Veterinarians encourage pet owners to get their cats spayed or neutered before breeding season begins.

Cats are polyestrous, which means that they have multiple cycles during the breeding season. The breeding season will vary according to geographic and environmental factors.

“In the Northern Hemisphere, cats usually cycle as the day gets longer and the weather becomes warmer,” said Hayden Webster, who has a bachelor of veterinary science, of Lodi Veterinary Hospital.

In this region, the breeding season for cats usually begins in March and ends in October, according to Cheryl Zuniga, the director and co-founder of Second Chance Kitty, a foster and rescue group based out of Stockton.

“Since the cycle lasts for a long period of time, cats can get pregnant multiple times during their cycle,” Zuniga said.

A cat’s pregnancy lasts an average of eight to nine weeks, according to Zuniga. She believes pet owners need to be more vigilant about spaying their cats.

“When we rescue animals, we spay and neuter them, even when they are pregnant. It might be controversial but we have to do it to ensure they don’t get pregnant again,” Zuniga said. “One cat can easily multiply into 30 cats by the end of the cycle.”

When a female cat is spayed, the reproductive organs are removed. For male cats, the surgery is not as invasive because only the testes are removed, according to Webster.

“For females, it is a bit more invasive, because spaying a cat is very similar to a hysterectomy for women. We remove the ovaries and the uterus,” Webster said.

Experts recommend that young cats be neutered or spayed as soon as they reach 2 pounds, which can happen as soon as eight weeks old.

The procedure can take anywhere from two to five minutes for a male cat, whereas female cats take closer to 10 to 15 minutes. The cost to neuter a cat is usually less expensive than spaying a cat, Webster stated.

While the cost to spay a cat varies, the operation typically runs from $300 to $500 for a female cat and around $200 for a male cat in California according to Lynne Miller, a veterinarian content contributor to petmd.com.

“But you can find a low-cost spay and neuter provider in your area by visiting the Humane Society and the ASPCA in Sacramento for free,” Zuniga said. “ACT in Stockton will administer vaccine and rabies shots, spay or neuter a cat and ear tip them for $40.”

The Lodi Veterinary clinic also works with animal shelters that provide vouchers for pet owners who need to spay and neuter their animals.

“Pet owners can have it done at a reduced price or at no cost at all depending on the shelter voucher,” Webster said.

The urgency to get cats spayed or neutered has become a more pressing issue, as breeding season approaches, especially for feral cats.

“If there is a feral colony, we try to trap the cats and get them neutered before releasing them because the cat population in this area is overwhelming,” Zuniga said, “But it’s not just stray cats, it’s cats in general. You have pet owners that abandon their cats or throw them away. There are even people that trap and abuse them.”

Zuniga recently rescued a kitten that was found by a volunteer — who feeds a colony of feral cats — with its ears cut off and fresh blood dripping from the top of its head.

“The second I got the call, I was like ‘bring me that cat!’ I was just shocked,” Zuniga said.

There was another incident in which a volunteer who attends San Joaquin Delta College found a couple dumping a cat. The volunteer drove her truck to where the couple was, intervened and took the cat. The next day two boxes of kittens were found in the bed of her truck, according to Zuniga.

“People need to understand that animals are living, breathing beings with feelings. When people adopt a pet, it’s not to their convenience. It is for that animal’s lifetime,” Zuniga said.

Zuniga believes people need to be educated about the services available, so that people can ensure the quality of the animals that they take care of and get them the services they need at an affordable cost.

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