An RSPCA report states that in order for the domestic cat population to be stable (i.e. neither increasing or decreasing) the domestic cat neutering rate needs to be 92%. This means that 92% of domestic cats need to be neutered at any one time. Sadly, as at 2012, neutering rates in the UK of owned cats was 86%. In the UK “neutering” means both the neutering of male cats and the spaying of females.
The question then is how to increase neutering rates to 92%. The solution is about education and firmly getting across the message, to the people concerned, about spaying female cats. Interesting note: Male cat castration is irrelevant for cat population control say the RSPCA. I find that hard to believe.
In the UK, three quarters of all the cats are adopted as kittens. Across the socio-economic groups there are different attitudes towards neutering. In socio economic groups C2DE twice as many people do not neuter their cats compared to groups ABC1. As mentioned in a previous post when a kitten is acquired spontaneously, meaning without preparation and thought then there’s a much greater chance of not neutering that cat.
In the UK, as is the case I believe in the USA, despite the fact that most people believe that neutering is a good idea, a lot of people believe that a female cat should have a litter of kittens before she is spayed. Therefore the attitude to neuter a cat is only effected after a first litter. It seems that a reason for this is because cat owners think that their female cat will make a great mother and they don’t want to deny their cat the right to motherhood. This is anthropomorphising their cat. They believe that what they are doing is good for their cat.
The RSPCA make a very good point. When a female cat has a litter it is much more difficult to find a window to spay that cat because of the need to wait until the kittens have been weaned, at which time she may have become pregnant again. They state that the probability of an un-neutered female cat becoming pregnant again is about 80% or higher. 15% of all female cats in the UK have had at least one litter while 85% will be unplanned.
Even though the RSPCA provide discount neutering services and the cost of neutering is not that high, people who do not neuter their cats are more cost-conscious and are more likely to overestimate the cost of the operation. Perhaps too they are comparing the easy and free method of acquiring their cat, from a friend, with the actual financial cost of neutering which makes it look more expensive.
It seems too that people who don’t neuter are unaware of discount neutering or don’t know where to obtain subsidised neutering.
People who do not neuter their cats are not aware that they are contributing to the cat overpopulation problem and therefore do not feel the obligation to neuter for that reason.
So to recap, the primary problems are that some people believe that the female cat should have a litter of kittens and that they are confused about when to neuter. The solution then is education. The “one litter myth” needs to be tackled and removed from the mentality of these people.
Veterinarians have a role to play in educating. Not neutering a cat is also associated with not being registered with the veterinarian which obviously limits the possibility of educating their client. Rescue organisations sometimes run outreach projects to cat owners in which they highlight the benefits of the owner such as providing free worm treatment and a health check which gets the people in and at which point they can then educate them about neutering.
The RSPCA provide what they believe are key ingredients for achieving success in increasing neutering rates of female cats:
- Veterinary practices should promote and carry out pre-pubertal neutering.
- All rescue organisations should adopt policies to neuter cats prior to rehoming them.
- Neutering educational programs should highlight the fact that neutering is an act of a caring cat owner.
- To dispel the myths of the one litter female cat.
- To ensure that rescue organisations, veterinarians and housing associations collaborate in outreach programs to reach the people who are less likely to neuter their cats.
- Veterinary clinics to provide pro bono support.
Source: this is a summarised version of the RSPCA PDF document entitled: Tackling the Cat Crisis A Collaborative Approach to Neutering.