Thousands of un-neutered cats face potentially deadly yet preventable diseases, according to vet charity PDSA, which today joined forces with other UK animal charities to raise awareness of a pet health crisis.
Research from PDSA’s latest Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report has found that nearly a million cats (945,000) are not neutered putting them at risk of contracting deadly preventable diseases such as pyometra (infection of the womb), cancer and FIV – the feline equivalent of HIV.
Thousands of female cats are also at risk of giving birth to unwanted litters causing heartache for UK households and loading pressure on hard-pushed rehoming centres.
Meanwhile a new poll has found that over half (60%) who had experienced their cat having kittens would not let them have kittens again.
Nine animal welfare charities* which make up the Cat Population Control Group (CPCG) have released the new figures after surveying cat owners in time for World Spay Day.
Almost a third (30 per cent) of all the owners who had already experienced their pet having a litter of kittens said they found it harder than they imagined it would be.
Many people found giving up the kittens the most challenging thing to do, with more than half of people surveyed (52 per cent) experiencing difficulty in finding good homes for them, while 45 per cent said saying goodbye to the new kittens was hard.
A quarter of cat owners surveyed chose to keep their kittens but most found them homes with people they know. Sadly, 12 per cent had to rely on rescue centres to take the kittens in.
Animal welfare charities are now urging loving owners to get their cats spayed to protect them from getting pregnant. It can also protect them from developing potentially deadly diseases of the ovaries and uterus. Male cats that haven’t been neutered are also more likely to roam and fight, putting them at risk of injury, infected wounds and contracting diseases, including FIV – the feline equivalent of HIV.
Nicola Martin, Head of Pet Health and Welfare for PDSA and spokesperson for the CPCG, said: “Cat owners can have a romanticised view of letting their cat have kittens but the reality of looking after the litter can be very different.
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“A common misconception is that cats should be allowed to have one litter before spaying them but this simply isn’t true.
“As our research has shown, most owners would be reluctant to let their cat have a second litter of kittens having gone through the process once.
“Our advice is to have female cats spayed at four months – before they attract the attention of local tom cats.”
PDSA vets have saved the life of a cat just hours from death with a condition all-too-common among unneutered pets.
Two-year-old Maisy was taken to Stoke PDSA Pet Hospital by her owner, Monica Green, who had become increasingly concerned by her cat’s unusual behaviour and that she was discharging large amounts of fluid:
“We presumed it was because she was in heat. But when she became withdrawn and off her food we took her straight to PDSA.”
As soon as the charity’s veterinary team examined Maisy, they knew her life was in severe danger, as Duncan Senior, PDSA’s Senior Vet, recalls: “We quickly realised that Maisy was suffering from a severe pyometra – a serious infection of the uterus which can rupture and lead to death.
It’s a condition we only see in female pets that are not spayed. Although it is more common in dogs it can happen to cats too.
We rushed Molly into theatre to carefully remove her uterus. It was a delicate operation due to the risk of rupturing. Happily it went smoothly and Maisy made a very good recovery.”
Though potentially fatal, pyometra can be simply prevented by having your pet neutered. Across the UK, around 10% of cats; 30% of dogs; and 52% of rabbits are not neutered, leaving over 3.9 million pets at risk of serious health problems.