Copyright 2001, 2002 Sarah Hartwell

It is a perennial joke among vets and cat rescuers that men will take their cats for vaccinations, dental operations and other minor procedures but ... when it comes to getting a tom cat neutered ... the man is rarely to be seen and it is the woman who discusses this with the vet, arranges for the surgery and transports the cat to and from the vet clinic.

It is also startling that, in the experience of cat shelter workers, myself included, most of those who are most vociferously opposed to the neutering of male cats are men. The following quote refers to dogs, but the same is true about men and male cats.

Often the wife is quite relaxed about having the dog castrated, whether for birth control, or problem prevention in a young dog as a standard procedures or as a later measure to help treat an unexpected behavioural problem. But the husband, fuelled by feelings of sympathy and empathy and, perhaps, the feeling that he could be next, digs his heels in to fight to keep the dog's testicles where they are: on the dog. Occasionally it's the other way around with the lady of the house defending those two bits but, in my experience, men are at best unconcerned about castration, and at worst, blindingly and defensively obsessed!
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

The psychological effect on owners of the term "castrate" is such that a multitude of euphemisms have sprung up to eliminate the eye-watering, knees crossed, hands-to-groin reflex. The unisex term "neuter" is used in place of "castrate", but (outside of the veterinary profession) rarely in place of "spay". The most coy euphemisms for "fixing" a tomcat I have encountered are to have the cat "tidied" or "dressed" (Britain, regional usage, ?1950s). It speaks volumes about the difference between men and women that such euphemisms are required for castration, but not for spaying! Words have power and it is as if men need to deny what is happening in order to avoid feeling that they, not the cat, are being neutered!

When my clients have been faced with the prospect of having their male dog castrated, I've never yet had the husband take the suggestion without reacting. Usually it's a straightforward 'ouch', but the body language that accompanies it is more indicative of the threat felt. The man invariably crosses his legs tight and hunches up.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

Why is it that men are less likely to have their male pets neutered than are women? Some men try to argue that women have the urge to emasculate males and the neutering of male dogs and cats is an indication of what women would like to do to men i.e. keep them docile and at home. After much discussion and observation, the actuality seems to be that men view their male pets as personifications of their own egos and libidos - macho and indiscriminate in who they mate with and with no regard for any offspring which might result. In fact based on the boasts of a former colleague, he is more than happy that he has fathered several children on married women and that he does not have to play any part (social or financial) in their upbringing. Not for nothing are promiscuous men known as "filthy tomcats".

At a veterinary conference many years ago, a veterinarian regaled the audience with tales of his early days in practice in London. A client asked him to vasectomise a tomcat. Despite the vet explaining the many health benefits of neutering (castration), the owner insisted that he would not do anything to the cat which he was not prepared to have done to himself. Since the owner enjoyed a full and active sex life (on the city's gay scene) he believed that his cat should also enjoy an active sex life, albeit with the threat of actual procreation removed. The owner would not be swayed from this reasoning, thus the vet learned to do his first and only feline vasectomy! The sad part was that while the owner could take steps to avoid HIV infection, the cat could not take steps to avoid FIV/FeLV infection.
S L Smith - personal reminiscences

I will excuse some of those elderly gentlemen who have grown up ignorant of the benefits of neutering, but not actually resistant to the idea. Through cat work I have met many such gents and found them to be highly respectful people and horrified that that they are exposing their cat to unnecessary risk. In the vast majority of cases they are amenable to having their pet castrated, but may need financial help and to be reassured that their cat will still hunt mice after neutering.


A long held psychological thought states that fathers try to succeed through their sons - a father will push his son (or sometimes his daughter) into achieving in an area where the father failed. For many years I pooh-poohed this argument because my own father never pushed his children to succeed in his own chosen profession, but he continually encouraged us to do well and he accepted our decisions regarding career choice or further education. Other fathers, however, try to live their lives through their children.

I've seen this most noticeably with a school friend who was pushed into becoming an accountant because it was what his father wanted him to do, in spite of the son's excellence at technical drawing and poor head for maths. I watched another school friend struggle to become an excellent electronics engineer to please his father whose talent was merely competent. And another friend, a musician who never made the big time, is desperate for his son to achieve fame and fortune as a musician. The are examples of fathers trying to succeed at their own chosen discipline through their son's achievements, whether or not the son has any enthusiasm for the subject.

Because of our close companionship with our pets, we sometimes view them as children. They are smaller than adult humans. They are dependent on us for care, food, warmth etc. We play the part of a carer (parent substitute) and they play the part of a dependent. There is nothing wrong with this most of the time. The darker side is that we may try to play out our urges and drives through our pets. The macho, battered tomcat with a trail of pregnant females in his wake is a reflection of what his owner would like to be. Except that society won't let the owner act this way so he lives out his urges vicariously through letting his pet act out the owner's urges.

