Mimi Says, “I Love Being Spayed.”

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

Mimi, supermom of at least six litters, is now a happy housecat extolling the virtues of spayed bliss.

“I used to love my assignations in the neighbor’s driveway, then feeling my kittens grow and giving birth and nurturing them, it was all so easy,” Mimi says. “But when I realized I wasn’t the only one giving birth to a dozen kittens each year, and what happened to many of them and their mothers…I’m embarrassed at my behavior and sad for cats who lost their lives because of me.”

“You know, I was totally powerless against my hormones, and I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens,” she continues.

If you won’t listen to a person about spaying your cat, listen to the cat herself. Mimi gives us 30 good reasons to spay your cat and hopes that you’ll celebrate Spay Day USA on February 28 by either getting your cat spayed or convincing someone else to get their cat spayed.

Mimi’s 30 Reasons to Spay Your Cat

1. Eventually, she will outsmart you and get out the door.

2. Your kittens are no cuter than any other kittens in the world.

3. About 3,000 kittens and puppies are born every hour in the United States.

4. If you want your kids to see the miracle of life, have your own babies.

5. It’s not good for a cat to have a litter before she’s spayed, in fact, it’s bad for her health.

[You may already know these things.]

6. Having your cat spayed after she is one year or after having kittens puts her at highest risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

7. Having  a cat spayed before her first heat reduces her chances of developing breast cancer later in life to almost nothing.

8. Nearly every city has a low-cost spay/neuter clinic or program that works on a sliding fee scale.

9. An unspayed female cat is more likely to do two of the things humans don’t like cats to do—scratch furniture and spray, and, yes, females do spray.

10. A spayed female outlives an unspayed female for an average of two years, and without the health problems associated with reproductive cancers.

[Apparently, many people do not.]

11. An unspayed cat can have an average of three litters per year.

12. Cats have litters of four to six kittens.

13. Kittens can go into their first heat as young as 4 months.

14. No, it’s not incest when brother and sister cats or mother and son cats have sex.

15. In two years, I produced 24 kittens, and have no idea what my children did once they were out of my care.

[Find some of these people and give them this list.]

16. At least 70% of all cats entering shelters in the United States are euthanized because there are no homes for them.

17. It costs a city more in taxpayer dollars to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of a homeless cat than it does to spay it.

18. Every shelter in the United States is overrun with kittens every summer necessitating the euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats—and dogs—to care for and place the kittens.

19. At least three million animals are killed in shelters every year because there are no homes for them and no space in shelters.

20. Someone has to decide who dies, and someone has to kill them, letting your cat have a litter of kittens forces a person to make this decision.

[All of this information is available from your local shelter and on the internet.]

21. A cat is “polyestrous” and can go into heat—and conceive—the day after giving birth to a litter of kittens; nursing does not prevent or delay her heat cycle.

22. All kittens are cute, and the world already has enough of them.

23. Cats respond hormonally to day length and can go into heat as early as Valentine’s Day.

24. Momcats and kittens don’t get along well on their own outside, so don’t dump them in the woods instead of taking them to a shelter.

25. Spaying your cat will not make her fat. Feeding her too much will make her fat.

[Let’s make 2012 the year we eliminate “kitten season”.]

26. Cats don’t have heat “cycles”, so once they go into heat, unless they find a male and mate, they can be in heat constantly, forever (or so it seems), in the least it is pretty unpredictable.

27. Spayed cats have absolutely no chance of developing uterine or ovarian cancer because those parts are removed.

28. Spayed cats can’t develop pyometra, a critical and common uterine infection, because they have no uterus.

29. You can safely spay a cat who is pregnant up to a certain point rather than contribute to overpopulation.

30. The male cats coming to court your unspayed female will seriously mess up your storm door, and probably each other fighting for dominance.

photo of black cat in the sun on a wooden floor

Time for a nap in the sun.

[I only stopped at 30 because…*yawn*…I need to take a nap.]

Also read “Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early“, inspired by and featuring me for more information on feline breast cancer and other reproductive illnesses plus links to spay/neuter clinics in Pittsburgh and around the country. And, featuring one of my former suitors, I also remind you that The Boys Don’t Get Off the Hook.

