To control the overpopulation of cats you should have your pet spayed or neutered. Unfortunately millions of cats are euthanized each year because they are unwanted or there is no one to take care of them. Even if your cat is an indoor cat and there is no chance of your female getting pregnant or of your male getting someone pregnant you should still have your pet spayed or neutered to avoid potential problems of spraying, heat, medical and behavioral problems. Bear in mind that just one female cat and her offspring can produce over 400,000 cats in just seven years. Spaying/neutering your pet will ensure that your pet will not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
A female cat is spayed, this means that her ovaries and uterus (reproductive organs) will be removed. Usually she can be spayed after 6 months of age or in between heats or litters.** Your cat can be spayed during heat but it is more complicated and there is a slight risk due to increased vessel size and lowered clotting ability. If your female is not spayed she will often be in heat. This means meowing, crying, spraying, pacing and roaming the house (or outside if there is anyway to get out – beware a cat in heat is very, very clever) to look for a male. Unspayed females can also suffer uterine infections or breast cancer.
A male cat is neutered – this is the surgical removal of the testicles. This is a very simple procedure (much simpler than being spayed) that can be done after 6 months of age.** An unneutered male will go through severe spraying, howling, marking of territory and looking for a mate. An indoor male will do just about anything to get outside and find a female. Unneutered males are also prone to severe aggressiveness and territorialism.
** There is much debate going on about the *best* time to spay/neuter. Cats can be spayed/neutered earlier than 6 months of age, studies are still in progress on whether or not such early spaying/neutering is more or less beneficial than waiting till the cat is older than 6 months of age. If you are in doubt about when to spay/neuter consult your vet.