Sunday, October 25, 2009

More on pet neutering

The Regional Board this Saturday agreed another year's matched funding for help with pet neutering in Region East and there was also an interesting discussion on aims, achievements and how we measure effectiveness.

We've got records of activity going back over the past century and we can demonstrate the effectiveness of neutering in transforming a situation where every female cat in Britain gave birth each spring and her kittens were almost all killed to one where every healthy kitten born can find a home.

At first sight it might look as though if we could do even more neutering we would reduce the cat population to the point where we could guarantee a home for every unwanted adult cat too.

But it that true? In the 1900s killing of very young kittens was essentially a method of birth control—people like the author Henry Salt cared just as much about their adult cats as we do today. Neutering probably hasn't decreased the population of adult cats—in fact we know it has increased; probably because cats are more suitable than dogs for families where both parents work outside the home. By providing help with neutering costs we are probably ensuring that some people neuter who otherwise would be deterred by the costs, but some of them would probably have got their cats neutered anyway.

There's possibly an optimum equilibrium position where putting more money into neutering is subject to the law of diminishing returns and would be more usefully spent elsewhere (for example on veterinary treatment so that more adult animals with injuries can be rehomed).