Find a low-cost clinic near you, have your cat spayed, encourage someone else to, spay and neuter a few stray or feral cats, or support a local clinic

Also look in the menu on this blog under “Assistance” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada.

LOW COST SPAY/NEUTER INFORMATION FOR THE PITTSBURGH AREA AND BEYOND.

Referenced in various articles that encourage spay and neuter for pets, includes the lowest-cost spay and neuter in the city, a link to stray/feral cat clinics and searchable databases of spay/neuter clinics all over the country.

You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.

________________________

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Pet Wellness and Breast Cancer Awareness—Spay Early

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Mimi, above, arrived in my home on July 30, 2007, with four black fuzzballs who were three days into this existence. To my knowledge, she was about four years old and had had several litters of kittens, though this litter would be her last. Incidentally, this is the Fantastic Four at their inglorious beginnings.

I frequently give Mimi’s belly a little extra rub top to bottom, not because she likes it, but because I like her.

Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” Spaying between 1 and 2 years of age only reduces the risk by 11%, and after two years it doesn’t reduce the risk at all. Actually giving birth to kittens doesn’t change the risk factors, either. The average age of diagnosis is 12 years.

While breast cancer in cats is more common than in humans, it is far less common than it is in dogs, but cats have the highest malignancy rate and the lowest survival rate of all three.

Read the rest of this entry »


“Spay Day USA”, Mimi’s Favorite Holiday

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

“She’s such a good mother.”

“Some cats were meant to have kittens.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever get her spayed, she just loves to have babies.”

When I was raising my babies, I was an excellent momcat and plenty of people would look in the box and see my perfect kittens and hear us all purring and think it was the most natural thing in the world.

Well, of course I was a good mom—under even the worst circumstances, animal moms will always do their best.

photo of garden with black cat

Garden With Maia

I used to love my assignations in the neighbor’s driveway; I was careful to signal the two black toms from the next street over, and they were only too willing to show up on command. What a joy to feel my kittens grow, then giving birth and nurturing them, it was all so easy. I produced six litters of four kittens each in two years, nearly all of them perfect black kittens.

But when I realized I wasn’t the only one giving birth to a dozen kittens each year, and what happened to many of these other kittens and their mothers…I’m embarrassed at my behavior and sad for cats who lost their lives because of me.

You have to understand, it was all I knew, and I was totally powerless against my hormones. I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens.

photo of black cat by door

Little Mimi in the Sun

Now my life is completely different, so much more full and interesting, I can sleep all day, I can play with toys, no kittens to tend to, and safer too, with no hormone surges making you want to run outside in all kinds of weather. You ladies think hot flashes are bad? You should try being in heat for an entire summer, even while nursing kittens! And those boys could be a little rough now and then, if you know what I mean.

If you won’t listen to a human about spaying your cat, listen to a cat who’s been there. Give your cat a gift for Spay Day USA—get her spayed! If she’s already spayed, help another kitty to a new life.

Mimi’s 30 Reasons to Spay Your Cat

1. Eventually, she will outsmart you and get out the door.

2. Your kittens are no cuter than any other kittens in the world.

3. About 3,000 kittens are born every hour in the United States.

4. If you want your kids to see the miracle of life, have your own baby.

5. It’s not good for a cat to have a litter before she’s spayed, in fact, it’s bad.

[You may already know these things.]

6. Having your cat spayed after she is one year or after having kittens puts her at highest risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

7. Having a cat spayed before her first heat reduces her chances of developing breast cancer later in life to almost nothing.

8. Nearly every city has a low-cost spay/neuter clinic or program that works on a sliding fee scale.

9. An unspayed female cat is more likely to do two of the things humans don’t like cats to do—scratch furniture and spray.

10. A spayed female outlives an unspayed female for an average of two years without the health problems associated with reproductive cancers.

[Apparently, many people do not.]

11. An unspayed cat can have an average of three litters per year.

12. Cats have litters of four to six kittens.

13. Kittens can go into their first heat as young as 4 months.

14. No, it’s not incest when brother and sister cats or mother and son cats have sex.

15. One unspayed female and her progeny can produce between 98 and 5,000 cats in seven years.

[Find some of these people and give them this list.]

