Old wives’ tales have circulated for decades implying that having a cat of dog “fixed” would jeopardize their health, make them fat and lethargic, or take away their self-esteem. These unfounded myths have discouraged many pet owners from taking the responsible route of neutering or spaying their animals. Here are our top ten reasons a responsible pet-owner ought dismiss these claims in favor of neutering and spaying:

1. Increases lifespan: Studies published by USA Today have shown that cats and dogs who have been spayed/neutered actually live longer than pets who have not. For example, Mississippi has the highest number of pets who have not been fixed (about 44%), and likewise has the lowest life expectancy.

2. Fights overpopulation: Far too many cats and dogs are born on the streets, or live homeless and abandoned. There are shocking estimate of 6-8 million homeless animals in America, less than half of which are adopted. Having pets fixed will help diminish these numbers over time, and will decrease the number of euthanized animals in pet shelters.

3. It’s cost effective: Because of inexpensive health clinics, spaying and neutering are now affordable surgeries for all budgets. The inevitable cost of breeding, delivering, vaccinating and feeding future litters is nothing compared to the potential cost of cancer in reproductive organs, or other related diseases. Spaying and neutering pets is a simple one-time expense that can guard against soaring medication bills later in life.

4. Better behaviors: Because of the hormone increase and sensory awareness, this often results in unpleasant expressions and behaviors. Dogs and cats can become moody and aloof, or even anxious and needy. Some animals will wail, bark and meow at all hours of the day or night.

5. Greater focus in training: When trying to work with an animal in heat or in search of a mate, is literally like trying to herd cats. By removing the sexual distraction from dogs and cats, they are better able to focus on the task at hand, and will prove more responsive in training.

6. Less of a cleaning hassle: When a female dog or cat is in heat, it can be quite a messy situation requiring the pet to wear diaper-like wraps. Rather than having to deal with cleaning up, or trying to ward off aggressive males, it would be better to have the dog or cat’s reproductive organs removed. (Male dogs and cats also spray around the house, which leaves a pungent and unpleasant odor if they are not neutered.)

7. Less dominance in males: The lack of male hormones will decrease their need to be the alpha male, and will likely keep the cat or dog out of fights with other animals. The last thing you need is a lawsuit from an angry neighbor, or a wounded dog on your hands.

8. Less of an inclination to escape and run away: Cats and dogs in heat have only one thing on the mind, and they will try everything in their power to escape the confines of their house and find a mate. Many pet owners have actually lost their pets who would stop at nothing to dig under the fence chew their way to freedom. This is not only dangerous for the animal but stressful for you. Neutering and spaying lessens the instinct to escape.

9. Decreases the likelihood of cancer in pets: Spaying helps prevent ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer in pets (breast cancer statistically kills 50% of dogs and 90% of cats). Male cats and dogs that are neutered are also less likely to get testicular cancer, or infections in the prostate glands.

10. Benefits society: Millions of dollars are spent annually in support of getting stay animals off the streets, and caring for neglected pets. The more people become responsible with a pet’s reproductive health, the better off the world will be, since less money will be spent in helping them, and fewer animals will be euthanized to keep the rescue pet population down.