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Is Birth Control the Answer to Wild Behavior?

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

When a reader told me about cat contraceptives, my ears perked up. She and her cat-friendly neighbors want to test an oral cat contraceptive on the feral cat population in their neighborhood.

Like many towns and cities across the country (and in other countries too) the feral cat population continues to grow. It breaks our hearts to see these homeless cats. Many of us have done TNR (Trap Neuter Return). We know which veterinarians, animal shelters, and nonprofit animal welfare organizations offer free or low cost spay and neuter programs. I know TNR works; yet it can get expensive.

The product is called FeralStat, which is mixed into cat food that is left outside for feral cats to consume.

“It’s just not safe,” says Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM and director of Veterinary Medical Services of the Animal Rescue League of Boston and president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. “And since it is mixed into food left outside, it is eaten by male cats, kittens, pregnant cats, raccoons, skunks and other animals who happen to wander by.”

Ernie Ward, Jr., DVM of Seaside Veterinary Clinic in Calabash, NC, agrees, “There has been considerable controversy regarding the new claims for these contraceptives.”

According to Drs. Martha and Ernie, other veterinarians I spoke to, and the 6th edition of Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook, the drug in FeralStat puts animals at risk of getting uterine infections, diabetes, mammary swelling, tumors, and skin disorders. It can induce abortion in pregnant cats.

“The general consensus from vets is that it’s not recommended and doesn’t appear to help with feral cat populations,” says Dr. Ernie. “My opinion, and I believe this is 90 plus percent of all vets that deal with feral cat populations, is that if you’re going to feed feral cats, you need to be committed to TNR. Even the 3-year injectables (a contraceptive vaccine) haven’t performed very well in studies. Everyone wants this but we’re just not there yet.”

The FeralStat site claims that the active ingredient in FeralStat was patented and FDA-approved in the early 1950s. According to Dr. Martha, the drug was not FDA-approved for use as a contraceptive, “I really wish there was a drug we can put out there to stop feral cats from being born. I believe that feral cats don’t belong to you or me. What right do we have to do something harmful to them?”

Is the Public at Risk?
I spoke to workers at my local Dept. of Health and the NJ Dept. of Public Health. The consensus was that there are no laws that state we can or cannot administer this drug. However, we could be open to liabilities if a small child or pet ingested the drug.

According to a local ordinance in my town, “Feeding of either stray or feral cats on any public or private property located within the Township of South Orange Village is prohibited. If it is determined by the health department that you have been feeding stray or feral cats these cats will be considered a personal pet.”

Laws regarding feral cats vary from state to state and from town to town.

The Solution
“At Animal Rescue League in Boston we host 5 TNRs every year and spay/neuter 500 cats in that period,” says Dr. Martha.”Your readers might want to organize community actions where they raise money to host fundraisers for TNR. Talk to local veterinarians and other animal rescues in your area to see if they can give discounts or host free spay/neuter events.”

Good places to start are Alley Cat Allies, FixNation, Animal Rescue League of Boston, and Feral Cat Coalition.

Note: In fairness, I called FeralStat 3 times and I e-mailed them. They did not return my calls or e-mail.

If any of you have a solution, please share!

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39 comments to Is Birth Control the Answer to Wild Behavior?

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  • Donna Matlock

    I think it is not a good idea to randomly put the stuff out in food, as one cat might get too much of it.
    I do think the stuff should be made available to feral cat rescue groups, and for people who also do this work, that are able to do one cat at a time to be sure the right amount is given.

  • Kristi

    Time and time again, TNR has been proven to be the only effective and HUMANE way to manage feral cat populations. I am dismayed that money and time were spent on trying to develop yet another drug to “cure” this issue, but then again I am not surprised. It’s all part of our “Take a drug and make it go away” culture promoted by Big Pharma.

  • Jill

    What a pity, it really did sound like a wonderdrug in the beginning…I have plenty of battle scars etc, on my hands from catching feral cats to get them spayed, and this would have really been the answer to a prayer…pity its too dangerous though.
    Thanks very much for the report Michele….

