A Tested Procedure
Whose Time Has Come
"The veterinary profession has for decades made
6-8 months the recommended age for neutering.
There is no scientific reason for this age selection
-- it has simply become a tradition."
Cat Sterilization for Population Control
Fast forward to the present where cats
are now the number one indoor pet --
about 85% of whom are sterilized.
The pet cats that are not sterilized
are typically in lower-income homes where the cost is prohibitive.
They -- together with the large number of feral cats --
produce the many litters annually flooding our communities
with more new cats than can be placed in homes.
Dr. Jeffrey Young, "Paws To Think", Winter 2005
The sterilization of cats began in the early 1950s
as they started to move indoors with the invention of kitty litter.
As the story goes, people would bring them to veterinarians
when they reached sexual maturity --
at 6-8 months old --
complaining that the females were yowling
or the males were spraying --
making them difficult to live with.
The vets had an easy remedy: spay and neuter them.
Once sterilized, the cats settled in as good companions,
free of the unsavory habits of intact cats.
In the '50s, we weren't as concerned about
the growing number of surplus cats --
most were undomesticated (feral) living outdoors
and any homeless companion cats were routinely euthanized.
We now know that euthanasia is an ineffective means
of population control --
as the cats left intact continue to reproduce.
Fortunately we also know that sterilization
is both a more humane and more effective alternative.
Its application, however, is hampered by our waiting
to sterilize cats until they are 6-8 months old.
This is especially true for outdoor cats
who can be sexually active at 5 months.
By the time they are "old enough" to be sterilized
they are often in heat or pregnant
which complicates or delays their surgery --
or worse --
have had their first litter.
The outcome is no better for pet cats
that are adopted out at 8 weeks,
with the shelter or rescue relying on the guardian
to get the cat sterilized later --
when they're at least 6 months old.
The results are abysmal
even if a sterilization fee is prepaid.
People get busy and wait too long --
or think it'll be okay for the cat to have one litter --
never fully comprehending the results of their actions.
Advent of Kitten Spay/Neuter
In the late 1970s,
borrowing a practice used with farm animals since the early 1900s,
veterinarians at the larger animal shelters
started sterilizing kittens prior to adoption.
Through their efforts,
we now know that this is indeed a safe procedure.
Follow-up tests and studies show essentially no health differences
whether the surgery is performed at 7 weeks or 7 months.
With this information in hand,
the goal now is to get early-age spay/neuter into the mainstream --
where most surgeries occur.
Large shelters account for only a small percentage of kitten adoptions --
most happen person-to-person or through small rescues
that do not have a veterinarian on staff.
Feral cat programs depend on local clinics for their surgeries too.
TLC Spay/Neuter Assistance
Healthy cat euthanasia --
the #1 killer of cats --
is a very preventable malady that can only be stopped
by pro-active sterilization of all cats --
indoor and outdoor --
and the earlier the better.
Our TLC/for The Love of Cats programs
are dedicated to this mission.
Locally we offer free spay/neuter assistance
to both managed feral cats (regardless of caregiver income)
and pet cats of families with limited incomes.
Visit our web site for program details
or call us for an application.
Cat News You Can Use
President Bush Signs Pet Microchip Bill
The 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (HR 2744)
mandates the establishment of a universal encoding standard
for pet microchips.
This would ensure that any lost pet can have its ID implant read
and be identified through a national database.
The provision was spearheaded by
the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families
formed by the major animal organizations
including the American Veterinary Medical Association,
ASPCA, American Humane and HSUS.
The Coalition supports industry-wide adoption
of open technology microchipping
as used in Canada, Europe and parts of Asia
where the universal
134 kHz International Standards Organization (ISO) system is used.
The US market is controlled by two companies --
AVID and Home Again/Schering Plough --
neither is ISO-compliant nor compatible with each other.
Less than 5% of the 164 million
pet cats and dogs in the U.S. are microchipped,
compared to 25% of those in countries where standardized chips are used.
Opening the market brings down the price
so more pet guardians can afford to microchip.
Microchipping is safe, easy and the most effective way
to identify lost pets.