Cat : Neuter or Not?

The below email dialogue with a fellow reader is about the ethics of neutering cats to prevent the multiplication of strays, which might lead to their culling by animal control authorities. She is for the neutering of cats, but was posed some tricky questions by other Buddhists. (She keeps two vegan cats, one a stray and the other rescued from the pound.)

Q: Doesn’t sterilising (neutering) cats create negative karma?

A: No – if the intention is not to harm but to save them. Karma is created by our intentions – negative karma by negative intentions; positive karma by positive intentions. It is worth noting that even a household cat might become a stray if it runs away or gets lost. If a cat-owner has no intention or ability to care for potential offsprings of his or her cat, neutering should be considered.

Q: If the surgery causes pain, doesn’t this create negative karma?

A: The pain in neutering surgery is taken care of by anesthetics, while the pain during recovery is short-lived and incidental, for the cats’ own safety in future (from being caught and culled as troublesome strays.)

Q: If cats don’t wish to be castrated, doesn’t this create negative karma?

A: Indeed, no animal would want to be castrated. But more so do they not want to be culled due to not being castrated.

Q: Wouldn’t neutering cats create the karma of having no offsprings of our own?

A: No, since what created is the karma to save. One creates the karmic potential to be saved from being killed instead. If one neuters another with the gleefully evil intention to prevent the next generation from being born, so as to cause suffering somehow (which is different from the good intention of preventing culling), one would then create the karmic potential to not have offsprings.

Q: It disturbs me that cats are unwilling to be castrated.

A: Cats probably would not endorse being neutered if they could speak, but they would consent if they could comprehend the bleak reality that they are likely to be culled if not neutered. Neither would they want their many potential offsprings to be culled. Just as kids who don’t understand the purpose of taking bitter medicine are ‘forced’ to do so anyway, likewise, cats who don’t understand our good intentions are still better off neutered. Kids might not know any better due to lack of maturity, but the cats know even less.

Q: Does neutering interfere with nature’s evolution?

A: It would seem so, to some extent, but it’s for the greater good of the cats. To not support neutering; to passively allow continual proliferation and mass-culling is to endorse even more destructive interference with nature, with the rights of the cats to live out their lives naturally. To passively allow culling is to allow others to interfere with cats’ lives in the worst way possible. Neutering is pro-life, not pro-death; as neutering is not abortion, but to prevent deaths. The truth is, humans are already interfering with nature in many other worse ways – via domestication of animals, pollution, breeding and eating of animals… We are all factors in nature; we are part of nature. Everything we do or not do affects the interdependent web of life. If we function with greater compassion and wisdom, we benefit nature on the whole.

Q: Doesn’t letting a cat be culled cause more negative karma than neutering it?

A: Yes, the negative karma and hatred created when countless cats are killed is worse than neutering some cats, which if done with right intentions, creates no negative karma at all; and only good karma. Mass killing of animals is one of the potential collective karmic causes of conflict and wars in our world – when the animals are reborn as humans in future lives, when they encounter those who killed them.

Q: It seems that humans are the main culprits of the stray cat poliferation problem?

 A: Yes, humans are the major culprits in disrupting the environment. But karmically speaking for the cat issue, it’s two–way too. That is to say, the cats too created karma to face their current problems. However, we should not be passive about this – as karma is always dynamic, and we can create karma that changes the paths of our past karmic potential. The karma of the cats can change too, and each cat has different karma. Who is there to say all strays karmically deserve to be culled? No one – just like no humans would like to imagine they deserve to be killed when they over-populate.

Humans probably should had not domesticated any animals in the first place. From domestication arise problems like animal imprisonment, torture, exploitation by breeding for profit, proliferation of strays, culling… In the Bodhisattva precepts in the Brahma Net Sutra, keeping pets is generally considered not a Bodhisattva practice… unless it is the taking care of strays and the injured, who would otherwise suffer out there. But of course, if you already have domesticated pets, you should care for them for the natural span of their lives best you can.

Related Articles:

Puppy Love of Pets
Real Animal Welfare
Prison of Domestication
Neutering to Extinction?

28 thoughts on “Cat : Neuter or Not?

  1. If the imbalance of the number of stray cats began because of humans, we solve the problems created by us by casterating them?

    I wonder if we change the name of “Cats” to “Human Beings”, would those who think it”s ok to neuter cats still feel it’s ok to castrate homeless people on the streets if they pose as a threat to their own survival?

  2. No, the solution to the imbalance of number of stray cats is to culled them, and neutering is a solution to culling. Culling is KILLING!

  3. Would you prefer the cats to be culled? If so, there”s no point talking about ‘not neutering’, right? I think it would be better and more productive if we can provide a better solution than condemning neutering; because it is death sentence to 13,000 cats a year in Singapore alone.

    I feel amused when people compare animals with humans as if we are the same. We are different! It’s the animal instinct to mate and breed with no consequences in mind, but definitely not so for most humans!

  4. Re: “If the imbalance of the number of stray cats began because of humans, we solve the problems created by us by castrating them?”

    Comment: What is your proposed alternative solution then? Mine is this – all who feel strongly that neutering is wrong should adopt strays and NOT neuter them, and let them breed at home – and take care of all their generations for life. Be prepared to go broke. I suspect few will do this, while most will let strays roam on, multiply and be killed by the authorities – who act on the behalf of those passive about neutering. What compassion is there in this?

    Neutering with the right intention is compassion in action. Even if it’s not the best of solutions to curb overbreeding, it’s the best way at the moment. All cat-lovers are waiting for a better solution – which is still non-existent. Neutering saves lives; not neutering risks lives. Simple as that. There is very low chance that a stray can go uncaught and unculled in its entire lifetime. Even if it can, its offsprings are still likely to be caught.