  • [...] Go here to read the rest: Is Birth Control the Answer to Wild Behavior? « Pet News and Views [...]

  • Thanks Jill for doing TNR! I know about battle scars too.–Michele

  • Good point Kristi!–Michele

  • Donna, One of the big problems is that all cats and other animals who wander by the food dish will ingest this. There is no portion control with this drug.–Michele

  • LittleStar

    Though it sounds Good on “paper”…it still will not address the uterine and ovarian cancer problem that Spay prevents. The only drugs I will mix in food to help Ferals is PROGRAM, must get rid of those fleas too, and Antibiotics, when necessary and I can not catch them. Anything else is a Crapshoot idea.

  • myraida

    Shelters normally have less cages for cats but% of killing is terribly high.(healthy animals!)Instead of killing,the money they expend for food in the days they are waiting to kill,They could better use to TNR. – Time in “jail” for animal is short and they do not have to kill. That, if real intention is protection and preserving the life of animals…
    Don’t you think?

  • Great article, Michelle. I think we’ve become a nation of quick fixes – after all, we live in a world where a political uprising can be started in a 140 characters or less. Like you, I believe we need to rely more on TNR and less on Rx. Unfortunately, that also means relying on “humane people” (volunteers, donors, veterinarians) and there are fewer of those in the world today. I fear that spells trouble for our feline friends… We can only hope that those of us involved with TNR and education don’t dwindle completely and that people will eventually “come around” to the benefits of TNR.

    We’re reposting this article. :)

  • I do not think FeralStat should be given to any cat. I seems to have many side effects. It would be harming them, rather than trying to help. I feed wild cats and try to tame them enough to get them needles and spay/neutered. It is expensive, as our Vets give very little in the way of discounts. One alwas hopes they will find an eaier and less expensive of birth control; FeralStat is not the answer.

  • I can’t help but agree with Dr. Smith-Blackmore. Leaving food with contraceptives lying around for any animal to eat, and for any animal to eat any quantity of sounds dangerous. Women who take birth control take it in very specific doses, but we can’t control the dose per cat that is provided to a colony. It sounds to me like TNR is still the best we can do.

  • [...] Is Birth Control the Answer to Wild Behavior? « Pet News and Views [...]

  • Wow talk about a double-edge sword. Michele, I always enjoy coming to your blog because you provide such off-the-beaten path news and stories. Again, thanks for sharing this as I had no idea. I have mixed opinions. While it would help, would the harm be too risky? As one person above said, what if one cat takes in too much? Other animals???

  • It is too risky Carol!–Michele

  • It’s hard. I think TNR is the only answer. –Michele

  • While I would welcome a contraceptive that could be put into cat food, I’m not sure that it would be effective. Some cats would eat the food and some wouldn’t, some might not eat enough of a dose to be effective. I think that the best is still the TNR program.

  • Henriette Matthijssen

    TNR is still the best answer, does not put no one else at risks & there are many benefits to the animal. I say no to unsafe contraception for animals. Thanks Michele.

  • It’s unfortunate that this drug is so dangeous, and it seems like the method of delivery was never well thought out. How, under any circumstances, would you ever hope to get each feral cat the proper dosage? It’s sounds good in theory, but it just doesn’t seem practical.

  • Shadie Kaye's Mom

    I agree TNR programs are the best. The only problem is that they are mostly a big city issue and in rural areas there is nothing. I have found through personal experience that contacting thise various groups are a waste of time, sure, they will send you ideas for fund raising and etc., but that is the extent of their involement. Sink or swim, you are on your own!

  • [...] reading here: Is Birth Control the Answer to Wild Behavior? « Pet News and Views Posted in animal, animals, cat, cats, in, katter, kitten, kittens, of, the | Tags: [...]

  • [...] Is Birth Control the Answer to Wild Behavior? « Pet News and Views Posted in animal, animals, cat, cats, in, katter, kitten, kittens, of, the | Tags: [...]

