OVERVIEW: Fertility control is important for population management of owned and unowned cats, provides health benefits at the individual level and can reduce unwanted sexually dimorphic behaviors such as roaming, aggression, spraying and calling. This article reviews the available evidence regarding European and American veterinarian, owner and pedigree cat breeder attitudes toward both surgical sterilization and non-surgical fertility control. It additionally presents new data on veterinarians' and pedigree cat breeders' use of, and attitudes toward, alternative modalities of fertility control.
PROPORTION OF CATS THAT ARE NEUTERED: Within the United States and Europe, the proportion of cats reported to be sterilized varies widely. Published estimates range from 27-93% for owned cats and 2-5% for cats trapped as part of a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. In some regions and populations of cats, non-surgical fertility control is also used. Social context, cultural norms, individual preferences, economic considerations, legislation and professional organizations may all influence fertility control decisions for cats.
NON-SURGICAL METHODS OF FERTILITY CONTROL: Particularly in Europe, a limited number of non-surgical temporary contraceptives are available for cats; these include products with regulatory approval for cats as well as some used 'off label'. Non-surgical methods remove the risk of complications related to surgery and offer potential to treat more animals in less time and at lower cost; they may also appeal to pedigree cat breeders seeking temporary contraception. However, concerns over efficacy, delivery methods, target species safety, duration and side effects exist with current non-surgical options. Research is under way to develop new methods to control fertility in cats without surgery. US and European veterinarians place high value on three perceived benefits of surgical sterilization: permanence, behavioral benefits and health benefits. Non-surgical options will likely need to share these benefits to be widely accepted by the veterinary community.