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Taming Your Big Ol' Tom Cat

Is your male cat urinating everywhere? Is he fighting with other cats? Is he howling at night, and coming home with sores and shredded ears? Chances are, he's not neutered, right?

Initially, he may have been spared the so-called indignity of having his "fun" surgically removed, out of some very misguided opinions, but even those cat owners come to the end of their own ropes when their prize boy kitty starts smelling up the house. They pee everywhere, and there is nothing stronger than intact tom cat urine. It's so strong, you'll think your eyes are bleeding and you'll wish your lungs would shut down.

So what do these owners do? Most of them simply throw the fun-kitten-turned-smelly-monster outdoors, where he can just find some fun on his own time from now on.

Others, who still want their sweetie to live indoors, finally break down and agree to get him neutered. They also usually get him declawed at the same time, as he's been scratching the furniture down to the framework. But they've waited too long.

They don't get it either.

These cat owners have a whole list of misguided notions about their cat, and cats in general, such as...

  • Their cat won't be like that, because they'll just love him more.
  • Getting him neutered is supposed to make him settle down and he'll stop being aggressive.
  • Neutering will instantly stop him from peeing on everything, from scratching everything, and from starting fights.
  • He's just being stubborn.

A lot of people simply should not own cats, no matter how much they proclaim to love them. It's true there aren't enough homes for them all, but then, why should we put cats into any home that isn't going to be a good placement? Is it really fair to make them suffer with clueless people who just don't get it? Or refuse to?

First, it's a mistake to believe that simply neutering a cat will make him stop spraying in the house. Fact: Once they've started this behavior, it could take Mohammed moving the mountain to make them stop. Neutering, to be most effective, should be done before the cat reaches puberty, preferably even younger. With today's advances in surgical technique and equipment, it can safely be done at 8 weeks old. But check with your own veterinarian, because it needs to be done by someone who is also comfortable and familiar with the procedure.

Since spraying is usually a marking behavior, and the cat is not just eliminating urine, waiting for puberty just allows instinct to take over. Stopping something Mother Nature put there is a lot harder than keeping it from developing in the first place. What is this instinct? Well, what is puberty? It's also called sexual maturity. This is the age when they begin mating behaviors, and spray-marking is one of them.

Next, neutering can soften the development of aggressiveness, another trait needed as part of the whole mating thing. Aggressive tom cats are more successful in winning mates. But you don't want an aggressive cat, right? Well then, get him neutered before those hormones feed into that instinct. At the very latest, get him neutered before 6 months old.

Neutering (before it's too late, that is) goes a very long way toward "taming" that tom cat.

Dr. R.J. Peters established a shelter in 2002 and has rescued and worked with hundreds of cats. Learn more about cat behavior at

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