16. About 75% of all cats entering shelters in the United States are euthanized because there are no homes for them.

17. It costs U.S. taxpayers about $2 billion a year to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals.

18. Every shelter in the United States is overrun with kittens every summer necessitating the euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats—and dogs—to care for and place the kittens.

19. At least six million animals are killed in shelters every year because there are no homes for them and no space in shelters.

20. Someone has to decide who dies, and someone has to kill them, letting your cat have a litter of kittens forces a person to make this decision.

[All of this information is available from your local shelter and on the internet.]

21. A cat is “polyestrous” and can go into heat—and conceive—the day after giving birth to a litter of kittens.

22. All kittens are cute, and the world already has enough of them.

23. Cats respond hormonally to day length and can go into heat as early as Valentine’s Day.

24. Cats can’t get along on their own outside, so don’t put mom and the kittens outside instead of taking them to a shelter.

25. Spaying your cat will not make her fat. Feeding her too much will make her fat.

[Let’s make 2010 the year we eliminate “kitten season”.]

26. Cats don’t have heat “cycles”, so once they go into heat, unless they find a male and mate, they can be in heat constantly, forever.

27. Spayed cats have absolutely no chance of developing uterine or ovarian cancer because those parts are removed.

28. Spayed cats can’t develop pyometra, a critical and common uterine infection, because they have no uterus.

29. You can safely spay a cat who is already pregnant up to a certain point rather than contribute to overpopulation.

30. The male cats coming to court your unspayed female will seriously mess up your storm door, and probably each other fighting for dominance.

black cat in sun

Mimi in Speckles

[I only stopped at 30 because…*yawn*…I need to take a nap.]

Also read “Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early“, inspired by and featuring Mimi for more information on feline breast cancer and other reproductive illnesses plus links to spay/neuter clinics in Pittsburgh and around the country. Also look in the right-hand column on this blog under “Animal Assistance and Information” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada. You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.


Reduce Risk of Feline Breast Cancer—Spay Early

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Mimi, above, arrived in my home on July 30, 2007, with four black fuzzballs who were three days into this existence. To my knowledge, she was about four years old and had had several litters of kittens, though this litter would be her last. Incidentally, this is the Fanciful Four, who are often pictured here, at their inglorious beginnings.

I frequently give Mimi’s belly a little extra rub top to bottom, not because she likes it, but because I like her.

Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” Spaying between 1 and 2 years of age only reduces the risk by 11%, and after two years it doesn’t reduce the risk at all. Actually giving birth to kittens doesn’t change the risk factors, either. The average age of diagnosis is 12 years.

While breast cancer in cats is more common than in humans, it is far less common than it is in dogs, but cats have the highest malignancy rate and the lowest survival rate of all three.

That myth that “it’s good to let a cat have a litter of kittens” has no basis in fact, and can be a death sentence since spaying your cat before it even goes into heat the first time is the best way to avoid breast cancer, not to mention reducing the risks of injury and disease a cat faces while out carousing.

What about all those rescued mama cats?

And those of us who have rescued cats or adopted cats who have borne even one litter would be wise to keep an eye open for symptoms.

Recently, friends of mine rescued a “torbie”, or tortoiseshell tabby kitty, from a warehouse in a grim section of town. She was unspayed and had apparently had several litters of kittens, though who knew what had happened to them.

The urgency to rescue stemmed from her living conditions and the fact that she appeared pregnant at that time. It turned out that she was not pregnant, but may have recently been nursing kittens as her abdomen from chest to hips felt symmetrically lumpy and her stomach was a little bloated; this may have also been mastitis or symptoms of heat. The spay went fine and she was back on her feet in no time, the abdominal abnormalities disappearing completely. They estimated her age was about 4 years.

Despite dodging forklifts and semis, she is both charming and mischievious, acting as if she’s always lived indoors, and teaching the young’uns how to steal food, which had never occurred to any of them. In a cat, charming + mischievious = intelligent and manipulative, and they practically have to hang the cat food from the ceiling to keep her from getting into it and threatening to burst her stripes.

