Neutering is widely recognised as the only effective way to reduce the number of unwanted cats being born in the UK.
Cats Protection alone neutered 158,000 cats in 2013 and yet despite this and the efforts of all the subsidised neutering schemes run by all of the UK’s rescue charities, the cat population continues to spiral out of control.
Research published in 2009 found that of 660 owned female cats, there were 110 unplanned litters of kittens and that only 66% of cats aged 6-12 months were neutered (Murray, J.K, Roberts, M.A, Whitmarsh, A. & Gruffydd-Jones, T.J. (2009) Survey of the characteristics of cats owned by households in the UK and factors affecting their neutered status.)
We also know from later research that many cat owners are largely unaware of the reproductive capacity of cats. This highlights the need to educate the cat-owning public to prevent unplanned litters. (Welsh, C.P., Gruffydd-Jones, T.J., Murray, J.K. (2014) Poor owner knowledge of feline reproduction contributes to the high proportion of accidental litters born to UK pet cats).
In 2014, the RSPCA produced a report called Tackling the Cat Crisis. It found that the number of cats entering the charity's care increased by eight per cent between 2010-12 and that the number of new homes that took in cats declined by 10 per cent. The charity has become increasingly reliant on private boarding establishments to house the cats in its care, at considerable cost. The RSPCA commissioned new research to understand more about why some people do and others do not neuter their cats. One of the key findings was that owners delay neutering because of the incorrect belief that cats should be allowed to have a litter of kittens. Also, a lack of understanding about the age that cats can get pregnant results in a high number of unplanned litters and according to the research, 85 per cent of litters are unplanned.
The report details the findings of the research and sets out a number of solutions. These include:
- Work to ensure all veterinary practices promote and practise neutering at four months (the age at which cats can get pregnant)
- All rescue organisations should adopt policies to neuter prior to rehoming
- Re-focus neutering education campaigns to ensure they reposition neutering as the act of a caring, loving cat owner
- Ensure the one litter myth is dispelled
- Encourage collaboration between animal welfare and rescue organisations, the veterinary profession and housing associations through community outreach programmes to target those audiences less likely to neuter
- Encourage pro-bono support by veterinary professionals to further animal welfare.
The Cat Population Control Group (CPCG)
A number of charities are working together under the umbrella of the Cat Population Control Group (CPCG) to maximise the effectiveness of cat neutering through collaboration on research, joint projects and co-ordination of activities. We know we cannot achieve this without the help of vets.
The key to preventing more unplanned litters of kittens being born is to make four month neutering the ‘norm’ for pet cats. Most pet owners are allowing their cats outside after vaccination and ending up with accidental litters being born in the time period before 6 month neutering
The CPCG has been working to provide a ‘one shop stop’ for vets who are already neutering from four months or who are still neutering at six months but are keen to introduce four month neutering. As part of this activity Cats Protection has launched this microsite and ‘re-branded’ the early neutering register. On this site you will find:
- Links and articles to the scientific evidence supporting four month neutering
- A suggested anaesthetic protocol in a quick reference format
- A video produced for vets by vets, taking you through male and female surgery
- The public and veterinary Kitten Neutering Database
- Resources to help you train your team
- How to become a kitten neutering champion and place your practice on both databases
Evidence and articles
The timing of neutering at four months of age was published as the Cat Group Policy statement in 2006 and is supported by the BSAVA. The policy statement lists lots of scientific references.
Thank you to the Veterinary Times for allowing us to share their published article below.
Some principles for kitten neutering which include tips for feeding, stress management and anaesthetic dosages based on bodyweight and body surface area and a link to an App which will calculate dosages for you.
Kitten neutering video
This short video will take you through the neutering male and female kittens from pre-medication to recovery. This video has been produced as a training aid so contains close up detailed images of surgery which some viewers may find too graphic.
Kitten Neutering Databases
The Kitten Neutering Database is a public search resource enabling them to find a vet who will neuter their four month old kitten. At Cats Protection we will often refer people to the database when we speak to them on our helpline. The requirement to join the register is that your practice will neuter at four months or earlier and this can also help your business to acquire bonded clients.
We also hope to recruit kitten neutering champions. Could those of you who are already neutering at four months or younger consider becoming champions of the cause? This could just take the form of agreeing to be a mentor over the phone or inviting other vets to your practice to see some kitten neutering in action. Please see the role description and sign up information. Your practice details will then be held on the Kitten Neutering Champions database.
Vet is a Kitten Neutering Champion
Vet neuters owned cats at four months
Vet neuters either owned or feral cats at four months or younger
Team training resources
Here you will find a number of materials to run training sessions with your team and materials that promote four month neutering