  • Charmaine

    I can’t endorse this treatment because there are too many variables. Trap, Neuter or spay is by far the safest and I imagine the cheapest, and is over for the animal reasonably quickly and then they can be left alone after that. I wouldn’t give it to my companion animals and therefore I wouldn’t give it to a wild or feral animal either.

  • [...] the topic of fertility (most of you know I just wrote about feral cats and birth control), I was concerned about the safety measures this poses for wild horses. According to the BLM, they [...]

  • I say NO to this concept!! Even if it faintly worked without all the hazards it entails, this is a contraceptive which means it’s a “MONTHLY” solution – not a permanent solution – I wouldn’t even consider recommending it to Pet Guardians either, in the long run with so many clinics available or soon to be, it’s cheaper to – Spay/Neuter – get er done!!!
    Women, who take a birth control pill have gone through some dramatic changes in relation to their metabolism.
    Some women it doesn’t effect immediately, but at some point in time, it does!
    Whether 2 legged and especially 4 legged, Organs will heal, but Glands – don’t.
    Responsible Pet Ownership Laws need to be enforced. More TNR programs in every community – because in our desperation to find solutions, we’d be creating a whole new world of health issues for our furry friends…

  • Sue

    Using feralstat along with TNR will reduce the money spent for TNR. If you can control the population long enough to have all the females fixed, then it is a wonderdrug. For instance, if you have a colony of 20 cats with half being female. You put the colony on the feralstat, and if it takes a month or 2 to TNR the whole colony this will stop many babies from being born.

    Also, my vet will not do a female feral cat when it is cold outside because of exposure of her belly. Putting a colony of cats on it before the mating begins with kitten season, this will give us enough time to wait for the weather to warm up and the get the females fixed before they havea many, many kittens. It is a great tool for TNR. It is not meant to keep the cats on for long periods of time.

    It is a great solution. How many women are on the birth contol pill or hormone replacement and for 10 years or more with no problems. We all know the risk, yet, everyone stills take them. The reality is that female cats in the wild that are mass producing babies only live 2-4 years. If over the long run, they may develop side effects? What long term. Having litter after litter of kittens does serious damage to their bodies. A few months or even 6 months on a drug to stop the heat and to stop the mass production is worth the risk.

    I rescued a female cat that was giving birth in the bushes, had 9 week old kittens with her and a 2 – 4 month old kittens. When I took her in to be spay the vet said that he had to pin up her bladder because it was seriously deformed and not in the right position because of the amount of babies that she had. She would have died if she wasn’t saved if she had gotten pregnant again. She was only 2 years old.

    TNR in a lot of area is not a free service provided. Raising a lot of money is required to pay the regular fee for each cat. If this can bide rescue groups a bit of time to raise the money, fix them all and care for them without hundreds more bring born then it is a miracle. How are you we controlling the population if 5 kittens are bering born for every 1 female bring fixed.

  • Hi Sue, I appreciate your comments, and I wish I could be in favor of FeralStat, but all of the research I’ve done on the drug shows that it is not safe. Some vets told me that if it could be controlled and if only female cats could get the exact dose they need, it would be better. However, it is put in the food and the cats–all of them ingest it. It just isn’t safe or as good as TNR. I’m looking to post a story about free and very low cost spay/neutering places.–Michele

  • Sue

    In our area there is not low cost spay & neuter. The cheapest is $125 for a male and $225 for a female.

    When I feed my colonies feralstat I put 2 bowls of food down, one with it and the other without it. The cats that I know are females will get the feral stat, the ones that I know are males or females that have already been spay get the one with out. The few that I have no idea if they are males or females get the one with feralstat. (just in case)
    I feed a few colonies and I do not have 1 pregnant female this spring. It is a miracle. I can now start spaying without having to abort, I don’t have to wait for females to finish nursing and then worrying about having even more cats to fix. They are all healthy. The non fixed females are even putting on weight (like they do when they are spay) they are warming up to me and letting me get close and touch them even if it is for a second.
    If fed properly and for a short period of time then I am all for it. It is a solution to a huge problem.
    I think the vets keep saying it is no good because they make way more money when they spay/neuter then to give birthcontol. We all know vets, they like to make money. ex. had a female with a kitten stuck in her, he wanted to do 5 x-rays at $100.00 each one, I said no just take 1, he argued but conceded to take only 1, the 1 x-ray was fine and gave him the info he needed for her surgery. Most don’t question a vet I always do.

