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