A year or so after she joined their household, one of them felt lumps on her torso/belly when they picked her up and thought the lumps felt “different/odd/new/wrong”. Taking a good guess that this was pretty serious, they took her to the vet and discovered that she had feline mammary cancer. The vet guessed her age at six or seven then, a little older than the first guess. One surgery and a course of chemotherapy later and she was fine, but they’ll keep checking for the rest of her life because she had a little relapse about two years after the initial surgery. [I am sad to say that Callie’s cancer returned and she lost her battle on February 11, 2010. ]

The monthly breast exam for your kitty

That monthly mini-exam is a good practice for any animal guardian to undertake, just running your hands over your cat’s body feeling for lumps or bumps or cuts or any abnormality that has simply shown up. Check for tender spots, look closely for any change in movement, study your cat’s eyes and even smell its breath. Of course, you may end up with your nose surgically removed since many cats don’t care for being handled, especially in vulnerable areas like the belly, but do your best without too much bloodshed.

And especially for those girls, check for any changes in those eight mammary glands, which are usually completely symmetrical and slightly reducing in size from chest to hips. Look for changes in the nipples or any discharge, uneven lumps or swelling and tender spots. At least we humans only have two mammary glands to worry about.

The spay scar

Sally

Sally

When I started this exam routine years ago, I found a small lump on my Sally’s belly and made a special appointment with the veterinarian to get what I was sure was a horrifying diagnosis. I wrung my cold and trembling hands as my veterinarian felt the area of Sally’s belly I’d indicated, only to learn that it was scar tissue on her spay scar. So, get to know her spay scar, which is usually tiny but may contain a little hardened scar tissue, and it may also be a site of cancerous growth, so check for changes.

Mimi, wonder mom of the Curious Quartet and quite a few others, gets her little exam at least once a week. Kelly, too, was a rescued stray/feral and apparently gave birth to a few litters of little Kellies. I’m not certain of her age, but she was likely between 2 and 3 when she came to me, and she’s been with me since 1997 so she’s in her teens. It’s taken Kelly years to find a certain comfort level with people though she is very friendly, and the regular tummy exam is a little weird for her but she has grown to enjoy it.

For more information on the disease and treatment, reference these two articles: Association between ovarihysterectomy and feline mammary carcinoma, http://www.biomedexperts.com/Abstract.bme/16095174/Association_between_ovarihysterectomy_and_feline_mammary_carcinoma, and Mammary Cancer in Cats, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=2445&S=2

When to spay, and early spay and neuter

It used to be that six months, the approximate age a cat reached sexual maturity, was the best time to spay a cat. There were two problems with this. First, cats often went into heat before this age to the surprise of their owners who thought Fluffy’s biological alarm clock wasn’t set for four months. Second, people wanted to adopt young kittens and were sent home with an assurance of a free or low-cost spay for Fluffy included in the cost of adoption. Somehow, Fluffy wouldn’t get back in time, sometimes never.

Most shelters now spay and neuter cats when they reach two pounds, about eight to ten weeks, and they are not available for adoption until then. They recover quickly and are still cute kittens, frisky and full of fun, and no one needs to worry about their biological clocks.

Low cost spay programs at shelters

If you’ve taken in a stray or adopted a kitten who is not spayed or neutered, there’s no question that spaying or neutering is expensive. Here are a few options to help keep it affordable. All programs have an application process with an income level that determines the final price of your cat’s surgery. In many cases the surgery alone can be done for under $50.00.

In Pittsburgh, you can contact Carol Whaley of the Low Cost Spay/Neuter Program (LCSN) at Animal Friends at 1.800.SPAY.PGH or cwhaley@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org or on their website at www.thingkingoutsidethecage.org.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society has a three-level program that includes spay/neuter as well as vaccinations and microchipping, detailed at http://www.wpahumane.org/Spaying.html. Call the  North Shore Shelter at 412-321-4625 X 157 or email questions spay.neuter@wpahumane.org

The Animal Rescue League sets aside one day a month for low-cost spay and neuter for which you must make an appointment, and they fill up fast so don’t wait. The information can be found on their website at http://www.animalrescue.org/cms/name/Veterinary+Clinic+Spay+and+Neuter or call 412-661-6452 x 211 or x223.

