Neuter-return is the worst possible way to deal with cats, except for all the others

February 14, 2014

bigstock-Face-of-cat-closeup-26574392Let’s imagine every single thing the opponents of neuter-return programs say is true.

Imagine these programs don’t reduce population, don’t help control rodents, don’t reduce the risk of rabies or other zoonotic disease, don’t reduce shelter intake or killing, don’t reduce citizen complaints. Imagine they have a negative population impact on wildlife.

None of that would matter, and here’s why.

  • There is no evidence catch and kill reduces population. Neither does doing nothing.
  • There is no evidence catch and kill reduces risk of rabies or other zoonotic disease. Neither does doing nothing.
  • There is no evidence catch and kill reduces citizen complaints. Neither does doing nothing.
  • There is no evidence catch and kill reduces shelter intake or killing. Neither does doing nothing.
  • There is no evidence catch and kill reduces the number of animals found dead in the field. Neither does doing nothing.
  • There is no evidence catch and kill reduces negative population impact on wildlife. Neither does doing nothing.

Even if neuter-return opponents want to step up their efforts to catch and kill outdoor cats, they’ll never be able to change those facts. That’s because they’ll never be able to catch and kill all outdoor cats.

Look at islands where there are no new humans or cats able to enter the system. Total cat eradication efforts have taken 10-20 years and cost millions of dollars. In our mainland cities, where new humans and cats enter the system ever day, it would be virtually impossible and incredibly expensive to catch and kill all the neighborhood cats who live outdoors, whether owned or not.

And believe me, no one will help with catch and kill. Municipalities that might try to go that way will have to pay for every bit of it, and indeed, cat advocates will fight them every step of the way, creating both expense and a PR battle that will never end.

With neuter-return programs, on the other hand, you’ll have an army of volunteers not just willing but eager to help you catch, sterilize, and return healthy cats to their habitat.

Additionally, you’ll find you have the support of dozens of charities and advocacy groups ready to contribute money and labor and time to that effort.

And that  is why people who oppose neuter-return programs either haven’t done their homework or are being disingenuous. Because even if every cat-hating word ever spewed by the most ardent feline-phobe about neuter-return were true, it still doesn’t change the fact that the alternatives are even worse.

Filed under: no-kill — Christie Keith @ 1:40 pm


  1. You’re exactly right, Christie, when you write, “people who oppose neuter-return programs either haven’t done their homework or are being disingenuous.” The American Bird Conservancy, in particular, has taken disingenuous to a new level, with their ongoing witch-hunt against free-roaming cats (now in its 18th year).

    Just last Sunday, ABC president George Fenwick was quoted in the Washington Post Magazine, arguing that unowned, free-roaming cats (often called “feral,” though the term isn’t accurate) “are not wanted by society.”

    “There’s a misguided notion that euthanasia of cats is somehow immoral,” Fenwick continued. “It’s not immoral—it’s just a sad and necessary fact.”

    Describing the killing of cats—on a scale that makes shelter killing looking like a rounding error—as a moral imperative is brazen even for these witch-hunt pioneers. Troubling on the one hand, but I see it as little more than a desperate struggle for relevance in a culture that’s moving on without them.

    Comment by Peter J. Wolf — February 14, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

  2. Let’s assume for a moment that the opponents are NOT right. In the seven years ca-r-ma – Cat Rescue Maritimes has operated in my area I have, as a trapper, seen one colony of 25 cats and one colony of 13 cats disappear through TNR and attrition, dozens of other colonies reduced by 25% or more, and hundreds of potential colonies prevented by the simple act of altering one or two free roaming cats. TNR….and the sooner the better….is the only solution that is both humane and effective. The only other cure for this problem is to change human attitudes toward spay/neutering pets. It is because of pet over population that free roaming cats and feral colonies exist. If owners learn to spay/neuter and stop the all too common practice of dumping unwanted cats, the free roaming cat issue will disappear.

    Comment by Madi — February 17, 2014 @ 8:21 am

  3. Madi, according to the 2012 statistics published on-line by HSUS, 91 percent of owned cats (and 83 percent of owned dogs) are spayed or neutered:

    Comment by Eucritta — February 17, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Eucritta,

    I have seen that stat about the percentage of spayed cats, but I think it also includes data that 20% or so had at least one litter before their spay.

    If we could get a 20% reduction in pregnancies … wow. Imagine.

    Comment by Mary — February 23, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

  5. Mary, where are you getting your “20% reduction in pregnancies” from? From somehow spaying all the ones who eventually get spayed before they have any litters?

    You do realize that while responsible dog breeders may not ever spay some of their females, even years after they’ve stopped breeding, responsible cat breeders generally DO spay all their (formerly) breeding females? Also their breeding males?

    So no, really, not going to eliminate all those litters.

    That’s assuming the 20% of eventually-spayed female cats actually represented 20% of all cat pregnancies. And seriously, I want to see that math, because that would seem to be an equation where none of the variables are known numbers.

    Comment by Lis Carey — February 23, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

  6. I have been caring for a small colony for 6 years. I got all but 2 spayed/neutered and then some adults where added to me group because people just drop them off/move away/or whatever the reason… they decide to stop taking care of their animal. I can’t afford to feed the now 15 adult cats and I completely believe in the TNR program. I wish everyone would do their part in controling the population.

    Comment by Marilyn Maracle — March 5, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

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