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Research comment
Cat neutering: the earlier the better to tackle overpopulation
  1. Philippa Welsh, BVSc (Hons), PGCert (Vet Edu), MRCVS, FHEA
  1. Bristol, UK
  1. E-mail: philippa{at}

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Cats have been enjoying a heyday of popularity in recent years. There are approximately 10 million owned cats in the UK1 and images and videos of cats make up some of the most viewed content on the web. But for cats this popularity appears to be having a significant detrimental effect on their welfare as a population.

In 2014, the RSPCA described the cat population of the UK as at ‘crisis point’.2 Around 150,000 cats entered UK animal welfare organisations (AWOs) in 2010, with 65 per cent working at full capacity, and it was estimated that £340 million was spent by over 500 registered animal charities supporting cat welfare.3,4

Perhaps cats are viewed as a low-cost, low-input alternative to dogs; cheaply and easily acquired from free sources, including internet sites such as Gumtree or Preloved. However, as veterinary professionals, we are well aware of the disconnect between our knowledge of the cost of owning a cat, which the PDSA estimates to be at least £12,000 over the course of their lifetime,5 and the naïve view of some pet owners. This is perhaps reflected by more than 30 per cent of cats entering AWOs being abandoned or stray.6

Many cat owners do not have a good understanding of the reproductive capacity of cats. With over 90 per cent of cat owners unaware …

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