Pretty well daily we read stories of people who have gotten in over their heads in caring for cats because of one simple, glaring error: they failed to sterilise (spay or neuter) their cat or cats as soon as medically possible. Yesterday I wrote about a British man who went from one cat to 17 in 21 months. He gave up and called Cats Protection. He hadn’t spayed his female cat who he called Oscar. It appears that he thought she was a he. Sons mate with mothers and bingo, you have a army of cats in no time.
It kind of makes you wonder how people get into this situation. It’s something that happens, almost out of control. – Humane Society Volunteer Robert Penrod.
Today a story from Greenville, Darke County, Ohio, USA has the same underlying tones. The Darke County Humane Society took 53 cats (possible more) from a home where the woman in charge had been taken to hospital. She had taken good care of the cats but she ended up being unable to cope. For some unimaginable reason she did not sterilise her cats. Many of them were kittens which is unsurprising.
So here is the deal: someone, I’ll suggest a scientist, should carry out a modern fresh survey in which people, like the two I’ve mentioned, are interviewed and asked why they did not sterilise their cats. We need to know. The authors of these news stories don’t mention it. I have read many stories of cat hoarding or just keeping too many cats and never seen a proper discussion as to why these people let it happen.
We need to get into the minds of these people to understand. Are they careless? Or are they uneducated? Does it cross their mind that they should spay and neuter but don’t do it because of religious reasons or because they think female cats need to have a litter before they can be happy? Perhaps they think the spaying and neutering operations are cruel? Or they can’t afford to have them spayed or neutered? They find out that the cost of not doing it is higher!
A study in 1996 found that a segment of the American population believes that female cats need to have a litter before being spayed. “The reasons for this belief are unclear…”. We need to know. It needs to be discussed and discovered. At present most of what is done in relation to these cases of an overabundance of cats is reactive. The charities step in after the damage has been done. Homes need to be found for unwanted kittens. Vets need to cure the cats because they have been neglected. It is all too late. Let’s see proactive measures based on a scientific review of the causes of the failure to spay and neuter. Slightly over a half of cats abandoned to 12 shelters in the US were sterilised (Salman et al 1998). There is a small but significant percentage of people who cause these problems.
And please let’s see a long term campaign to change the mentality and attitudes of these people who end up out of their depth with dozens of cats. These commonplace examples of out of control cat breeding are bad for cats. They encourage cat abuse. They encourage cat criticism and they encourage people to criticise “mad cat ladies”. They don’t help the public image of elderly women. Cat hoarding encourages misogyny. There are consequences.