownership means that we provide our pet with love, kindness, good quality pet food, shelter, sterilization and vet care - they will thank you by giving you many years of love and enjoyment in return! If you’re like most of us, falling in love with an animal is easy, and sharing your home with a four-legged friend can be one of life’s greatest joys. But the decision to adopt a pet is a serious one; owning an animal requires a huge commitment of both time and money. Animals such as cats and dogs can live 12 to 20 years, and veterinary costs can add up very quickly if your animal becomes ill.
It is absolutely essential to have your pet spayed (female) or neutered (male), to prevent unwanted litters and for the health and well-being of the animal. In Regina, the cost to sterilize a cat ranges from approximately $150 to more than $200, depending on the sex of the animal. Regina Humane Society offers a Low-Income Spay/Neuter Program, which offers subsidized sterilization for low-income households. It is also extremely important that cats and dogs receive their vaccinations – an additional cost one must consider in the equation.
Free-Roaming Cats Face Dangers Outdoors
Cats are social animals that crave human companionship, so your animal deserves to live indoors with you and your family. The City of Regina has a bylaw in place that stipulates cats must be kept under control and are not allowed to roam freely outdoors (just like dogs). Keeping your cat under control is the only way to keep it safe from dangers such as freezing to death in winter, being injured or killed by cars, other animals or acts of cruelty by humans. It also improves relationships with neighbours who do not appreciate your cat soiling in their yards or causing other problems. You can allow your cat access to fresh air and sunshine during the summer months by building an affordable wire mesh and wood cat run, provided that it has shade and the cat is only allowed in the run for short periods of time while under your supervision.
Pet overpopulation is a crisis in North America. It is estimated that several million cats are killed in shelters across Canada every year, and in the United States the numbers are even higher – a staggering four million are euthanized (that’s one every eight seconds) because there are simply not enough homes for them all. A primary cause of unwanted companion animals is the failure of humans to sterilize their pets. When people allow their unsterilized animals to wander and mate, the resulting offspring may face a life of misery on the street. Kittens born outside will become feral (wild) if they are not handled when they are very young, and can start reproducing at five or six months of age (that is, if they are able to find food, shelter, and avoid being hit by cars). Some unwanted kittens and puppies may end up in unkind, irresponsible homes. And of course many will end up at the already overcrowded Humane Society, where staff members who love pets have the heart-wrenching job of euthanizing cats, kittens, dogs and other animals, most of whom are affectionate, young and healthy.
A fertile female cat will produce an average of three litters of four to six kittens per year. There are approximately 10,000 babies born in the U.S. each day – and 70,000 puppies and kittens!! No wonder there are not enough homes to go around! In 2011, statistics provided by the Regina Humane Society show that 76% of the animals euthanized at the shelter were cats. Approximately 1,900 cats came into the shelter that year, and more than 1,400 of those had to be killed.
Spaying and neutering helps animals live longer, healthier lives by eliminating or reducing many health problems. Spayed females will avoid uterine and ovarian cancer; neutered males cannot get testicular cancer and have less chance of prostate cancer. Sterilized animals are far less likely to roam in search of mates, getting into fights or lost in the process. They therefore have a greatly reduced chance of coming into contact with fatal diseases such as feline leukemia or FIV (feline AIDS), which are spread through the exchange of bodily fluids.
Spayed and neutered animals become more affectionate companions and the procedure will eliminate or reduce many behavior and temperament problems. For instance, neutered cats are far less likely to spray and mark territory by urinating indoors, and neutering dogs reduces socially inappropriate mounting. Spaying female dogs and cats eliminates the heat cycle which can invoke constant howling. Sterilized animals are also less likely to bite their guardians and other people, as it reduces aggressiveness.
If you are going to have a pet, PLEASE spay or neuter!