The case for compulsory desexing
Cat Crisis Coalition members have been compiling data relating to cat welfare in order to gauge the magnitude and nature of the cat overpopulation crisis and assess the impact of legislation upon this enormous problem. This overpopulation is confirmed by over 30,000 cats being destroyed annually in Victoria for the past ten years.
Legislation has improved the cat’s legal status and has increased community awareness of the welfare of cats, BUT it has not addressed the huge numbers of unwanted cats that are euthanased by Victorian shelters. This will not change until the underlying cause of this overpopulation is addressed. Cats are prolific breeders and the only practical way to resolve this crisis is to introduce compulsory desexing.
- Victorian shelters receive 48,000 cats and kittens annually. These figures have remained constant from 1990 - 2003.
- Over 30,000 of these are destroyed. i.e. 75%
- A large proportion of these cats are less than 4 months of age
- Destroying these cats is a huge emotional and financial burden
- Cats received by shelters vary from being in a poor state (and have suffered from a borderline existence as strays) to cats that are healthy, but do not have homes.
THERE ARE SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH HOMES AVAILABLE
CAT STATISTICS - Why we have an overpopulation crisis.
- Only 85% of the owned cats are already desexed!
- 97% need to be desexed for us not to have the excess that we destroy
- 18% of female cats have produced 1 litter before they are desexed, which contributes to the excess. (‘Early desexing’, i.e. desexing of kittens from 8 weeks of age, solves this problem)
- Only 36% of cats under 12 months of age are desexed.
- Only 22% of stray/unwanted cats are desexed
- Female cats can be pregnant before they are 6 months old (the age currently most commonly recommended for desexing).
EARLY AGE DESEXING
Early age desexing would contribute significantly to solving the problem of excess cats. It has been readily accepted by the general public. The Cat Protection Society (Vic) has been performing early age desexing since 1991 and other shelters now routinely do likewise.
An extensive review of the veterinary literature has found no deleterious effects of desexing from 8 weeks of age. Ironically all shelters and pounds already comply with desexing before acquisition ( i.e. before cats go to permanent homes), under the Pounds and Shelter Code. Thus early desexing is performed on a regular basis. However cats acquired through other sources, such as pet shops, are not required to be desexed. This approach is inconsistent.
COMMUNITY COMPLAINTS RELATED TO CATS
The Cat Protection Society investigated 10,291 formal complaints from April 1996 to May 2001, the great majority of which related to behaviour exhibited by undesexed cats; i.e. noise and spraying:
- noise, spraying, garden damage 82%
- wildlife issues 6%
- other problems 12%
84% of the cats causing these problems were undesexed.
ALTERNATIVES TO DESEXING ARE RISKY OR IMPRACTICAL
- Cat contraceptives carry the risk of uterine infection and diabetes and failure if not administered
- Confinement is impractical and unrealistic for both females in season and entire males:
- if a queen (undesexed female) in season is contained in an outside enclosure, she will attract undesexed male cats and cause a great deal of noise with her calling.
- if she is confined inside she will literally climb curtains and demolish flyscreens to get outside.
- she will continue to call for males and if not mated will most likely develop ovarian cysts, which require veterinary treatment.
- confined entire males spray urine on their territory - a characteristic that usually results in the owner putting the cat outside, where he is free to seek undesexed female cats;
- The average life span of a desexed cat is 5 times greater than an undesexed cat.
COMPULSORY DESEXING IS THE ONLY SOLUTION
TO THE CAT OVERPOPULATION CRISIS
- All cats over the age of 12 weeks must be desexed unless registered to a licenced breeder.
- All cats and kittens offered for sale by pet shops or licenced breeders must be desexed.
- Council-subsidised desexing schemes must be widely introduced, using cat registration funds that, to date, have not been allocated for cat welfare/management activities.
To ensure that legislation is enacted in Victoria to require that all cats over the age of 12 weeks are desexed unless registered to a licenced breeder; and require that all cats and kittens offered for sale, or acquired must be desexed.
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