Last reviewed on January 5, 2016
I should have saved this post topic for Valentine’s Day––or maybe not, considering it’s not exactly a romantic one. Still, it’s plenty appropriate for any time of the year if you consider that 1) pet overpopulation isn’t going away anytime soon and 2) some people remain impossibly clueless on the subject of sex and the single pet (hence #1).
In case you don’t completely understand the cluelessness I refer to here’s a question I received last week as part of PetMD’s Ask Our Experts feature:
Q: i have a dog and he is in adult hood already but has not comsummate yet with any dog ever. will that make him very aggresive the older he gets?
And here’s my answer:
A: Great question! Unneutered or unspayed (intact) dogs and cats will not become more aggressive if they are not sexually active. Indeed, lack of sexual activity is not considered a risk factor for aggression in any species––perhaps with the exception of humans and some non-human primates.
Depressingly agrammatical and typo-ridden as it was, the question succinctly revealed an all-too-pervasive sentiment: Pets are like people. They like sex too. And when they can’t get it, they––like us––act out sometimes.
It’s a popular position, this “my pet needs sex” thing. And it can be tough to argue against such a powerfully anthropomorphic argument, but here’s how I try:
a) Dogs and cats are not like people when it comes to sex. They don’t cycle the same way and there’s no evidence, behaviorally or otherwise, that sexual activity brings them any specific pleasure akin to orgasm, for example.
b) While unneutered males of both species have a strong drive in the presence of females in heat (and sometimes any female conspecific), female dogs don’t come into heat but once every six months. And female cats are induced ovulators, meaning that once they’re bred (usually just that one time) they’re pregnant.
c) In fact, it’s effectively posited that if you’re to take the female dog and cat’s point of view to their anthropomorphic extreme, you’d be more than convinced that “tying” and barbed penises, respectively, do not recommend the sex act to any female of the canine or feline persuasion.
d) Sure, I’ll accept that males might get testy if they can’t get to their girls, but neutered males could care less. According to that argument all male dogs should be neutered––if for no better reason than because it serves their psychological health.
(I’m sure some of you have better answers and I’ll happily accept them in the comment section below.)
Yes, it’s sometimes frustrating to have to deal with people who want their pets to have sex. I mean, it’s a little creepy to deal with people who want their pets’ tubes tied or vasectomized just so they can have the pet version of “safe” sex. Both procedures I’ll actually do given a good enough reason, but sexual pleasure ain’t one of ‘em. I don’t know about you but pet owners who take their hedonistic view of pets to surgical extremes kinda give me the creeps, anyway.
Personal peccadillos aside, the bigger problem here is that people who get all weird about their pets’ sex lives are also the ones least likely to spay and neuter them. As in, “I won’t neuter him or spay her until s/he’s gotten it on at least once.”
Should these geniuses condescend to sterilize their pets at all, it’s not often because veterinarians like me have convinced them with our sterling arguments. Nor does the concept of pet overpopulation and their personal contribution to animal suffering move them towards enlightenment. It’s times like these I can’t help thinking the truism holds: A lack of basic sex education breeds overpopulation. And not just for pets.
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