HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Once upon a time, a little kittycat showed up on our back porch-during a blizzard. She mostly stayed outside, but came inside to visit every once in a while. As the weeks passed, we noticed she was expanding around the…equator. Then one day she came in and started looking for The Right Place. My wife made up a comfy box for her, and later that day Kittums, as we called her, presented us with five kittens.

We kept Kittums, and Kittums’ kittens, because (1) we fell in love with them, and (2) kittens in spring are a buyer’s market. Left to nature the kittens, as they matured, would’ve started producing kittens of their own. But ours is not a horror house overrun with multitudinous manic moggies because as soon as it was possible, we had all the cats (including Kittums) spayed and neutered.

Today we celebrate World Spay Day, when we celebrate our ability to reduce the huge population of unwanted animals (mostly dogs and cats) with simple operations. Technically speaking, “spay” only refers to removing the reproductive organs of a female-cat, dog, capybara, whatever-but on this day it means both spaying and neutering.

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We have a Hollywood star to thank for World Spay Day. Doris Day started the Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1978. The foundation created “Spay Day USA” in 1995 to help popularize a simple answer to the problem of homeless pets. This ultimately became World Spay Day, which is celebrated on the 4th Tuesday of February.

Talking about this subject makes some people uneasy, as may be deduced by the number of bad jokes and lame puns that proliferate when the subject comes up. But the procedures help reduce the need for something truly upsetting, the euthanizing of millions of unwanted animals every year.

The numbers are hard to nail down, but what you can find is frightening. According to spots.com, conservative estimates are that between 11 and 25 million animals are euthanized every year. But that’s just facilities that report it. The high-end estimate is more like 100 million animals per year. (Other sources give other numbers, some higher, some lowers.)

On the plus side, the same spots.com page posting those statistics also has a graph showing euthanasia numbers dropping every year, from 15 million in 1970 to about 1.4 million in 2019. (Again, the numbers vary from site to site.) A lot of the credit for this goes to the increasing acceptance of spaying and neutering.

Getting your pet “repaired” is not only good for your pet, but it’s good for you. Neutered pets will be less aggressive, and less territorial, which means no smelly urine stains on your floor or walls. They’ll be more inclined to stay at home, instead of roaming, getting into fights, and coming home with injuries. (And did you keep the rabies vaccine up to date?) Instead of being obsessed with finding a mate (and fighting for it) they’ll want to snuggle up in your lap. (OK with a cat, not so good with a Great Dane.) And in the spring you won’t be spending hours on the phone with your friends and relations, trying to find a home for kittens or puppies. So a simple surgery can make life happier for you — and your pet!