Q&A: Lisa Chassy, DVM, head veterinarian at Young-Williams Animal Center

As head veterinarian at Young-Williams Animal Center, Lisa Chassy has been a lead in the center's February "Beat the Heat" campaign to promote $20 spays for female cats, and will continue to promote low- and no-cost spays (and neuters) for cats and dogs in every season.

Why is it so important to get cats "fixed" in February, and is "fixed" even the correct term to use?

"Fixed" is an easy term everyone can relate to; it's been in use for both male and female animals at least in my lifetime. But fixing, or surgical sterilization, is particularly important now because it's the beginning of breeding season for cats. If you get them fixed at this time of year, fewer kittens come to the shelter in a couple of months.

Wait, cats have a breeding season?

Yes. It has to do with light cycles. There are a few months out of the year where cats don't go into heat. In this area, they come into heat every two or three weeks roughly from January to September.

If they're impregnated, how long until the kittens come along?

The gestation is roughly two months, so the kittens conceived right now will be born in April and May and coming into the shelter in summer. We're Mount Kitten then; maybe 400-500 unwanted kittens come in here in each of June and July. The fewer we have born, the higher percentage we can find homes for.

How many kittens does one cat have?

Each has up to three litters per breeding season; an average litter is six. Add to that, her first litter can already be having kittens of their own by the end of that season. And that doesn't count next year and next year and next year. From a humane standpoint, not all will survive and a lot end up in feral colonies where they can really suffer.

Is it still important to get a cat fixed if she's an indoor cat?

Yes. If you keep her indoors when she's in heat she'll drive you nuts, and she'll try very hard to get out and find a boy cat; they have no idea that's a bad idea.

What other mistaken ideas keep people from having their pets fixes?

We sometimes encounter people who think a brother and sister won't have kittens, but pets have hormones, not morals. Others have heard a cat has to be six months old, but if you wait that long they may already have their first litter. Instead, we want them to be about eight weeks old and 2 pounds—normal growth for a cat. We don't want them dehydrated or underweight, but they do start coming into heat when they're four months old, and you want to catch them before that.

Will a fixed cat still spray?

If you fix them, they are less likely to do that—notice I say less likely. And if you sterilize a cat before she goes into heat the first time, chances are they'll never start spraying.

This promotion, "Beat the Heat," is aimed at females?

Yes, we are aiming for 180. We've got most of the $20 spays booked, but we'll have other promotions.

What sort of income would qualify a pet owner to get a low-cost or free spay or neuter for their pet?

Usually if they receive any kind of public assistance, or make less than 250 percent of the poverty level. For a single individual that would be someone making roughly $25,000 or less. People should call us to see what can be arranged, keeping in mind that sometimes it may be a couple of weeks before they can get their pet on our schedule.

How do you answer people who feel like they shouldn't rob their pets of the parenthood experience?

Dogs and cats have no innate desire to become parents. They're happier without that in their lives. And if you allow them to have a litter, you're taking away homes from kittens and puppies that are already here. We certainly don't want to bring lives into this world that we don't have homes for.

For more information or to schedule a low-cost spay for your cat, call 215-6677