Neuter for a better life

Local | Georgina Noyce 5 Nov 2019

Apparently, worldwide, more people keep cats as pets than dogs. Of course, that nugget of information is based on estimates from countries that keep track of numbers, places that traditionally keep animals as house pets, rather than places such as India or Africa where animals are still closer to working animals than pets.

For most of us it seems female cats are more popular than males, while dog owners are more egalitarian over the sex of their dog. But what is worrying is that, despite science showing that neutered animals have a longer life expectancy than non-neutered, all too many people don't bother to have their pet neutered.

Maybe illnesses and diseases that affect the reproductive organs of dogs and cats are one of nature's ways of controlling the population of these animals, in which case, if humans are going to interfere in that cycle, we should also contribute toward the control of numbers.

Considering how many unwanted animals have to be euthanized every year, it is incomprehensible why anyone would keep an animal that instinctively and biologically wants to procreate, without making sure it cannot breed indiscriminately.

We hear the terms "cat people" or "dog people" to describe the division between cat and dog owners, but historically, our ancestors would have been hunter/gatherers, so they would have kept both dogs and cats to work for them; the cat to keep down vermin threatening food stores and the dog to help hunt or control livestock.

It's impossible to be sure just when dogs and cats really took off as companion animals, rather than working animals, but it probably coincides with the larger numbers that survive life's natural attrition, the point at which we need to rethink our strategy of natural balance.

Nature designed dogs and cats to produce larger and more frequent numbers of offspring, to counter the tougher life of survival in the wild, so if humans are going to artificially extend and protect the lives of dogs and cats, we must also consider controlling numbers - not because we are in competition with them, but because when we interfere with nature's balance, it is the excess dogs and cats that suffer.

Ironically, it is those who really care about our "best friends" who are left with the heartbreaking choice of euthanizing unwanted animals or neutering, to try to ensure that any animal born has the best chance of not just surviving, but also thriving.

Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four-legged waifs and strays.

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