Health communication key to uptake of early-age cat desexing

The Cat Protection Society of NSW has announced a positive change in owner attitudes to responsible cat ownership, but with kitten season around the corner, it’s not time to be complacent about keeping our felines healthy, said Cat Protection CEO Kristina Vesk.

“Understanding the health benefits of desexing has the potential to persuade almost all current and future owners to desex their cats,” said Ms Vesk.

A key finding of Cat Protection’s June 2018 Ipsos survey was that most cat owners (90%) have already desexed their cats and 88% of future cat owners would desex their cats.

BENEFITS OF EARLY-AGE CAT DESEXING

The survey then provided information about the benefits of early-age cat desexing:

  • Desexing is safe
  • Female cats can get pregnant from as young as 4-5 months
  • Desexing has health benefits, such as reducing the risk of various cancers
  • Desexing has behavioural benefits, such as less wandering, fewer cat fights and cats less likely to ‘spray’ (urine)

More than 60% of owners of desexed cats knew of these benefits but fewer than half the owners of undesexed cats, and future cat owners, knew of the benefits. After the health communications, when asked again about desexing intention, almost all respondents stated they would desex their cats.

“This insight is not a fluke – last year’s survey identified that providing information about the benefits of early-age desexing could increase the rate of cat desexing by up to 11%,” said Ms Vesk. “Two decades of evidence show that early-age desexing is medically and behaviourally safe. However, many people remain unaware of its benefits. All of us in pet, welfare and veterinary services need to do more to educate people about the benefits of early-age desexing if we are to manage feline population growth.”

Cat Protection Society resources on cat desexing

 Cat Protection’s consumer website (catprotection.org.au) has two videos on the benefits of early-age desexing, one of which includes Auslan interpreters as well as links to veterinary reports and factsheets, including bilingual cat welfare information (Arabic/Hindi/Vietnamese/Simplified Chinese).

Cat Protection’s website for people who work with cats (catcare.org.au) offers a free CPD-points accredited education package for veterinarians on early-age desexing. Cat Protection’s Good Neighbour Project brochure (which promotes all aspects of responsible cat ownership) is available free of charge to vet clinics, pet shops, and councils.

“Age of cat and expense were the top two reasons people gave for not yet desexing their cats. Both these obstacles can be overcome with information and discounted services such as those provided by Cat Protection and other animal welfare charities,” said Ms Vesk. “We are grateful for the support of our members and donors, Professor Barrs and all the vets who work with us. We will continue our efforts to assist cat owners and we’re proud that our concerted vaccination campaign delivered strongly for feline health.”