Study is ‘stark reminder’ of feline neutering importance

11th August 2023
Industry News

Vets are being encouraged to join a charity cat neutering programme after new research indicated the procedure’s timing is crucial to managing overall population levels.

Cats Protection officials said the analysis, which has been published in the PLOS One journal, marks a major step forward in understanding of how different population sub-groups connect with each other.

Around 1,300 practices are estimated to have signed up to the scheme since its launch in May and a forthcoming review aims to identify gaps in its current coverage.

Jane Clements, the group’s head of neutering, said professionals who had already signed up were making a vital contribution. She said: “We are very grateful to the vet practices that are participating in this new scheme. They are really doing their bit in a cost of living crisis to ensure the welfare of cats and the control of cat populations.”


Around 11 million pet cats are in the UK, based on analysis from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report released earlier this year. Previous research has estimated around 300,000 more cats that aren’t thought of as pets live on farms, with a further 250,000 unowned cats living in towns and cities.

The new study, which is thought to be the first of its kind to be conducted in the UK, has developed a new model of feline population dynamics that indicates both the timing and coverage of neutering procedures can “profoundly influence” all sub-population groups.

It estimates that the proportion of strays within the overall population would be cut from 7.8%, where 5% of owned cats are neutered before they are six months old, to 1.3% with 50% neutering within the owned population.

The projections suggest that reduced neutering within the owned population leads to increased numbers in all sub-groups – particularly strays – and pre-pubertal neutering is important to reducing population growth of all groups.

The paper also highlighted the support of groups including the BSAVA for neutering to take place from 16 weeks of age. Lead researcher Jenni McDonald said the analysis was “just the beginning”.

Dr McDonald added: “We previously had little robust understanding of just how important the links between cat sub-populations are. Our study shows that connectivity between cat sub-populations can have a big influence on population dynamics.

“We’re excited to now have a model framework that we can continually refine and update going forward in support of the charity’s work to ensure the UK cat population is balanced, so that every cat has their best possible life.”


Cats Protection’s consolidated neutering scheme provides neutering services at a cost of £10 to eligible cat owners, with the charity paying practices a further £50 for a castrate and £70 for a spay. Officials said those amounts will be reviewed annually.

Maggie Roberts, the charity’s feline welfare director, said the analysis was “a big step forward” and provided clear evidence of the critical role played by neutering.

She said: “It’s a stark reminder during this cost of living crisis of the importance of the prioritisation of timely neutering to prevent a growth in population that cannot be adequately supported.

“With the support of private veterinary practices, Cats Protection runs the largest cat neutering programme in the world. We have launched our new consolidated neutering scheme across the UK and encourage veterinary practices to join us.”

A review of the scheme’s impact so far, from where the charity aims to identify where more vets are needed to get involved, is due to take place in the coming weeks. Any practices interested in getting involved are asked to email

Weekly virtual drop-in sessions are also held via Microsoft Teams. Details are available on the Cats Protection website.


Credit to:    Study is ‘stark reminder’ of feline neutering importance (Vet Times)

Vet Times. (2023).  Study is ‘stark reminder’ of feline neutering importance [online]

Available at: