The past two years may prove that It Could Finally Be a Turning Point for Cats and their welfare! Why? Because at the start of 2016 a veterinary task force was formed with the goal of improving cat welfare. By the middle of 2017, all major national veterinary organizations had endorsed the statement the task force created!
This chart is taken from page 27 of the IPSOS Marketing studies commissioned in 2009 and 2011 by Petsmart Charities. It was entitled: “There is Confusion Among Owners as to the Appropriate Age to Have Dogs/Cats Spayed or Neutered”, with 17% indicating “Do Not Know”.
Nearly as alarming are the 42% who indicate sterilization by 6 months (by which time cats can be approaching delivery of their first litter of kittens). Worse yet? An additional 14% who say 9 months or older is appropriate!
This chart indicates that ¾ of the adults either did not know when to spay/neuter, or thought that 6 months or later is fine.
This widespread confusion regarding when to spay or neuter cats led us, at Marian’s Dream, to ask if there might not be consensus among the veterinarians who studied the issue. There are many reasons not to wait till first heat. Some include the increased risk of mammary gland cancer, development of unwelcome, hormone-related behaviors, and of course, risk of unwanted, unplanned litters.
On January 15, 2016 a group of prominent veterinarians met at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, FL. The group was invited by Joan Miller, Chair of Outreach and Education at The Cat Fanciers’ Association, and was sponsored by Marian’s Dream. This Task Force created a consensus document about best practices regarding spaying cats. A summary is as follows:
Given the known benefits of sterilization and the lack of evidence for harm related to age at which the procedure is performed, the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization calls for veterinary practitioners and professional associations to recommend sterilization of cats by five months of age. This provides practitioners with a consistent message that may increase veterinary visits and spay/neuter compliance. It would also reduce the risk of pet relinquishment and unwanted offspring.
The Task Force was comprised of professionals from the following organizations with which they worked:
It was another 18 months until all of these organizations endorsed the statement officially, with board approval. As of July, 2017, all had endorsed the consensus document. Now, for the first time, veterinarians have a clear message to send to their clients.
People wanting to read more about this can go to Feline Fix By Five and can share the link with their veterinarians. Veterinarians who spay or neuter cats by five months can list their practice on the site. This way, people can find them and spare their clients’ cats much misery! We welcome people to take part in this campaign in their home towns, shelters, and rescue groups.
By 2020 we hope that 75% of people will know the best time to Fix their Felines is between eight and twenty weeks!