Do spaying and neutering surgeries change the personalities of pets? The following article addresses this common concern about spay-neuter surgeries.
Most cat and dog owners realize that having pets sterilized is the right thing to do, but many have concerns about the potential effects of these surgeries on the personalities of their companion animals. The following is a summary of expert opinions regarding behavioral and personality changes as a result of spay-neuter surgeries.
Spaying and Neutering – Behavioural Effects
According to the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, spaying or neutering a cat will reduce or eliminate a number of undesirable hormone-related behaviours, including urine spraying and fighting in males and problems associated with heat cycles in females, such as irritability, yowling to attract mates, and drawing aggressive, noisy males to the area.
Neutering and spaying also reduce or eliminate undesirable behaviors in dogs, such as staining furniture and carpets by females in heat and urine marking and aggressiveness among territorial males. Given that unneutered male dogs are far more likely to attack humans, particularly young children, neutering is a critical safety issue for large dogs.
Pets that have been spayed or neutered are less inclined to escape from the house and roam far distances. This significantly reduces the likelihood that pets will get lost or be run over by cars; injured in fights with other animals; infected with deadly viruses, bacteria, and parasites; or stolen by pet thieves.
Overall, sterilization surgery reduces the majority of undesirable behaviors in companion animals. This is evident in the fact that spayed and neutered animals are far less likely to be surrendered to shelters for severe behavioral issues than unaltered pets.
Spaying and Neutering – Personality Effects
According to the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, spay-neuter surgeries do not typically change aspects of personality such as playfulness, vocalization, hunting skills, or desire for activity. However, evidence suggests that some spayed pets become more docile or laid back because hormone-related anxiety and aggression are reduced or eliminated, and many pets become more affectionate after the surgery.
Reduced activity and weight gain, often blamed on sterilization surgeries, is usually caused by feeding high quantities of cheap, low-quality pet food and failing to provide exercise opportunities (owners tend not to play with adult pets as often as kittens or puppies). Animals that have plenty of playtimes and are fed premium foods in reasonable portions are not likely to become obese.
Many dog owners express the concern that their pets will be less protective of their homes and human families after the surgery. However, sterilization surgery does not appear to reduce protectiveness, and may even increase it, as sterilized animals tend to form stronger bonds with their human companions and stick closer to home. They are also easier to train because they are not distracted by hormonal imperatives.
Pet owners also express concerns that male cats and dogs will feel less masculine or suffer some identity crisis as a result of neutering surgery. This worry arises from the tendency of people to project human feelings onto animals. Animals don’t have a sexual identity that affects their psychological state or a culture in which gender is relevant, so they don’t experience gender identity trauma as a result of sterilization.