Many shelters in the counties around Allegheny also offer deals like those above.

Low cost spay and neuter clinics

Outside of the shelters, the Spay Neuter Clinic at the corner of Frankstown and Rodi Roads always offers low-cost spay and neuter as well as other basic services. Call 412-244-1202 for information and an appointment, or visit their website at http://www.spayaz.com/Home_Page.html. The practice is actually one of several which originated in Arizona specifically for the purpose of low-cost spay/neuter, so most of the information is about those offices, but you’ll find the Pittsburgh office with a phone number, and, most importantly, you can download their price list.

And outside of the Pittsburgh area, you can do a search on Low Cost Neuter and Spay at http://neuterspay.org/ (search by city, not zip code, it’s more successful), Love That Cat at http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html, or Spay USA at http://www.spayusa.org/.

_________________________________

I originally published this story in October, 2009 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’ve made some updates and added resources for Pet Cancer Awareness Month.


Mimi says, “Trust me, it’s better being spayed.”

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

Mimi, supermom of at least six litters, is now a happy housecat extolling the virtues of spayed bliss.

“I used to love my assignations in the neighbor’s driveway, then feeling my kittens grow and giving birth and nurturing them, it was all so easy,” Mimi says. “But when I realized I wasn’t the only one giving birth to a dozen kittens each year, and what happened to many of them and their mothers…I’m embarrassed at my behavior and sad for cats who lost their lives because of me.”

“You know, I was totally powerless against my hormones, and I needed a human to get me spayed or I’d still be out there producing kittens,” she continues.

If you won’t listen to a person about spaying your cat, listen to the cat herself. Mimi gives us 30 good reasons to spay your cat and hopes that you’ll celebrate Spay Day USA either getting your cat spayed or convincing someone else to get their cat spayed.

Mimi’s 30 Reasons to Spay Your Cat

1. Eventually, she will outsmart you and get out the door.

2. Your kittens are no cuter than any other kittens in the world.

3. About 3,000 kittens are born every hour in the United States.

4. Your kids can see the miracle of life on television.

5. It’s not good for a cat to have a litter before she’s spayed, in fact, it’s bad.

[You may already know these things.]

6. Having your cat spayed after she is one year or after having kittens puts her at highest risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

7. Having  a cat spayed before her first heat reduces her chances of developing breast cancer later in life to almost nothing.

8. Nearly every city has a low-cost spay/neuter clinic or program that works on a sliding fee scale.

9. An unspayed female cat is more likely to do two of the things humans don’t like cats to do—scratch furniture and spray.

10. A spayed female outlives an unspayed female for an average of two years without the health problems associated with reproductive cancers.

[Apparently, many people do not.]

11. An unspayed cat can have an average of three litters per year.

12. Cats have litters of four to six kittens.

13. Kittens can go into their first heat as young as 4 months.

14. No, it’s not incest when brother and sister cats or mother and son cats have sex.

15. One unspayed female and her progeny can produce between 98 and 5,000 cats in seven years.

[Find some of these people and give them this list.]

16. About 75% of all cats entering shelters in the United States are euthanized because there are no homes for them.

17. It costs U.S. taxpayers about $2 billion a year to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals.

18. Every shelter in the United States is overrun with kittens every summer necessitating the euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats—and dogs—to care for and place the kittens.

19. At least six million animals are killed in shelters every year because there are no homes for them and no space in shelters.

20. Someone has to decide who dies, and someone has to kill them, letting your cat have a litter of kittens forces a person to make this decision.

[All of this information is available from your local shelter and on the internet.]

21. A cat is “polyestrous” and can go into heat—and conceive—the day after giving birth to a litter of kittens.

22. All kittens are cute, and the world already has enough of them.

23. Cats respond hormonally to day length and can go into heat as early as Valentine’s Day.

24. Cats can’t get along on their own outside, so don’t put mom and the kittens outside instead of taking them to a shelter.

