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. Hitler and general ruling powers of the time, had the intention of restoring the pure blood of the Aryan race, as they believed the Aryan race the true inheritors of the earth blah blah occult occult occult… He was doing what he believed was right, for the love of what he thought was the only true race.

    Intentions are relevant only from the point of view of the intender.

    I assume every founder of every religion had good intentions when they started, but as the world has played out religion is one of the most predominate factors of discrimination and murder. Great intentions, bad results. No different than Hitler.

  2. Hitler killed many out of twisted intentions; not good ones. Who would think that killing others out of hate arises out of good intentions?

    Good intentions are not good enough if they arise from delusion. This is why Buddhism pays attention to both goodness (the opposite of evil intentions, speech and actions) and truth (wisdom; the opposite of delusion).

  3. I’m not a cat owner, but after reading the posts above, it seems the root cause of the problem is humans adopting cats in the first place, after which because we cannot handle the large number of offsprings that are natural to cats, we have to let the kittens go stray and then kill them (or neuter them). If humans adopting cats is the root of all evils, wouldn’t the ultimate solution be banning the adoption of cats in the first place and just let the cats survive in wildlife, similar to how we treat lions and tigers? Shouldn’t we just respect nature and let wildlife look after wildlife themselves?

  4. The cats that we are talking about are already domesticated, they were domesticated long ago, they are not wild cats like tigers and lions, this is a fact that we have to accept today. We cannot turn back the clock. Homeless cats that we see outside everyday are very suitable as home cats, indoor cats – lap cats that like to snuggle in your lap, that love to share the same pillow with you.

    The ‘root cause’ (today) is not that humans are adopting cats, but that we are NOT ADOPTING them. That HDB still disallows cat lovers to keep cats at home. The main problem (today) is that we have destroyed their homes and are intolerant of their existence in our ‘human habitat’ that we have made out of their natural habitats. There is no more ‘wildlife’ for the cats. They have been forced to adapt to living in our cities. There are no more natural predators, the most terrifying predator is human.

    Cats reproduce very quickly. There is no longer a natural habitat or environment to balance their numbers out. Their natural homes have become concrete buildings to house humans. Their homes have been changed by us humans, and now it is us humans who want them out.

    They get killed because there are humans who hate them. But the problem is more complex because killing does not eliminate them, cats from other areas come in to fill in the vacuum, and start reproducing again. The killing will never end. The negative karma snowballs.

    If more people adopt cats at home, and neutering is done, then sooner or later the number of cats will decrease.

    For cat lovers, the thought that one day there might be no more cat on this island is a sad thing. A paradox.

    But reducing killing is of paramount importance. For the cats, as well as for the killers. And for cat haters as well.

  5. If some cats and dogs are abandoned or born as strays, is it possible for them to grow accustomed, to become wild, free and self-sufficient?

    Just wondering… as there are more strays than non-strays, which makes 100% adoption of them tough? Then again, to leave strays as strays in the hope that they become able to fend for themselves isn’t exactly kind too. (Neutering still seems necessary though, to prevent their numbers spinning out of control.)



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