When Caren and Cody of Cat Chat asked me if I would like to guest post on behalf of World Spay Day, I jumped at the chance. Nothing makes me happier than an opportunity to promote the virtues of spay/neuter as not only a safe and humane means of reducing cat overpopulation, but as a procedure that helps to ensure your cat live a longer, happier, and healthy life.
Deb and Caren meeting for the first time
at BlogPaws 2011
I first met Caren several years ago when I began blogging to promote the book I was in the process of writing, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the ExtraordinarilyOrdinary. I was a complete novice, the blog was barely read, and I was under the naive and ridiculous assumption that it did not matter, because I was going to become a famous author once the book was published.
Caren and I clicked instantly – both of us cat-loving Libra soul sisters who shared the same sense of humor and passion for books. I asked her if she would be willing to read a rough draft of my story and give me her recommendation for the back cover, which she did. Back then, the book was written primarily as a heartfelt means to celebrate the feline species. I had gone through an extremely dark time in my life as a result of being laid off at 48 years of age and it was during that timeframe that I was also helping my cat, Zoey, raise an unplanned litter of kittens she had at 10 months of age as a result of mating with our male Maine Coon, Zee.
I can honestly say that the relationship I shared with these cats saved my life and pulled me out of my severe depression. I began to appreciate life again and I wanted to share the story of Zee and Zoey’s kittens and my inspirational message with the world and that is how and why I wrote the book. Did I know about spay/neuter and cat overpopulation on the streets and in shelters? Did I realize just how subject to scrutiny and criticism I could be opening myself up for because of these kittens?
Let’s just say that I did to some degree, but certainly not to the point where I would have published a book if I felt I would be drawing attention to myself in a negative light, especially about a species that I love with every fiber of my being. When I wrote the book, it was meant to uplift people as I shared the behind the scenes journey of my life with Zee and Zoey. I felt I wrote with authority and if you asked me if I thought I was an expert on cats, I would have said, “yes.”
Well, as a result of social networking in a largely based cat circle of peers, I soon came to realize that I knew very little about cats at all and that much of my understanding of them was fraught with misconceptions and misinformation, especially when it came to the subject of spay/neuter and cat overpopulation. Count me in the categories of “someone who thought she had plenty of time to get Zoey spayed before she became pregnant” and “what’s the big deal with one more litter?”
|Zoey with kittens|
I was shocked by what I was learning - the numbers were staggering – even one homeless cat is one too many in my opinion, but millions is inexcusable and I became consumed with educating myself about cat overpopulation. I could not comprehend how a country as well off as ours could be responsible for such alarming figures, let alone that we were euthanizing millions of cats as a means to controlling the population. I came to the simple conclusion that if me, someone who is relatively well educated and has had cats her whole life, did not know all the facts about conception, then how could the mainstream public possibly fare any better? How could we get a grip on cat overpopulation if we were not armed with accurate information to make better informed decisions as a collective society? I quickly realized two very important points – that you can never assume, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, that everyone knows what you think is an obvious fact, and that change cannot occur if you leave the problems of the world for someone else to solve. You must become invested, however small or large the effort, in what you want to change.
|Dorian, Christine & Deb|
And so that is what World Spay Day means to me. I am now an award winning blogger who has raised thousands of dollars and awareness for shelters worldwide, a freelance writer for Cat Fancy Magazine and Catster, as well as Secretary for the nonprofit Organization, Pawsitively Humane, of Miami, Florida. Not only do I know that kittens can conceive as early as 4 months, but I know that they can be safely spay/neutered at 8 weeks of age or when they weigh at least 2 pounds.
I know that there are over 70 million cats on the streets and in shelters. I know that approximately 75% of kittens that are born outdoors will die. I know what a feral cat is and how effective TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) can be to managing their population and I also know that spay/neuter significantly decreases the chances of uterine or testicular types of cancers and infections in cats and virtually reduces the negative behavioral issues associated with an unaltered cat such as loud yowling, spraying and territory marking, and aggressive fighting.
I also know all the reasons and excuses people give for not spaying or neutering their cat. I know all of it because I have made it my purpose in life – to educate others about just how vitally important spay/neuter is if we are to reduce the overwhelming numbers of cats living on the streets and in shelters, or worse, tragically euthanized because the number of these animals is far greater than the number of people willing to adopt them.
I am by no means the hero. The heroes are the staff and volunteers who work tirelessly each and every day in the physical trenches of the shelters and rescues trying to help cats. The heartache that they have to witness is unbearable, yet they do it with such love, conviction, and dedication. I can’t do that. But, I can write, and I can care. My voice and passion does provide a crucial function and it is the torch to empowering others with factual information so that misconceptions and misunderstandings don’t continue to dangerously perpetuate. I can’t change the fact that Zoey had kittens. But, I have no regrets, as they have led me on a journey I am certain I would not have otherwise traveled. I took full responsibility for them and I love them all very much. They have made me a better person and the strong advocate I am today. I don’t feel that laying blame, pointing fingers, or making judgments is the right way to handle problems. We all make mistakes and we all can learn, but what is the point of those lessons if we can’t teach others?
My greatest gift is when I know I have made a difference for a cat – when I get an email or a comment on my blog that I have enlightened someone with a certain something they did not know before. Or when my post is compelling enough that it is shared with others. My greatest wish is that the message of RESPONSIBILITY and why spay/neuter is so important becomes part of mainstream society and not just banter in our current cat circles. Cat overpopulation was created by people and people alone are the only ones that have the wherewithal to change it. Let’s give meaning to this day and make it a lifelong commitment to helping make the world a better place for cats.
I thank Caren and Cody again for the honor of guest posting on World Spay Day. For more in depth information on the subject of spay/neuter, please visit Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection for my month long series which includes:
Part Two - The Overall Health, Behavioral, and Emotional Benefits for Cats and Society at Large by Spay/Neuter
Part Three - Debunking the Misconceptions, Excuses, and Reasons Why People Don’t Spay or Neuter Their Cats
Part Four – The Difference Between Theory Versus Reality When it Comes to the Subjects of Cat Conception, Cat Overpopulation, and Spay/Neuter
FROM CAT CHAT: Cody and I couldn't be more honored to have had Deb Barnes guest post today. We cannot stress enough the importance of Spaying/Neutering your pets. For this day, we wanted something truly special appearing on our blog. Thank you Deb for accepting our invitation to guest post and for all of your efforts in educating the public about the importance of Spaying/Neutering.