The existence of homeless/unwanted cats is one of the major problems involving companion animals in the United States. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. (CFA), has reaffirmed its commitment to reducing the number of cats euthanized in this country. Breeders of pedigreed cats have encouraged the neutering and spaying of pet cats for many years as part of responsible animal care.
Surgical altering is currently the only foolproof and permanent method of birth control for cats. A spay is the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female animal. A female cat’s risk of getting mammary cancer is reduced when she is spayed before her first heat cycle, which can occur as young as 4 to 5 months. Neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles of a male animal. Neutering a male kitten before 5 months generally prevents the development of mating behavior such as spraying urine to mark territory.
Policies regarding spay/neuter of young kittens are endorsed by the American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, SPAY/ USA, American Animal Hospital Association, the Winn Feline Foundation, CFA and many other animal organizations. CFA and others encourage spaying and neutering of owned kittens by five months and the use of early age spay/neuter by shelters. This will ensure that all kittens adopted from shelters are altered prior to leaving the facility, thus eliminating the need for contracts and follow up.
We must continue to insist that local shelters and animal control agencies alter all cats prior to adoption or require a written sterilization agreement. (The agreement should contain a deposit requirement and language requiring the owner to alter cats/kittens within 30 days of adoption or by their 4th-5th month estimated birth date.) There must be provisions for strict follow through and/or penalties with the above. Currently, compliance by people adopting pets from animal agencies is estimated to be only 60%. Improvement in this area will have a great impact on reducing a major source of the shelter population. These requirements should be vigorously enforced before any coercive legislation is even considered. The state of Texas adopted this policy through legislation passed in 1992 and a majority of other states have followed. According to the Michigan State University Animal Legal Center, 32 states now require shelters and agencies to sterilize dogs and cats prior to transfer or adoption, with some exceptions.
Neuter/spay programs must be directed toward the main sources of unwanted animals; unowned/feral cats; unaltered cats allowed to roam and randomly mate; and, cats who are mated indiscriminately but purposefully (i.e. not a part of a recognized breeding program).
We also consider it the responsibility of conscientious breeders of pedigreed cats to take all appropriate steps to ensure that animals placed by them, not specifically intended to be used in a recognized breeding program, be altered before any opportunity to mate. Pet stores, rescue groups and any others who place cats should also ensure similar sterilization compliance.
Pedigreed cat breeders have used sterilization contracts and follow up for over 30 years, with a high rate of success.