Thousands of unwanted pets are in rescue centres looking for homes and many are put to sleep each year, simply because they are not wanted. Many of these animals will have been born from unplanned litters, or bought from puppy farms. You can help to reduce the problem by preventing your own animals reproducing.
Neutering is the generic term for surgical removal of the reproductive organs. Spaying refers to females and can involve just taking the ovaries, or taking the ovaries and womb. Castration refers to males and involves removing the testicles.
Cats can become pregnant as early as 4 months of age and over a lifetime can produce more than 100 kittens. Getting your kitten neutered before they reach puberty will prevent this cycle. It also helps to reduce disease such as feline AIDS and feline leukaemia. The Cats Protection have a database of veterinary practices willing to neuter cats before the traditional 6 months of age and can also provide financial assistance if needed.
Dogs come into season around twice a year and can have up to 24 puppies in a litter! Spaying your dog also reduces the risk of mammary tumours and uterine infections, which can be life-threatening. Castrating male dogs reduces aggression, as well as marking behaviour and risk of straying. In general, neutering dogs from six months old is recommended, however some larger breeds are best left until they are fully grown. Speak to your vet regarding the best time to neuter your dog. If cost is a concern, the Dogs Trust may be able to provide assistance.
Rabbits can breed, well, like rabbits! They also need to be kept in pairs or groups and the best pairing is a male and female. To prevent loads of unwanted babies, neutering all pet rabbits is recommended. It also has the benefit of preventing womb cancer in females (a very common problem) and reducing aggression in both sexes, as well as spraying behaviour in males. Males should be castrated as soon as possible (ideally around 4 months of age). Females can be neutered from 4 months although some vets prefer waiting until 6 months of age (this is okay as long as there is no risk of pregnancy). Males who have passed puberty may still be fertile for up to 6-8 weeks after castration due to the sperm still sitting in the cords.