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Published: September 1, 2016
DOI: 10.2460/javma.249.5.490
Valerie A. Benka MS, MPP (MAPP alumna, 2012); Emily McCobb DVM, MS (MAPP alumna, 2002)
Center for Animals and Public Policy, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536. (Benka, McCobb); Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536. (McCobb)

Ms. Benka’s present address is Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs, 11145 NW Old Cornelius Pass Rd, Portland, OR 97231


OBJECTIVE To determine characteristics of cats sterilized through a subsidized, reduced-cost spay-neuter program in Massachusetts and of owners who had their cats sterilized through this program.

DESIGN Cross-sectional anonymous survey and telephone interviews.

SAMPLE 1,188 (anonymous surveys) and 99 (telephone interviews) cat owners.

PROCEDURES Owners who had a cat sterilized at clinics held between January 2006 and December 2008 were invited to complete anonymous surveys. Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with owners who had a cat sterilized during clinics held in 2009.

RESULTS Most cats had never been seen by a veterinarian previously; “too expensive” was the most common reason for this. Total annual household income was significantly associated with the number of times the cat had been examined by a veterinarian and reason why the cat had not been spayed or neutered previously. Most cats were acquired through informal means and without actively being sought, and there was often a time lag between acquisition and sterilization. Undesirable behavior and avoiding pregnancy were primary motivations for neutering and spaying, respectively. Nearly half of owners who indicated they would have had their cat sterilized through a private veterinarian if the clinic had not been available stated that the surgery would have been delayed because of cost.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Findings suggested that spay-neuter decisions were related to owner income and procedure cost, that elimination of the reduced-cost spay-neuter program would likely have exacerbated the spay-delay problem, and that gradations of financial need should be considered when evaluating relationships between income and spay-neuter decisions.

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