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Four In Five Unwanted Kittens Euthanased

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

25 June 2008 - Pet overpopulation is a major issue in both New Zealand and Australia, especially with cats. In fact, one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in just six years.

Thousands of kittens each year are being euthanased, not because they are diseased or sick, but because animal shelters and SPCAs cannot find homes for them.

Australian veterinarian and professor of companion animal health at the University of Queensland, Jacquie Rand, is speaking at the New Zealand Veterinary Association's annual conference this week about early age desexing (EAD), which she says could drastically reduce the number of kittens and puppies being put down each year.

She says animal shelters in Australia and New Zealand have a massive overload of kittens during spring and summer, which often leads to many of the kittens having to be put down.

"The people who work in these shelters generally work there because they love animals. It is really tough for them when they have to decide which one kitten in five lives and which four are to be euthanased," she says.

"The vast majority of these kittens have already been socialised with people and are only being put down because they have no home to go to."

Early age desexing is not only a way to reduce the overpopulation of unwanted kittens and puppies, studies have shown that it can also be beneficial to the animal's health.

"Cats are able to get pregnant at sixteen weeks. Neutering them at eight to sixteen weeks, instead of the traditional six months, can mean cats are less aggressive, less likely to suffer from fight wounds and asthma and are generally better pets and companions."

She says while male dogs can benefit from EAD, bitches should be assessed by a veterinarian before being neutered early.

"Studies have shown a slight increase in urinary incompetence in early desexing of female dogs. However, in male dogs and cats of both sexes there is evidence of improved health."

She also attributes the overpopulation problem to owners waiting until their cats have had a litter of kittens before they are desexed.

"There is no evidence that cats benefit from having a litter of kittens. Recent studies have shown the opposite to be true and that having a litter of kittens can have health and behavioral disadvantages."

Dr Rand believes a major setback to the introduction of EAD is that most veterinary students are not being being exposed to it and often feel uncomfortable performing surgery on animals so young.

"I believe if students are taught about the benefits of EAD during their training, and are exposed to the surgical techniques, they will be more confident with the surgery."

While in younger animals the tissues are more fragile and more attention has to be given to maintaining their body temperature, studies have found that the surgery is a lot easier and less stressful on the animal.

"Early age desexing is physically quicker and easier to perform, and the surgery is associated with fewer complications. The anaesthesia and surgery are less stressful on the animal and their recovery is faster."

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