    To summarise, cat-haters are for culling; cat-lovers adopt strays. Those who can’t adopt more help to neuter or sponsor for doing so. (I donate for the cause myself.) Those who don’t feel or think too much about strays simply don’t do anything. Those who misunderstand neutering’s cause speak against it, while most of these same people do nothing, while cats are still being culled daily. Neuter one and save one. Neuter more and save more. Simple. Imagine the unbound freedom a neutered cat has – being able to roam freely and fearlessly for the rest of its life. Wonderful!

    Re: “I wonder if we change the name of “Cats” to “Human Beings”, would those who think it’s ok to neuter cats still feel it’s ok to castrate homeless people on the streets if they pose as a threat to their own survival?”

    Comment: On a sidenote, I wonder if we swap ‘Meat Animals’ to ‘Human Beings’, will we think it’s okay to breed and eat animals?

  5. Well said SaveCats!

    If I were a homeless man roaming the streets and told that my chances of being killed by some “higher animals’ is very high unless I’m neutered, I certainly would go for the surgery. The short term pain is without doubt worth it.

    I think this is actually very simple, the pain and hatred neutered cats feel is undoubtedly much lesser than that felt by cats who are killed. If we really think about this, and have compassion for the cats, the choice is obvious.

    Those who are against this either don’t care much enough about the plight of stray cats, or simply don’t really understand the situation. If you’re not a cat lover, would you stop to look at the stray cats you come across everyday in the streets, and would you think of how their future, or the future of their offsprings might be?

    And I think we need to have compassion for the killers as well, if there are less cats to be culled, they’ll have less negative karma to accumulate. Think of how much they’ll have to suffer in future lifetimes, it’s very sad.

    This is of course not the best solution, but who can provide a better one?

  6. a little bit to share.

    right or wrong has to be seen its context. we do what is best for the larger and long term benefit of the whole [cats, human, the level of social acceptance, planet… ]. close-up, some things we do may seem wrong. zoom-out, we can see they are right.

    sometimes we have to choose the “lesser of the two evils”. forcing a cat to be neutered against its will is unnatural, is bad.. forcing a cat’s life to be ripped out against its will is worse… far-far worse. in the given [social] circumstances, though neutering is unnatural, is right. it is a necessary sacrifice.

    humans have de-natured the face of the Earth. what used to be covered by jungle, is now a concrete jungle. cats and other animals have lost their place. no matter what we do for cats, it is never going to be “100% natural”. we need to find ways to accommodate them as harmoniously as possible. culling is clearly not the way.

    when we started Cat Welfare Society ( )we had long debates over these.

    AVA started the StrayCatRehabilitationScheme to protect stray cats. it entailed volunteers managing the cats in an area to keep the population down. sometimes it was necessary to “remove” the trouble-making cats, to save the entire cluster of cats. volunteers were unwilling to do that… they couldn’t see the bigger picture. the scheme failed. as a result, with no protection, more cats have been and are being killed now.

    sometimes, in real life, we need to take a few steps back [contradict ourselves]… to leap forward.

  7. From what I read the above all are centered about the cats.

    Has anybody ever thought of the men (or women) who has to cull (kill) the stray cats?

    If there are more stray cats, they are instructed to kill the stray cats, by someone who has to decide that killing the stray cats is the quick solution to the many complains from the public and also to maintain perception of good level of public hygiene.

    Doing so they commit bad karma, due to the pressure or perception of pressure from the public (similar to stray dogs – old school ways of preventing rabies, the same way vermins such as fly, mosquito, cockroaches, rats and crows are killed)

    Neutering cats reduce if not eliminate the number of killing. Isn”t it a better option?

  8. My mother was a Cat lover – she would pick up stray cat, jump into the drain to save kittens and keep them at home and feed the stray cat when she was alive.

    Again, she bought some stray cat home and wanting to neuter one the cat, unfortunately, it was been delay for a day. And the cat started a family, at then end of the day, the number of stray increased to 7 at home. Problems came, it get too big to be managed. She was diagnosed with Cancer and hospitalizing was on and off. As a small family, we need to take care of her and her cats which are very taxing and stressful.

    We can’t put them back to the street or send to SPCA (you know the constraints too), no one want to take over the cats, and to raise it at some other place would cost $200 per cat per month (7 cats means $1400 per month) it was an big expenses on top of the medical fees.

    In real life, something needs to be done to contain the problem, I think that is to be compassion to all the stray cats and the society. If I don’t neuter the cat and when the things got bigger, am I creating good karma or bad karma? My mom’s example is only a small scale was already had enough power to “kill” us and no one benefits from such situations (cats inclusive too).

    Our society do not have the enough resources to just look after the overpopulated cat populations, because in this World there are many many other things (like the unfortunate and poor, sick, world hunger, child slavery, animals at the Factory Farms, 3rd world countries, victims of the natural disasters and the list goes on and on, that need resources and helps too! All are important, right?

    What we can do, is the do things wisely and take care of the bigger picture first, if not no one can help the stray cats when things get out of hand even with pleading …

  9. I’m not so sure karma is run off of intentions, I’m sure if you asked Adolf Hitler, he’d tell you he had the best of intentions.

  10. In a news article ‘Battle looms over plan to reprint Hitler’s book’ in The Straits Times on 6 February 2010, ‘Hitler wrote the book [his autobiography] which detailed his hatred of Jews, desire for revenge against the French…’

    With so much hate, where are the ‘best of intentions’? Best of intentions must mean love for humankind and/or even beyond.


    In the Nibbedhika Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Intention (cetana) is karma. Having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind.’ Amituofo

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