I'm sure it would horrify a lot of men to wake up to the fact that this is what they are doing, however else they try to rationalise it!


Neutering tomcats also increases their life expectancy. Neutered male cats live longer, period. They are at less risk of infections which are spread from tomcat to tomcat through fighting over the right to mate with available females. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV or FAIDS) is incurable and unvaccinable. Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is incurable and the vaccine is not suitable for all cats due to adverse reactions in some. Virus from a cat's saliva is injected into any bite wound he inflicts on his opponent. In addition, wounds such as scratched eyes, torn ears and battered faces are common and can easily become infected leading to disfigurement and death.

Refusal to neuter a tomcat is a public statement that the owner values his cat's life so little that he wishes to expose his cat to incurable illnesses and serious infections which will shorten his cat's life. He also has no consideration for other cats whom his cat infects. His infected cat will infect other tomcats while fighting for mates. And because a tomcat grips the female by biting her scruff while mating her, the infection can be spread to female cats as well.

But the tomcat's refuse-to-neuter owner doesn't actually care about any of that. As long as he can live his life vicariously through his promiscuous cat, it doesn't matter. After all, it is only the cat who will bear the consequences and die. The owner can go and get another cat through which to live his macho urges.

In addition, refusal to neuter a tomcat is a public statement that the owner cares little for his neighbours and for other cats in the area - since very few entire tomcat owners actually keep their uncastrated cats indoors. It does not matter to him that his cat is impregnating any unspayed female, stray, feral or pet, that it finds. It does not matter to him that his cat is caterwauling and spray pungent urine, causing a social nuisance to neighbours and putting itself at risk of abuse by those who resent the sounds and smells. He does not think to keep the cat indoors since he himself is not willing to tolerate the sounds and smells at close quarters. In short, such an owner is selfish and thoughtless as well as being neglectful of his cat's health and safety. He is not merely misguided since he is showing wilful disregard for his cat's safety and his neighbours' comfort.

The neutering of cats - males and females - is a socially responsible thing to do. In a world where millions of healthy unwanted cats and kittens are destroyed annually through lack of available homes, it is irresponsible to allow a pet cat to breed. It is not, as some owners of tomcats assert, the responsibility of the other owner to spay the female - the tomcat's owner has a greater responsibility. An unneutered female cat can produce 12-18 kittens per year on average. An unneutered tom can impregnate several females a day, fathering an almost unlimited number of kittens in one year.

The owners of these unneutered tomcats don't care about the overpopulation figures. They either ignore them or they refuse to believe them. They would far rather live a lie, in which there are no unwanted cats and kittens, than face up to their responsibilities to their own pet and to their neighbours. All that matters is that their little furry phallic symbol gets out there and bonks as many females as possible because, ideally, that is what its owner would like to be doing.

So why does he do it?


The reluctance to sterilise [...]is reinforced by the macho opinions rife in male-dominated human societies. The net result is millions of unwanted puppies and kittens being born every year and either being killed at birth, turfed out onto the street as soon as they are weaned or taken to beleaguered animal welfare organisations that are forced simply to become euthanasia camps for all those excess dogs and cats, puppies and kittens.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

It is a common joke that men who have big cars are overcompensating for poor endowments in the penis department or for poor performance in bed. The flashy car is a phallic symbol - "look how manly I am". The man who lets his tomcat roam and breed uncontrolled is also using his cat as a phallic symbol - "look how manly my cat is ... just like his owner!". Except it tends to have exactly the opposite effect on women who have long since seen through the big car routine and who tend to think of men who refuse to neuter their tomcats as selfish oafs.

The unneutered tomcat is an extension of its male owner's ego and libido. The owner is letting the cat do what he himself cannot do - roam, mate and breed with no thought for the female or for the offspring. In his own life, he probably regards contraception as something a woman should do otherwise "she is asking to get pregnant".

Unlike cats, human males can use condoms to prevent pregnancy and disease. Much as promiscuous man would like to sow his oats far and wide or mate with many women with no regard for the consequences, the threat of paternity testing and child support payments help to curtail his irresponsibility. However, he can manifest his irresponsible attitude to reproduction through his pets. In his opinion, it is up to the owner of the female cat to prevent pregnancy. The fact that his cat is fathering unknown offspring means it is doing pretty much what its owner would like to do if society permitted it - sex without commitment and with females of the species being constantly pregnant and subservient to males.


