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Neutering to beat the population explosion

A rapidly rising cat population, fuelled by a popular myth around allowing a cat at least one litter before getting it spayed, has forced protection agencies to urge owners to get their pets neutered.

According to extensive research published by the RSPCA, the UK cat population rests somewhere between 9.5 and 11.6 million*, with around 86 per cent of them neutered. However, to achieve a stable domestic cat population the rate needs to rise to 92 per cent, states the charity.

Animal rescue and protection charities face a tough task in reaching this target. Just under one in four adults in the UK owns a cat and staggering 32 per cent of them share the misguided belief that a cat should have kittens before being neutered.

Many of us like to treat our pets like part of the family, a view borne out by survey findings which indicate that women in particular apply anthropomorphic tendencies to their feline and don’t want to take away their cat’s ‘right’ to have babies.

So what can we do to ensure our pets don’t add to the rising cat population? When should we get our felines neutered? Does the process pose any risk to our fluffy little friends, and what will it cost?

The Cat Group, comprising animal welfare and veterinary organisations, recommends that people’s cats are neutered at four months and rescue kittens as early as eight weeks.

Historically, owners were encouraged to take their cats to a vet at six months but many cats reach sexual maturity at four months. This information makes neutering before the first season vital if you want to avoid unplanned litters.

Early neutering may have beneficial effects on your cat, including a reduction in the risk of abscesses, reduced sexual behaviour, less urine spraying and not as much aggression. Studies also suggest females spayed prior to six months have a greater than 90 per cent reduction in the risk of developing mammary carcinoma compared to those that remain unneutered.

There are risks associated with any procedure where your pet has to undergo a general anesthetic, so probably best to ask your vet if you would like to discover more about mortality rates and the possibility of complications.

If you are not in receipt of state support you’re likely to pay around £50 to get your cat neutered. If you are on benefits you may be able to take advantage of one of the subsidies offered by charities and local authorities. The Cats Protection League is offering free, £5 and £10 schemes at various locations around the UK. Visit the Cats Protection League website to see if you qualify.  

*All figures quoted are from a report by the RSPCA (2013).

13 January 2015

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