February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, which is a great time to reflect on the benefits of altering our pets. In addition to reducing the overwhelming number of unwanted dogs and cats who end up in shelters across the country each year, most veterinarians agree that spaying (removing our female pets’ ovaries and uterus) and neutering (removing our male pets’ testicles) can also help our fur buddies live longer, healthier lives. Here are 5 reasons why you should spay or neuter your pet. Your female won’t go into heat. Spaying your female pet will help to reduce unwanted behaviors that accompany their cycle, such as irritability and aggression in dogs, and yowling and spraying urine for cats. It will also make them less likely to wander away from home in search of a mating partner (that goes for neutered males, too). Your pet will be less likely to develop some cancers. Spaying your female eliminates her risk of developing both ovarian and uterine cancers, and greatly reduces her chances of developing breast cancer. And neutering your male eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer, the second most common type of cancer in male dogs. They’ll be less likely to contract other diseases. Neutered male dogs are less likely to have prostate issues and perianal tumors, which develop in the oil-producing glands around the anus. And spayed females are less prone to urinary tract infections. They’re also less likely to develop a serious condition called pyometra, which can damage organs including the kidneys and even lead to a deadly infection called sepsis. They may be better behaved. While spaying and neutering doesn’t affect your pet’s intelligence or ability to learn, play, work or hunt, some dogs and cats tend to be more well behaved following their surgery, which makes them even better companions. Males will be less likely to fight and spray. Unaltered males are driven by hormones to seek mates and defend their territory against competition. This can lead to fights that cause serious injuries, both in your home if you have more than one male cat or dog, and outside in your neighborhood, at the dog park, etc. Neutered males are less prone to this type of aggression, which helps keep them safer. And male cats are less likely to spray their urine to mark their territory for the same reason. While there are always risks associated with surgery, and there is a slight chance that pets may develop complications after their procedure, most doctors agree that the benefits far outweigh the potential problems. And, as with any medical procedure, you should consult your veterinarian about whether spaying or neutering is right for your pet.