Many owners just wouldn't even consider having their tom cat or male dog castrated because of the macho connotations and 'denial' of the right to be a fully functioning male with the necessary equipment intact.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

To neuter his cat would mean it is no longer the manifestation of its owner's libido and ego. It would no longer be macho. It would be a eunuch. This has been amply illustrated by the tough owners of uncontrollable large breed male dogs - when forced to castrate their dogs to make them controllable (after training had failed) they wanted silicon implants in the dog's scrotum to make it look like an entire male! The dog was an extension of themselves and to castrate the dog was to psychologically castrate the owner. A classic example was given by Peter Neville.

I have decided to take your advice and arrange to have him castrated. My problem is that as Kurt is short-haired and has a docked tail, everyone will be able to see that he is not a male anymore, afterwards. I think 1 will look rather silly walking along the Street with a large powerful dog that has been castrated, so I was wondering whether it is possible for Kurt to be fitted with artificial implants at the same time as his real testicles are removed that will keep up his male appearance.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

I have never heard of a tomcat owner wanting his cat to have prosthetic testicles, but I have heard of those who insisted on vasectomies for their cat so that it could "still enjoy itself". Unlike humans for whom sex is pleasurable, in cats sex is purely reproductive. First the male fights others for the right to mate. Even then he may be rebuffed by the female and one of the losers may be chosen instead. If he does mate with her, he risks a face full of claws when the physical act is complete since his penis is barbed and scratches her as he withdraws. In free-roaming cats there are no sweet nothings whispered into each others' ears and no long and tender courtships.

I am very reluctant to have [my cat] castrated as I feel he has a right to enjoy life as a male. I wondered whether it is possible for him to have a vasectomy instead, so that he can rush around with any nice female cats he meets but only fire blanks when he has sex.
Vasectomy can be a rather sweet way of accommodating the human view of sexuality.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

Those men who refuse to neuter their tomcats are afraid that it is an adverse reflection of their own sexual potency. They may be insecure or feel that they are sexually inadequate. Their cat becomes a symbol of their own sexuality. If their cat was to be neutered, they would no longer be able to vicariously enjoy its conquests or its sexual rapaciousness.

Such men impress no-one except themselves. At the end of the day, women are likely to pass them over in favour of a man who does have his pets neutered. The latter is advertising his responsibility towards reproduction and towards other people and, whether he realises it or not, he is making a statement that he is not insecure about his own sexual performance. These things are far more attractive to a woman than the selfishness of the refuse-to-neuter owner.

Though infertile, [the vasectomised cat] would continue to be motivated to roam perhaps far from home in search of mates, to fight other males including those which are neutered but especially other entire or vasectomised toms, will still spray very pungent urine around his territory, and quite likely indoors. But worse, in the high-density cat populations of suburbia, Jones is likely to suffer more and more injury and resultant infection from his altercations with other cats as he gets older and less able to take on the local tough guys.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex


A few women extend much the same thought process (though in actuality it is a subconscious desire, not a conscious one) to their cats. Their female cats are fecund in a way their owner can never be. The kittens can be "gotten rid of" at 8 weeks old compared to the 18 long years it takes before most human offspring leave home. The worst case I heard of was a woman who kept the kittens and destroyed the 6 month old female cat on the grounds of "well at least she's already lived a bit".

Since women are the ones left holding the baby after a promiscuous male impregnates them (the pill, coil and condom are not 100% guaranteed!) they are much more matter of fact about neutering pets. In general they are far more responsible though there are some notable exceptions who seem to use their female cats as a way of expressing their own frustrated maternal urges.

A few women refuse to have their tomcats neutered, but this seems to be because they don't actually understand the feline sex-drive or that cats can't use condoms. Some have been sexually aggressive women and they are probably playing out their sexual urges through their cats - choosing the dominant male role rather than the submissive or nurturing female role.

Unlike humans, our cats, dogs, rabbits and other pets do not seem to have psychological problems in coming to terms with being castrated or spayed. We, on the other hand, can't help but anthropomorphise about them and worry that, by having them sterilised, we will destroy some enjoyable aspect of their lives.
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

It's a classic case of according human emotions to pets - Peter Neville

Most of those women who insist on not neutering tomcats seem stuck in a cosy new age fantasy about "natural lifestyle" and "my cat wouldn't do such things". They have a fluffy, romantic view of a tomcat's life totally at odds with the harsh reality. This is hopeless anthropomorphism and many acts of neglect are born of misguided good intention.

The population density of pet cats is not natural. In the wild, there would be far fewer cats per square mile because of resources available to sustain their population. It is natural for 80% of all kittens to die before reproductive age, many dying in their first few weeks of life as a result of infectious disease or starvation. It is natural for cats to die of disease or injury in the first 4 or 5 years of life; reducing their reproductive life.

