Humane spay/neuter programs help keep cat populations in check

While most of our articles are about dogs, I think it is important at this time of year to remind everyone this is “kitten season,” a time when millions of kittens are brought to animal shelters or left to fend for themselves on the street. It’s a compelling reminder of the significant reproductive potential of pet cats, as well as neighborhood stray and feral cats.

Spaying and neutering, however, can help keep cat populations in check. Not only does it prevent litters of kittens, it improves cats’ health, according to Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization based in Bethesda, Md.

That’s why Alley Cat Allies, along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (New York) and other organizations, advocate trap-neuter- return programs for feral cats.

The name is self-explanatory: Feral cats are humanely trapped, neutered or spayed, vaccinated and then returned to their outdoor homes.

“Through trap-neuter-return, we are able to stabilize the population and decrease the number of cats entering shelters,” said Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies. “The cats that remain no longer undergo the stresses of mating and pregnancy.”

A number of organizations across the nation support TNR programs. InNew York, for example, the ASPCA rents humane traps to people who have taken a related certification workshop. And numerous clinics offer free or low cost spaying and neutering service for feral felines.

Given that cats as young as 4 months can become pregnant, it is important to neuter even young animals. Remember, if your cat is an outdoor cat, be sure to have it spayed or neutered.