Mews & Views

Mews & Views -- A blog for cat lovers everywhere with a focus on the low-income pet cats of northern and central New Mexico.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Sterilize Pet [Cats] First"

In the April 2010 issue of Animal People, Merritt Clifton wrote an interesting and inspiring editorial titled “How To Introduce Neuter/Return & Make It Work”. Much to our surprise -- he stresses the importance of sterilizing pets first. It took us almost ten years of facilitating the spay/neuter of cats in both TNR colonies and lower-income homes to reach this conclusion – and we’ve never seen any print reference to it before. In his editorial, Clifton points out that:

"Roaming pet cats have more than enough reproductive capacity to quickly replace themselves and the entire feral cat population: and because the roaming pet cats may be making the greatest contribution to cat population growth, the program (TNR) can accomplish more, faster by focusing on sterilizing the roaming pet cats  than by starting out trapping ferals. Trapping ferals should be the second phase of the program, begun after the sterilization rate among the roaming pet cats is raised to 70%-plus.”

Let no one question for an instant the importance of getting all cats fixed – feral and friendly – living indoors and out. But the question is, "Where can the most good be done with the limited financial resources available to provide free spay/neuter help?" And the answer has to be with the pet cats – that because they are not sterilized – are either given a wide berth to live outdoors (and reproduce) – or are abandoned because of their unsterilized-cat behaviors – yowling, fighting, spraying and kittening -- are impossible to live indoors with for any extended amount of time.

One has to wonder why the focus of limiting cat populations started with feral cat colonies instead of assisting lower-income pet cats in the first place. It’s commonly accepted that these cats are the primary source of new feral colonies. Wouldn’t it make more sense to cut off the source instead of dealing with the aftermath ?  Since they’re companion cats– they’re easier to sterilize – you don’t have to live trap them --  and they already have in-place caregivers to provide their life care – once they're fixed.

I think two factors determined the present TNR focus:  (1) Alley Cat Allies highly effective (and important) campaign to provide a humane alternative to shelter euthanasia for outdoor-living cats, and (2) the American Puritan ethic that demonizes lower-income pet guardians as irresponsible for not fixing their cats --ignoring the fact they don't have the money to do so  -- over offering a community hand to get their cats fixed.   Sadly, this is reminiscent of cutting off your nose to spite your face!

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