Study: Income Strong Predictor of Cat Alterations

Middle- to higher-income households report spay, neuter rates of more than 90 percent.

About 80 percent of cats living in households in the United States are spayed or neutered, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The telephone survey of 1,205 adults, representing 850 cats, further revealed that annual family income was the strongest predictor of whether cats in the household were neutered, with middle- to higher-income households reporting rates of more than 90 percent.

The peer-reviewed study, which was based on data collected for the nonprofit Alley Cat Allies by Harris Interactive, is said to be the first nationally representative study to examine income and spay/neuter status correlation.

“This study indicates that spaying and neutering is an accepted, established practice among the large majority of Americans with pet cats,” said Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies. “This is a very positive finding. As a result, our nation’s pet cats are living much healthier lives.”

The proportion of cats that were neutered differed significantly across annual family income groups: 96.2 percent of cats in households with an income of $75,000 were neutered; 90.7 percent of cats in households with an income of $35,000 – $74,999 were neutered; and 51.4 percent of cats in households with an income less than $35,000 were neutered.

“Up until now, there has been a lot of speculation that income is a barrier for neuter in lower-income families, but now we have a scientific study establishing that this is the case nationally,” Robinson said.

Wendy Anderson, director of law and policy for Alley Cat Allies and co-author of the study, said the study only includes household cats, which represents only part of the total U.S. cat population.

“Previous research has shown there may be just as many stray and feral cats in the U.S. as pet cats, and most of these cats are intact and breeding,” Anderson said. “We need to enact smart policies and programs that expand the availability of low-cost, high-volume spay and neuter services, not only to serve lower-income pet owners, but to provide services for feral cats as well.”

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