Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Does An Apple a Day Keep the Veterinarian Away? - Feline Health Myths, Part 2


Myth: Cats must be 6 months old before they are spayed or neutered. Cats must have one heat cycle/one litter before being spayed.

Reality: At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, the safety of the anesthetic protocols and the skill of our surgeons enable us to offer spaying and neutering to healthy kittens as small as 3 pounds or as young as 3 months of age. 

It is not a good idea to wait for a heat cycle or one litter of kittens before spaying because every heat cycle your cat has increases her likelihood of getting mammary cancer later in life. Also, each heat cycle runs the risk of your desperate kitty dashing outside to find a male cat and coming home with kittens. There are so many unwanted cats in shelters and rescues that finding a place for a litter of kittens can be difficult and also each kitten in the litter that does find a home means one more cat that has to stay in the shelter.

Cat population pyramid
One of the reasons to spay and neuter your cats
Previous concerns about early spaying and neutering were that if spayed early, the cats might:

-Be smaller
-Become obese sooner in life
-Not be physically mature
-Not develop normal feline behaviors or might lack a desire for activity

The American Veterinary Medical Association endorses early spaying and neutering.
Research has found that young cats rebound more quickly from surgery. Years ago, it was advisable to wait until the patient was older to perform surgery because safe pediatric anesthetic techniques were not available. Much progress has been made in the realm of anesthetic safety, and this is no longer a reason to delay.

Studies were conducted on animals ranging from 7 weeks old to 12 months old, following their development after spaying and neutering. Those kittens aged 7 weeks did not develop any differently than those who were 12 months old. The studies showed similarities in skeletal dimensions, body weight and composition, physical maturation, secondary sex characteristics and behavioral development regardless of the age at which the surgery was performed. The only notable difference found was that the animals neutered at 6 to 7 weeks of age were more likely to have immature external genitalia at maturity, however this has no known clinical significance. The benefits of neutering are the same at either age: reduced risk of reproductive disorders and of mammary cancer.

There are now no known benefits to waiting for sexual maturity, the onset of heat cycles or the production of a litter of kittens before spaying your female cat, and much more risk of your cat developing mammary tumors, an infected uterus or escaping outside in search of a male to breed with. The incidence of mammary tumors in cats is reduced by 91% in cats spayed younger than 6 months of age.


Myth: A cat purrs because it is happy.

Reality: Cats do purr when happy and relaxed, but also when scared or in pain. There are many hypotheses on why this is, but there is no firm answer.

Purring is thought to calm the cat, as kind of a self-reassurance. It is also thought to be a signal between a mother cat and her kittens that "All is well," since mother cats and kittens both purr while the kittens are nursing. It is also thought that perhaps purring can be used as a signal to other cats or animals that the cat is harmless and non-threatening in an attempt to avoid being hurt, rather like the cat is saying, "I come in peace!" 

Smiling cat photoOther scientists conjecture that purring triggers a cat's brain to release a hormone, which helps it in relaxing and acts as a pain killer. An article in a 2003 Scientific American magazine notes: “cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.” 

Many cats have specific purrs that they use when asking for food or attention, and these more insistent "solicitation purrs" are used to get a person's attention. The pitch and frequency of the purr mimics the sound a human baby makes when it cries, which makes humans more apt to take notice.

Whatever the reason behind the purr, it never fails to make people smile.