25. Spaying your cat will not make her fat. Feeding her too much will make her fat.

[Let’s make 2010 the year we eliminate “kitten season”.]

26. Cats don’t have heat “cycles”, so once they go into heat, unless they find a male and mate, they can be in heat constantly, forever.

27. Spayed cats have absolutely no chance of developing uterine or ovarian cancer because those parts are removed.

28. Spayed cats can’t develop pyometra, a critical and common uterine infection, because they have no uterus.

29. You can safely spay a cat who is pregnant up to a certain point rather than contribute to overpopulation.

30. The male cats coming to court your unspayed female will seriously mess up your storm door, and probably each other fighting for dominance.

photo of black cat in the sun on a wooden floor

Time for a nap in the sun.

[I only stopped at 30 because…*yawn*…I need to take a nap.]

Also read “Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early“, inspired by and featuring Mimi for more information on feline breast cancer and other reproductive illnesses plus links to spay/neuter clinics in Pittsburgh and around the country. Also look in the right-hand column on this blog under “Animal Assistance and Information” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada. You can also do a search on “Spay Day USA” or any topic in this list and find plenty of information on the internet.


Help to Avoid Feline Breast Cancer by Spaying Early

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Poor Mimi doesn't even get a break to eat.

Mimi, above, arrived in my home on July 30, 2007, with four black fuzzballs who were three days into this existence. To my knowledge, she was about four years old and had had several litters of kittens, though this litter would be her last. Incidentally, this is the Fanciful Four, who are often pictured here, at their inglorious beginnings.

I frequently give Mimi’s belly a little extra rub top to bottom, not because she likes it, but because I like her.

Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” Spaying between 1 and 2 years of age only reduces the risk by 11%, and after two years it doesn’t reduce the risk at all. Actually giving birth to kittens doesn’t change the risk factors, either. The average age of diagnosis is 12 years.

While breast cancer in cats is more common than in humans, it is far less common than it is in dogs, but cats have the highest malignancy rate and the lowest survival rate of all three.

That myth that “it’s good to let a cat have a litter of kittens” has no basis in fact, and can be a death sentence since spaying your cat before it even goes into heat the first time is the best way to avoid breast cancer, not to mention reducing the risks of injury and disease a cat faces while out carousing.

And those of us who have rescued cats or adopted cats who have borne even one litter would be wise to keep an eye open for symptoms.

Recently, friends of mine rescued a “torbie”, or tortoiseshell tabby kitty, from a warehouse in a grim section of town. She was unspayed and had apparently had several litters of kittens, though who knew what had happened to them.

The urgency to rescue stemmed from her living conditions and the fact that she appeared pregnant at that time. It turned out that she was not pregnant, but may have recently been nursing kittens as her abdomen from chest to hips felt symmetrically lumpy and her stomach was a little bloated; this may have also been mastitis or symptoms of heat. The spay went fine and she was back on her feet in no time, the abdominal abnormalities disappearing completely. They estimated her age was about 4 years.

Despite dodging forklifts and semis, she is both charming and mischievious, acting as if she’s always lived indoors, and teaching the young’uns how to steal food, which had never occurred to any of them. In a cat, charming + mischievious = intelligent and manipulative, and they practically have to hang the cat food from the ceiling to keep her from getting into it and threatening to burst her stripes.

A year or so after she joined their household, one of them felt lumps on her torso/belly when they picked her up and thought the lumps felt “different/odd/new/wrong”. Taking a good guess that this was pretty serious, they took her to the vet and discovered that she had feline mammary cancer. The vet guessed her age at six or seven then, a little older than the first guess. One surgery and a course of chemotherapy later and she was fine, but they’ll keep checking for the rest of her life because she had a little relapse about two years after the initial surgery. [I am sad to say that Callie’s cancer returned and she lost her battle on February 11, 2010. I will write about her as soon as her people have been able to work through some of their grief.]

That monthly mini-exam is a good practice for any animal guardian to undertake, just running your hands over your cat’s body feeling for lumps or bumps or cuts or any abnormality that has simply shown up. Check for tender spots, look closely for any change in movement, study your cat’s eyes and even smell its breath. Of course, you may end up with your nose surgically removed since many cats don’t care for being handled, especially in vulnerable areas like the belly, but do your best without too much bloodshed.

