Today was a very big day for Socks the Cat and her two kittens -- Smokey and Bandit -- who turned five months old two days ago. With the assistance of my friend and fellow cat lover, Pam Eastlick -- who is the director of the UOG Planetarium -- at around 8:30 AM I took all three cats downtown to Harper Veterinary Hospital in order to be spayed and neutered.
I figured that it would be better to have all three procedures done on the same day; not only so that it would be done with once and for all, but also, because with all three cats being out of the loop at the same time afterwards due to the operation and the anesthesia, it would mitigate the possibility of the cats bothering each other during their initial recovery period, which they are undergoing at this present hour.
To be honest, the idea of having these procedures performed on my three feline friends has never appealed to me. After conducting some online research recently, in which I learned exactly what is done during such operations, spaying and neutering became even less appealing to me. I certainly wouldn't want such things done to my body without my consent. In fact, just referring to these procedures as "fixing" the cat, bothers me, because there is nothing wrong with them to begin with. Their bodies are designed and function exactly as God intended for them to. So, in reality, "fixing" our cats is just another way of saying that we are going to tamper with the bodies of our beloved furry felines for our own personal convenience.
My decision to get Socks, Smokey and Bandit spayed and neutered had absolutely nothing to do with any altruistic desire of wanting to save the planet -- or even our island -- from cat overpopulation. If anything, it came down to simply being pragmatic and practical, which I tend to be. In short, if I didn't have these procedures done, I would just be creating more problems for myself in the near future.
In the case of Smokey -- my young tom -- my concerns were two. My first concern was that at five months old, he would soon start marking his territory around the house. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, marking signifies spraying urine in vertical areas, in order to let other toms -- male cats -- know that this is his territory and domain.
If you have ever been in an area right after a tom has sprayed in it, you no doubt already know how powerful of a smell it is. Sometimes the neighborhood toms spray on our front balcony, right outside of our door; and because there is a wide crack on the bottom edge of the door, our entire house is filled with the stench of male cat urine -- while we are sleeping, no less. It is not fun.
My second concern was that upon reaching sexual maturity, Smokey might possibly impregnate his own mother -- Socks -- or perhaps even his own sister, Bandit. I don't know a lot about feline social behavior, but I don't think that incest is viewed as a taboo amongst cats. Someone please correct me on this if I am wrong.
With both Socks and Bandit, I had two primary concerns. My first concern -- as I already mentioned -- is that Smokey might impregnate them. My concern wasn't just with either of them becoming pregnant, but with what might follow afterwards as well. Let me explain.
Once I became certain that Socks was indeed pregnant during the latter half of 2011 -- my daughter brought her home the very day that she became pregnant without knowing it -- I reasoned that upon reaching the age of three or four months, I would endeavor to find good homes for her kittens. However, that isn't the way things turned out at all; the reason being that when it comes to animals, I am an old softy. In a word, I became emotionally attached to the two kittens -- Smokey and Bandit -- and simply didn't want to give them up when it came time to do so.
Of course, it didn't help that Smokey developed kitten conjunctivitis during his first month of life, which means that I gave him three weeks of special attention and became very close to him. It didn't help either that dear little Bandit fell from a counter and hurt her paw, and then hurt the very same paw only three days later when she fell again in my bedroom. Just watching her limp around for a while broke my heart. So, as I said, I became very attached to both kittens. You can read about these incidents in earlier blog entries that are filed under the "Socks the Family Cat" category.
Furthermore, I was worried about the possibility of giving the kittens to someone, only to find out later that they had grown tired of them, and kicked them out onto the street -- they are both indoor cats -- where they would eventually starve, get hit by a vehicle, or face some other tragedy. Of course, the other possibility was that their new owners might grow tired of them, and take them to the local pound to be euthanized.
While the aforementioned scenarios were just possibilities, nevertheless, they motivated me to keep both kittens, because I knew that I would feel absolutely terrible if either kitten met any of those fates. The vision of a flea-infested -- formerly indoor -- cat trying to survive on the street obviously unsettled me as well. Besides that, Socks, Smokey and Bandit make such great playmates, that I simply didn't have the heart to separate them. I imagined how lonely they would be without each other. They keep each other happy, and they make me happy as well, as I watch them romp and play everyday.
So, even though I can barely afford to keep Socks -- their mother -- on my limited income, I decided to keep Smokey and Bandit as well.
So this was one of the dilemmas I would face if Smokey were to impregnate Socks and/or Bandit. What if I grew emotionally attached to their kittens as well? Our landlord has been very kindhearted and generous; first in allowing us to keep Socks, and then giving the nod to keeping Smokey and Bandit as well. This is probably due to a few factors. First, we have rented from them for over twenty years. Second, I keep our home very clean. Third, I have a good rapport with our landlord. And maybe there is even a fourth reason: Perhaps he views me as a lonely old man who needs his cats for company. I've never asked him about it.
