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Science is working toward non-surgical spaying and neutering methods for pets

For 40 years, a huge movement has taken hold across the U.S. to spay and neuter pets. Fully 83% of pet dogs, and 91% of pet cats, are spayed or neutered, compared to just 10% 40 years ago. However, surgical spaying and neutering carries risks, and isn't practical for dealing with feral colonies. Now, new technology may be able to effectively sterilize animals without surgery.

These two adopted kittens were born to an unaltered, feral female cat. One pregnant female cat can result in several hundred kittens within a year.
These two adopted kittens were born to an unaltered, feral female cat. One pregnant female cat can result in several hundred kittens within a year.
Patrick Mitchell

According to an article in "The New York Times," Zeuterin, which is one such sterilization method, could be available in the U.S. by the end of this year. Zeuterin worked in more than 99% of dogs in clinical trials. One man, whose dogs are herders, was reluctant to get them neutered because the drastic behavior changes that come with neutering made them ineffective for their jobs.

After having a dog sterilized with Zeuterin at a clinical trial, he said that while some behavior changes have occurred, the dog is still energetic and enthusiastic, and able to do his work.

For cats, however, Zeuterin and other non-surgical methods are still a ways off. According to Alley Cat Allies, the only approved method for cats is still surgery. They don't see a non-surgical sterilization method for cats coming onto the market anytime soon. Because of that, they continue to recommend trap-neuter-return as the only way to humanely manage feral cat colonies.

For pets, there are still many pet owners who don't want to spay or neuter. Sometimes, it's simply too expensive, and they're unaware of, or don't have access to, low-cost options. Some don't know what the right age is. Some are afraid of the risks of surgery, harmful side effects, laziness and weight gain in their pets due to the loss of hormone production.

However, millions of unwanted pets get euthanized each year. A lot of people who don't want to spay or neuter their pets also don't know how many feral cats are out there, and don't know how many unwanted pets get put down every year. Those who won't spay and neuter their pets unwittingly contribute to the problem.

Zeuterin currently only works for male dogs, and is still experimental. However, should Zeuterin and other non-surgical techniques get approved for use in cats, both male and female, it may help with most of the issues that people have with spaying and neutering their pets. It might also make the efforts of feral cat rescues and groups like Alley Cat Allies more effective, as sterilization would take considerably less time.