You'd be surprised how many people believe the oldest story in the metaphorical book that "she needs to have one litter before we get her sterilised." An absolute myth! No-one has ever come up with one good reason to support it and if everyone allowed his or her pet to have one litter, just do the mathematics and you would realise what an absolute pet population disaster we would be facing.

We've also heard the one about how much someone loves his or her pet or that the pet has such an adorable personality that they just HAVE to let her have a litter of puppies or kittens. This is usually followed by how everybody loves puppies and kittens so much that it would be no trouble at all finding homes for them. Not so fast! There simply aren't enough responsible homes to go round but on top of that, any animal simply "homed" or given away takes a potential home from a precious kitten or puppy already at an SPCA. Add to that the numbers of puppies and kittens abandoned or ending up in sub-standard homes and you'll start to see what we mean.

It is imperative that pet owners prevent the birth of more puppies and kittens. Spaying and neutering are low-risk surgeries performed by a veterinarian under general anaesthetic. The primary reason for sterilisation is, of course, reducing the pet over-population but there are other very good reasons why you should ensure that all your pets are sterilised: -

� Spaying or neutering makes animals better, more affectionate pets
� Unneutered males try to control and expand their territories which leads to roaming and fighting - habits that can get your pet injured, lost or killed.
� Unneutered males also spray and mark. Having them neutered reduces or eliminates these types of unsociable habits
� Unneutered males are prone to prostate problems and testicular cancer. Having them neutered reduces the risk of these health problems which mean a longer life for the animal and fewer and lower veterinary bills for you
� Spaying a female before her first heat cycle reduces the risk of mammary gland tumours by 99%
� Spaying eliminates heat cycles and the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer

A quick few words on the subject - With improved technology and a greater understanding of animal biology, veterinary experts endorse "early age sterilisation" - as does the SPCA movement in South Africa. This involves sterilising an animal as young as eight weeks. Most vets are willing and able to sterilise an animal from the age of eight weeks, or at least before the onset of the first heat cycle for females and the spraying / marking behaviour in males. Both of these can occur around the age of four months.

There is simply no reason to wait until your pet is six months old to have him or her sterilised.

Sterilised animals do not become lazy, listless, overweight or less protective. The odds are the surgery will have no effect on your pet's disposition - except that if your neutered dog is now less likely to try to roam, he will be there for you the whole time.

Spanking, harsh scolding and other forms of negative reinforcement such as rubbing an animal's nose in his or her own waste, have proven less effective in training a dog or cat than positive reinforcement such as rewarding a dog with a treat for sitting or rewarding c at for using his or her sandbox. Dogs especially love attention and praise. The biggest punishment that arguably can be given to a dog is to ignore it - so if a toileting accident does happen, making a fuss about it ironically means the dog is "rewarded" with your full attention.

Wrong again. Don't feed your dog or cat table scraps. Quality pet food is available and manufactured to required standards to provide your pets with the nutrients needed to remain healthy. A reminder NOT to feed chocolate to your pets.

Wrong again. Even if your dog is socialised and obedience trained and you trust your dog implicitly to behave in public and not be a menace to others, you never know how your pet will respond or react in an emergency or if startled. Don't risk it. Please be aware also that in most places, the by-laws stipulate the dogs must be leashed in public places.

PO Box 1320, ALBERTON 1450
Telephone: (011) 907-3590
Fax: (011) 907-4013
Website: www.nspca.co.za