My point is, having more than Socks, Smokey and Bandit would no doubt be pushing the situation beyond the limit with our landlord, so I had to make a decision before Smokey fully matured.
My second concern with Socks and Bandit was simply this: female felines in heat. If you have ever experienced a female cat -- or queen -- in heat, up close, then you will no doubt know what I am talking about. It can drive you -- and the cat -- absolutely nuts! I felt so sorry just watching Socks go through it, week after week. I gave her countless back rubs and belly rubs, just to try to calm her down, and it would often work for a short while. Talk about the power of feline hormones. My gosh!
Seeing a female cat rolling around on the floor for the first time may seem cute, but when a queen goes into heat, it is a lot more than that, especially when they go into overdrive, as Socks does. The incessant cat calls -- at all hours of the night and day -- for male partners with which to copulate; the continuous kneading the floor with her derrière stuck up in the air; the out-of-control sexual frenzy which can result in the female feline accidentally hurting herself if she is not careful; the constant demand for affection; etc., is enough to make any cat owner decide that enough is enough; particularly if it is an indoor cat in a small apartment, as is my case.
So, despite how bad I have felt about having to invade their bodies with these intrusive procedures -- I have even apologized to my cats for doing it, and I also prayed for them last night before this morning's procedures -- I made the decision to go through with it, because it was the only way that I could keep them all, without having the aforementioned problems at some point in the future.
Thus, this past Friday my friend Pam brought over three cat carriers, which I proceeded to wash in hot water and dish soap, since they hadn't been used in years. Once they dried sufficiently, I put all three of them on the couch in the living room with the lids/doors open. The plan was to give Socks, Smokey and Bandit time to get used to them before our vet appointment this morning, so that they wouldn't freak out when I put them in the carriers. That is exactly what they did too. Before long, the cats were playing hide 'n seek in the carriers.
When it came time to actually lock the cats in the carriers this morning, Smokey let out howls of protest in his deep tom voice, but the cats soon mellowed out, and we had a quiet ride to the veterinary hospital, which surprised Pam, as she had expected an uproar in the car. We were both wondering if the cats were just spooked into silence.
It has been just over seven hours now since I brought the cats home. As was to be expected, at first, all three of them were still a bit disoriented and wobbly on their legs, Socks and Bandit more so than Smokey. In fact, within a relatively short period of time, Smokey was eating and drinking -- they had been completely fasting since 9:00 PM the night before by the doctor's orders -- and quite steady on his legs.
Socks and Bandit, on the other hand, were still having equilibrium problems, and were like two little drunks. Bandit tried to do a few things that she normally does -- like jump up on a counter, or onto my work desk -- but she wasn't able to. A few hours later, however, Bandit showed cleared signs of improvement, and began eating and drinking as well. In fact, she is already back to one of the cats' usual habits: drinking water from my Malawi cichlid aquarium. I don't know if the water has a fishy taste or what, but even though they always have fresh, clean water available in the kitchen, all three of them still like to drink water from the aquarium every single day. And no, they never make a swipe for a fish.
Socks seems to be having the most difficult time. I don't know if it is due to her age -- she is around a year old now -- or due to how much anesthesia she was given, or perhaps due to the fact that her procedure was probably the most complicated of all, due to her physical development, and the fact that she has already had one litter. At any rate, while she has moped around a bit, for the most part, she has slept since I brought her home, and I still haven't seen her eat or drink. My main concern is that she get some liquid in her body, as it has now been twenty-seven hours since they began their full fast.
Of course, my other concern is how the procedure will affect each of the cats mentally, emotionally and physically. From research I conducted a short while ago, it became apparent to me that anesthetizing a human or an animal is very serious business, which can have very serious consequences, if it is not done properly, or if it is done too frequently.
In particular, I am concerned with Smokey, and how being castrated is going to affect his growth, overall size, musculature, attitude, etc. From what I have been told -- and read online -- his growth may now be stunted, which I am obviously not happy about; but there really was no other alternative outside of neutering him, if I want to keep him.
For now, all I can do is watch the cats, see how they progress, and give them heaps of love and attention, as I have been doing since they came home seven hours ago. I just don't want them to hold a grudge against me. To be honest, I am still feeling a bit guilty at this point, and I hope that I made the right choice to have them spayed and neutered.
If you would care to share your personal experiences with your spayed and neutered cats, I would be very interested in hearing from you, but only if your cat has actually undergone the procedure already. Please feel free to share your comments below.
Please note that this is not an invitation for veterinarians or pet care and pet product companies to post here and advertise your services or products. Such posts will be deleted without exception. Again, I am primarily interested in hearing from actual cat owners, and reading your stories regarding how your cats have fared after having undergone spaying or neutering. Thank you very much.