And especially for those girls, check for any changes in those eight mammary glands, which are usually completely symmetrical and slightly reducing in size from chest to hips. Look for changes in the nipples or any discharge, uneven lumps or swelling and tender spots. At least we humans only have two mammary glands to worry about.

Sally

Sally

When I started this exam routine years ago, I found a small lump on my Sally’s belly and made a special appointment with the veterinarian to get what I was sure was a horrifying diagnosis. I wrung my cold and trembling hands as my veterinarian felt the area of Sally’s belly I’d indicated, only to learn that it was scar tissue on her spay scar. So, get to know her spay scar, which is usually tiny but may contain a little hardened scar tissue, and it may also be a site of cancerous growth, so check for changes.

Mimi, wonder mom of the Curious Quartet and quite a few others, gets her little exam at least once a week. Kelly, too, was a rescued feral and apparently gave birth to a few litters of little Kellies. I’m not certain of her age, but she was likely between 1 and 2 when she came to me, and she’s been with me since 1997 so she’s at least 13 years old. It’s taken Kelly years to find a certain comfort level with people though she is very friendly, and the regular tummy exam is a little weird for her but she has grown to enjoy it.

For more information on the disease and treatment, reference these two articles: Association between ovarihysterectomy and feline mammary carcinoma, http://www.biomedexperts.com/Abstract.bme/16095174/Association_between_ovarihysterectomy_and_feline_mammary_carcinoma, and Mammary Cancer in Cats, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=2445&S=2

It used to be that six months, the approximate age a cat reached sexual maturity, was the best time to spay a cat. There were two problems with this. First, cats often went into heat before this age to the surprise of their owners who thought Fluffy’s biological alarm clock wasn’t set for four months. Second, people wanted to adopt young kittens and were sent home with an assurance of a free or low-cost spay for Fluffy included in the cost of adoption. Somehow, Fluffy wouldn’t get back in time, sometimes never.

Most shelters now spay and neuter cats when they reach two pounds, about eight to ten weeks, and they are not available for adoption until then. They recover quickly and are still cute kittens, frisky and full of fun, and no one needs to worry about their biological clocks.

If you’ve taken in a stray or adopted a kitten who is not spayed or neutered, there’s no question that spaying or neutering is expensive. Here are a few options to help keep it affordable. All programs have an application process with an income level that determines the final price of your cat’s surgery. In many cases the surgery alone can be done for under $50.00.

In Pittsburgh, you can contact Carol Whaley of the Low Cost Spay/Neuter Program (LCSN) at Animal Friends at 1.800.SPAY.PGH or cwhaley@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org or on their website at www.thingkingoutsidethecage.org.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society has a three-level program that includes spay/neuter as well as vaccinations and microchipping, detailed at http://www.wpahumane.org/Spaying.html. Call the
North Shore Shelter ay 412-321-4625 X 157  or email questions spay.neuter@wpahumane.org

The Animal Rescue League sets aside one day a month for low-cost spay and neuter for which you must make an appointment, and they fill up fast so don’t wait. The information can be found on their website at http://www.animalrescue.org/cms/name/Veterinary+Clinic+Spay+and+Neuter or call 412-661-6452 x 211 or x223.

Many shelters in the counties around Allegheny also offer deals like those above.

Outside of the shelters, the Spay Neuter Clinic at the corner of Frankstown and Rodi Roads always offers low-cost spay and neuter as well as other basic services. Call 412-244-1202 for information and an appointment, or visit their website at http://www.spayaz.com/Home_Page.html. The practice is actually one of several which originated in Arizona specifically for the purpose of low-cost spay/neuter, so most of the information is about those offices, but you’ll find the Pittsburgh office with a phone number, and, most importantly, you can download their price list.

And outside of the Pittsburgh area, you can do a search on Low Cost Neuter and Spay at http://neuterspay.org/ (search by city, not zip code, it’s more successful), Love That Cat at http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html, or Spay USA at http://www.spayusa.org/.