Early death through disease and injury and high kitten mortality are natural for feral cats not desirable for pet cats. Most people want their pet cats to live as long as possible and to remain in good health. Having already taken the cat out of the natural system just by keeping it as a pet, humans must take responsibility for feline reproduction.

An owner who wants both a "natural life" and a healthy, long-lived pet cannot have both. Such people live in a world of make-believe where there are no unwanted kittens and where tomcats do not turn into sex-fiends at the scent of an oestrus female. Such people selectively ignore the harsh realities of feline life and believe it is the responsibility of the "other owner" to spay their females. Such owners are irresponsible, selfish and neglectful; exposing their own cats to unnecessary health risks and they expose their neighbours and their neighbour's pets to health risks and the nuisance of a spraying, caterwauling tomcat. By failing to take steps to ensure their cat's health they are guilty of cruelty.


Uncastrated cats roam far and wide in search of mates. This brings them into contact with many risks - road traffic accidents, dogs or simply wandering so far that they become lost. They contribute to the feral population, drawn to feral colonies where there are entire females. He will fight over territory as well as for mates - a cat injured in a fight is at risk of infection and of attack by a predator.

Owners who claim that fighting does not present a problem until the cat is six or seven years old are ignoring one vital fact. Up until that age (middle age in cats) he will have taken his fights elsewhere - to the edges of his territory where he is causing problems for somebody else. At six or seven years old, he is less fit and less able to win fights. He is less resilient and takes longer to recover from wounds. He will probably have FeLV or FIV even if he is not showing symptoms. Younger stronger tomcats are forcing him further and further back, taking the fights into his territory and extending theirs.

Never mind "fighting not being a problem" until that age, the owner is seeing a tomcat with his power on the wane and ultimately with his back to the wall. He will spray closer to home in an attempt to keep control of the core territory where there is food. The younger, stronger males will attempt to drive him out of this remaining territory, if they succeed in driving him away, the owner may not see his cat again. By failing to be a responsible pet owner, the owner ensures that as far as his pet is concerned, the law of the wild prevails.

Unneutered tomcats are also at risk from humans, not just near neighbours but also people at the edge of his territory where he is contesting ground with other tomcats either ferals or those belonging to equally irresponsible owners). A marauding tomcat is not a welcome creature. He sprays pungent urine around doorways to mark his boundaries. If he somehow enters a house he will spray inside. Even if he does not spray, he carries the smell on his fur. Over the years, uncastrated males have been abducted and forcibly neutered by irate neighbours. Some are picked up as strays and either destroyed or rehomed. Some have used a vet, others have used inhumane methods such as the "wellington boot and penknife" method. Others have abducted the offending cat and dumped it far into the countryside and some have poisoned or shot the offending cat.

"You may think I'm a little strange, Mr Neville, but I also believe that Robbie should be allowed to develop and express himself sexually as a normal dog, especially at the present time because he is clearly an adolescent and will be responding to his hormones." "Well that's okay,' I said, 'providing he isn't causing you or your friends or their dogs any problems"
Peter Neville - Pet Sex

The uncaring refuse-to-neuter owner of uncastrated tomcats exposes their cat to the risk not only of disease, but of human cruelty, cat-dumping and of death. A refuse-to-neuter owner evidently does not care that his cat may be lost through wandering, being picked up as a stray etc. Anyone wishing to keep an uncastrated tomcat should be prepared to keep their tomcat indoors at all times where their selfishness cannot put their own cat, or neighbourhood cats, at risk.


So maybe it all boils down to an age old and very well documented gender difference - a woman who does not want to bear offspring unless she is guaranteed the support of a mate vs a man who wants to father multiple offspring on multiple mates and not have to take any responsibility for what he has done!

Unfortunately this age old gender rivalry is transferred by some owners to their pets and by and large the worst offenders are those men who want their macho tomcats to be a furry personification of their own sex-drive and their own irresponsible reproductive attitude.

The biggest irony is, the men who show responsibility and have their cats neutered are the ones who are more attractive to women because they have demonstrated their respect for other people and for other people's pets!

Owning a cat is a responsibility. If owners deliberately ignore the realities and responsibilities of pet ownership and remain unwilling to prevent their pet from contributing to overpopulation and the spread of feline disease they are not fit to be owners. The main threat to cat ownership is not those animal rights groups who maintain that animals should not be kept as pets. It is those misguided, anthropomorphic, anti-neutering owners who refuse to take responsibility and whose wilful neglect of population/disease control provides animal rights groups with fuel for anti-pet arguments.

"Pet Sex" by Peter Neville is published in the UK by Sidgwick & Jackson (1993).
It should be available via an online bookseller e.g. Amazon or Books Online.