When I got married last year, little did my wife and I know that barely three months later, we’d adopt and welcome two children, aged seven and four, into our lives.
The seven-year-old is brown and white, chubby, has an inquisitive character, and enjoys dry food. When we go for walks, he wears a leash.
The four-year-old on the other hand is all white, slim, shy, and really loves wet food. He doesn't need a leash.
After walks, they drink water out of their favourite RM5 Daiso metal bowl.
Now, before going any further, I should mention that our children are in fact, cats.
The older one is Ramses and the younger, Mo. We adopted them from their previous owners (amazing people) who had to move overseas for work.
Both Ramses and Mo bring us joy.
Ramses doesn’t quite understand the meaning of personal space and loves to snuggle next to me on the couch (and he’s walking all over my keyboard as I type this article). Mo is shy, but if you able to pin him down for a pet, he’ll twiddle his little paws in delight.
Recently, I had an interesting conversation on cat spaying with a friend. It started when she saw Mo and said, "She's so beautiful! Does she have kittens?"
It's not the first time someone thinks Mo is a girl. His white fur is long and beautiful. Apparently cats too can suffer from gender stereotypes.
Anyway, I continue, "Mo doesn't have kittens. Both he and Ramses have been spayed."
My friend replies, "Pity! They'd have such cute kittens. And poor things, they won’t able to enjoy themselves anymore."
Enjoy themselves? I’ve never thought about whether Ramses and Mo would get the same thrill from you-know-what as humans do (and it’s not something I think about either).
We continue to talk about spaying animals.
In a WhatsApp Group, a friend had shared that he suspected his neighbour of poisoning their kittens because it had pooped in the neighbour’s garden. This sparked a long conversation about cat ownership and responsibility, neighbourly relations, and of course, the need to spay.
So, what is the consequences of not spaying a cat?
According to various online sources, if we take into account an unspayed female cat, her mate and all her offspring, and assuming they produce two litters per year with 2.8 surviving cats per litter, there would be nearly 2,000 cat births in that year, and more than two million cats within eight years!
Now that's a lot of cats!
Most people will tell you that spaying cats is a good thing. It's not just about population control but also the cats will be less prone to certain types of cancers, are less likely to pee all over the house to mark their territory, less likely to spread and contract cat-AIDS (yes, there's such a thing) and more.
In Malaysia, there is a unique challenge when it comes to spaying cats. Many do not want to spay because they believe that it is against religion (my friend knows of a cat shelter that doesn’t spay any of its cats!).
I was quite surprised to find out that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has issued an advisory that the spaying of cats and dogs is recommended. In Malay, the term used is harus, literally means, "a must".
The justification of this 2000 ruling was on the basis of public interest (maslahah ammah).
Essentially, if spaying a cat means protecting it from diseases, or that population control will help reduce nuisance to humans or promote well-being among neighbours, then the spaying is recommended, provided it does not cause harm to the cat.
The Jakim advisory also said that it would be better to spay than to euthanise cats.
Yearly, cat ownership is on the rise. Some reports estimate that there are approximately 220 million cats in the world. In the US alone, about 37 million households owned cats in 2007.
So, speaking of cat-euthanasia, in Los Angeles, US, nearly 65,000 cats are euthanised yearly. That's one in every four cats that enter shelters! Another report says a cat or dog is euthanised every eight seconds, and that only 10% of shelter animals had been spayed or neutered.
The point is this: It's nice to have a pet, but one must not forget the responsibility that comes with it. Reality is, cats poop and pee, need to be fed, get sick, need to be nursed back to health and have kittens.
Cats are like children. (But I'm not saying we should spay our kids ok).
Anyway, cat lives are at stake here. So, let’s do our part. Love our cats, spay our cats.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.