    This spring I would have had easily 50 more kittens in my colonies as I have a lot of females and I have none. So in my eyes it is doing the trick. These colonies will be completly spay/neutered and can live long healty lives. As they become friendly, becuase most do once they are fixed, I will place the ones that I can in to homes. I have place many from last summer that I fixed and socialized sucessfully. Isn’t that’s what it is all about, creating a good standard of living for these poor kitties?

  • Sue

    One more thing, it is very easy to give the right dose to the female cats, it just takes a bit of math skills.

  • Sue, I don’t see how that is possible since the dosage is put out in the food and so many strays come by to eat.–Michele

  • Louise

    I totally agree with Sue. How safe are the females like she described? The humane society in our area euthanizes at least 5000 cats/yr. And guaranteed, they are mostly ferals that citizens drop off. They feel they are not adoptable and so are disposed of. Killing them by the thousands is a better solution?
    If used as a temporary stoppage of kittens until the female can be spayed is the only way to solve this huge growing problem.
    There are way more cats than people to feed them. Starving cats and kittens is way worse than the ‘possible’ risks of Feralstat.
    I have a friend who runs a TNR and he uses it to keep the kittens at bay until spaying in the spring. He has been feeding 7 colonies with as many as 20 cats. They are all healthy and there are no kittens or pregnant females right now. I’d say that is pretty amazing and shows that it does work.

  • I have been using Feralstat feline contraseptive now for quite some time,,I do a cat rescue,relocate spay/neuter program . This spring all my colonies are healthy,no pregnancies and we are usuing half of the recommended dose with still incredible results(no kittens anywhere). Thank god we don’t have to cut the kittens from their bellies any more. This product is safe for pregnant mothers,nursing mothers,kittens and males and has been used in Canada for over 40 years and not one sign of any complications. Also so many grains alone is enough to stop the female from going into heat we are finding.. For persons who refuse to use this incredible product makes me wonder,why not? Our humane society euthanizes 5000 cats here a year with no end in sight. IF by chance one cat out of 100 died from diabetis,,,it surley does not come close to killing 5000 cats yearly,this really saddens me,,I love all these poor homeless kitties,,,The choice is yours!We have no other alternatives at this point.. Thanks

  • My findings show that it doesn’t work and can be harmful to cats, and that TNR is the best form of action.–Michele

  • Eugene Drummon

    As your article states, TNR is the best and only form of birth control right now.

  • Juliet Johnson

    A big thank you for your blog. I see you care so much about cats. I do too. Thanks!

  • Tessa Jolmore

    Yes! Birth control is necessary. I want everyone to spay and neuter their pets.

  • Tracy

    Where I live, there is no TNR programs and the local vets do not offer any discounts, accept vouchers or coupons, (feline: spay $95; neuter $65). I have been a caretaker of a colony for over 5 years at my own expense. Unfortunately, I was layed off January 2013 and my unemployment ran out. I have contacted Allie Cats, Humane Society and a dozen other organizations and the few responses I did receive were negative. In Wyoming, feral cats are considered ‘targets’ and Utah won’t help non-residents. I am at my wits end and out of resources. Feralstat just might get me through. I am grateful I found this website and pray that there have been improvements to the drug since the original date of these comments.

  • Hi Tracy, I was hoping it would be a good purchase. Unfortunately, the vets I have interviewed, and I interviewed a lot of them, have had negative things to say about it. What makes sense to me is that the problem seems to be that the dosage cannot be controlled with ferals.
    I fully appreciate all that you are doing, and I truly understand the expense of it all.–Michele

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