Fix by Five could be revolutionary in reducing cat overpopulation
Fix by Five could be revolutionary in reducing cat overpopulation.
For years, pet activists have advocated, ‘Get your cat spay/neutered’. The message has sunk in, as intact cats result in less than 15 percent of all kittens ending up in shelters. The other 85 percent comes from Tweens that are having kittens.
85% of kittens come from Tweens having kittens
These Tweens are still kittens, and these kittens are having kittens. Having your kitty spay/neutered at three or four months old would drastically reduce the number of kittens in shelters. My Lenny was safely neutered when he reached 2 pounds. He was eight-weeks-old, and some five years later, he’s doing just fine. And we didn’t have any little Lenny’s due to this early neutering.
While early spay/neuter is common when adopting cats, it’s not so common outside of the sheltering world.
Changing the paradigm that says you should wait till kitty is six-months-old for spay/neuter will be challenging, but with education, promotion, and the help of writers and bloggers like Paws for Reflection, we can educate veterinarians, shelter workers and the general public why early intervention is SO VERY important.
Fix Cats by Five, not six or even at five months
The real issue is not whether to have your kitty spay/neutered, but when.
Paws learned about the Fix by Five Initiative when Esther Mechler, executive director and founder of Marian’s Dream reached out to us, asking if we would be interested in learning more about the project. As promoting a better life for all cats is one of Paws’ key mantras, we couldn’t wait to find out more.
Marian’s Dream Fix by Five Months Initiative advocates spaying/neutering cats by five months or less, rather than at the commonly accepted six months, which has no scientific basis. This small change would help decrease the risk of unwanted litters by ensuring that these tween kittens will not have that accidental first ‘whoops’ litter. Although over 80 percent of household cats are spay/neutered eventually, many have had at least one prior litter, ensuring that there are, annually, millions of kittens born that will not find a permanent home.
The real issue is when to have your kitty spay/neutered
The idea is getting a lot of support. Marian’s Dream spearheaded a Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization which developed a consensus statement regarding spaying and neutering cats and kittens prior to five months of age.
Those signing on includes:
- American Association of Feline Practitioners
- Association of Shelter Veterinarians
- CATalyst Council
- The Cat Fanciers’ Association
- The International Cat Association (TICA)
- Winn Feline Foundation
- American Animal Hospital Association
Mechler says the six-month idea is tied to dogs who typically do not have a first litter before that. Cats, however, can go into heat as early as 12-weeks. They also go in and out of heat until they become pregnant. Their heat cycles are also tied to daylight – the further south you go the longer the kitten season is. Check out our blog post ‘How many cats can come from one cat’.
Typically, in northern climates, it begins in late January or February and extends till October. Cats can have up to 2 to 3 litters of kittens a year. That’s a lot of kittens entering an overcrowded shelter system. It is believed that 70 percent of all cats that enter the shelter system are euthanized.
Most everyone loves kittens
Most everyone loves kittens. They are so cute and cuddly, but the fact is, these unwanted kittens end up in shelters and contribute to the 860,000 to 1.4 million cats that are put down each year. Mechler looks forward to a day when there are a shortage of kittens. Then people will learn to really appreciate them.
She has been working with organizations like SpayMaine, coordinator of the FixMe program in Maine, and has reported some great success with their efforts to spay/neuter at a younger age. It isn’t only the public that needs to change, it’s also the veterinarians. Many still believe six-months if the right time to have the cat spay/neutered.
In addition to curbing the overpopulation problem, there are health benefits. Cats that are spayed before their first heat cycle have a 91 percent lower risk for developing mammary cancer, which kills an estimated 75,000 cats every year. Mechler adds, cats have a greater risk – by 1,500 times – of dying from mammary gland cancer than from contracting rabies.
Additional benefits of spaying and neutering include many positive behavioral changes, such as:
- Reduced aggression
- Less marking
- Howling and other heat-related behaviors
Mechler is no new-comer to helping better the lives of pets, including cats. She was a driving force behind the Beat the Heat program.
The biggest barriers: education and income. Making spay/neuter affordable is a key element in reducing cat overpopulation. It can also work to help the ferals, as well, as the dedicated volunteers doing Trap, Neuter, Return, can trap cats at a much earlier age.
Paws for Reflection thinks this is a great cause, and we will be bringing you more posts about this very important subject.
Spread the word about fixing your kitties at an earlier age. Please share your thoughts, comments, and take on this great cause.