For cat owners Debby and John Barker, the only thing worse than watching their beloved Siamese Flower Petal gasp painfully for her last breath was knowing that her death was entirely preventable.

Flower Petal, fondly nicknamed 'P-cat', died of feline breast cancer at only seven years old - and all because she was not spayed before she reached six months.

"Don't let horrible killer cancers like this take your pet so young and so terribly from you," Mrs. Barker warns cat owners. "Spaying a cat before sexual maturity - before she has her first heat cycle, before she breeds and before she gets pregnant - prevents cat breast cancer in each ­female cat.

"Likewise, spaying dogs and cats helps prevent uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers and neutering male dogs and cats prevents ­testicular cancers."

P-cat was a "loving" Siamese cat born in August 1999 who the couple adopted from a retired breeder when she was a year and a half of age, shortly after she had given birth to a healthy batch of kittens.

Just before her eighth birthday, P-cat developed a fast and fatal breast cancer in her right breast, which killed her in just 70 days ­despite three operations.

"If only she had been spayed before six months of age, she could not have ­developed this cancer, and would not have suffered and died in this way so young," Mrs. Barker said. "On Saturday, July 28 2007 at 9:03 in the morning, we held her in our arms as she struggled for her last breaths, finally dying of pulmonary embolism, a common final cause of death in all widely spread metastatic aggressive ­cancers.

"We felt helpless as we watched our beautiful ­loving girl cup her tiny tongue to struggle for air into lungs in which cancer had clotted blood, blocking blood flow between the lungs and heart, causing her pain as her gums and tongue went from pink to blue, as her eyes dilated, and her tiny body went limp all within two minutes time.

Brutal

"Witnessing what cancer does to cause such a brutal death left lifelong scars in the hearts of both my husband and I.

"We are still heartbroken from her loss."

P-cat had one litter of six kittens who were all spayed and neutered before six months of age, protecting them from the cancer that killed their mother.

"Spaying, neutering, and vaccinating a pet also spares the creation of dozens of un-owned, un-wanted pets left outside to suffer diseases that could have been prevented with shots and to die or be euthanized young," Mrs. Barker said. "For each kitten who stays healthy for adoption at SPCA, there are 12 others suffering and ill to die or be euthanised.

"If an animal appears ­­­un-owned, and it depends on you for food every day, please call the vet or SPCA to surrender the animal, or BFAB to assist you in spaying, neutering, deworming pills and defleaing.

"80 per cent of kittens born wild will get anemic with gut worms, then get an pneumonia or upper respiratory infection, then sepsis and cardiac arrest.

"What is happening to darling tiny wild kittens while we are all safe and warm in our homes right now and every day and night is horrifying.  

"Help every animal born to live healthy."

To schedule spay/neuter, vaccination, and deworming with a vet call Endsmeet at 236-3292 or Ettrick at 236-0007.

To arrange to spay or neuter wild cats you may be feeding call BFAB (Bermuda Feline Assistance Bureau) at 291-1737.

The SPCA can be reached at 236-7333 or 737-1108 for emergencies.