Near 100% spaying and neutering of domestic cats would put back cat domestication

Introduction: the spaying and neutering of cats is a good thing for obvious reasons. This article is not against spaying and neutering it is simply discussing what might be an unexpected outcome if great success were encountered in this process.

Arguing against the removal of ovaries and testes
Photo courtesy of Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project)
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In an idea which sounds like science fiction, Dr Bradshaw states that if the widespread practice of neutering and spaying of cats before having offspring becomes highly successful resulting in almost a hundred percent of cats being sterilised, it would put back the progress and evolution of the domestication of the cat.

The theory is this. If sterilisation is near a hundred percent then the only cats who’d be unsterilised would be those who are the most difficult to find and catch. They would be stray cats on the fringes of society, hiding and wary of human beings. These are the cats who would bear offspring and their offspring woul follow their parents in being wary and essentially unadoptable.

Near 100% sterilisation if it could be attained, would result in a domestic cat population who were unsuited to be pets. The argument is simplified on this page but the logic is clear.

It would take many, many generations for this state of affairs to be attained but it might well be attained nonetheless.

Dr Bradshaw refers to a study that he conducted in 1999 which suggests that this theory cannot be “dismissed as science fiction”.

In an area of Southampton, UK, he discovered that more than 90% of the domestic cat companion population had been neutered and spayed. People who wanted to adopt cats had to travel outside of the city to find them.

This state of affairs had existed for some time. The cat population was not self-sustaining and had ceased to be self-sustaining in the late 1980s. They found 10 females that were breeding cats and tested the temperament of their kittens at six–months-of-age when they were homed.

They theorised that only feral males had fathered the kittens because there were so few intact males available. They found that, on average, the kittens were less likely to be lap cats than kittens born in another area of the city where there was a reasonable number of unsterilised pet tomcats i.e. the kittens were less suited to be pets.

It is an interesting thought because there is a widespread drive to sterilise all cats both domestic and feral; a laudable aim. The ultimate goal of 100% sterilisation (if it were attainable) would result in the gradual extinction of domestic cats.

Source: Dr Bradshaw’s Cat Sense.

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