Feral cats can replicate like, well rabbits, but now there’s a way to slow the rate at which frisky felines are adding to their feral families -- oral cat contraceptives.
A Westbrook group has developed FeralStat, a drug for female cats that keeps them from getting all hot, bothered and pregnant.
Feral cat caretakers know better than anyone that catching, sterilizing and releasing each one is not possible, but every cat’s gotta eat.
So, to keep cats without kitten, the folks who feed them mix FeralStat with wet cat food once a week and set out the feed bowl for all the cats in the feral colony.
"If you're dealing with a colony of 10 to 11 feral cats, how can you trap and neuter all before one reproduces?" asked Donna Sicuranza, public relations director for FeralStat.
The trick is progestogen. It's FDA-approved for people, and vets have given it to cats for more than 30 years to treat feline disorders, Sicuranza said.
The cat pill, so to speak, is not the best way to deal with cat overpopulation. That would be surgical sterilization, Sicuranza said.
But, people who care for a whole bunch of cats and have no access to vets, or cannot afford to pay vet bills for many, many cats, FeralStat's a good solution, she said.
“These are sort of under the radar folks. They are not all like crazy cat people … they often get some grief (for taking care of the cats),” she said. "A lot of the folks who are feeding the feral colonies don’t' want to draw attention to themselves. They just want to take care of the cats.”
“People who are using it say there are no new litters of kittens and the cats look healthier," said Dr. John Caltabiano, president of Vernon Connecticut TEAM, who created the product. "Behavior in the colony is generally less aggressive, too.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association could not comment on the product, but said oral contraceptives have been used for feral cat populations as well as wildlife like horses and raccoons.
Worried about giving the kitty pill to male cats? Don’t. Although it’s meant for female cats, males, pregnant females and kittens have lapped some up and there are no reports of negative side effects, according to FeralStat's website. (The possible side effects are posted on FeralStat’s website.)
However, not everyone can just start putting birth control in cat food dishes. This is only recommended to use for feral cat colonies, not your pet, and should complement spaying and neutering, Sicuranza said.
FeralStat wants to ensure that people are using it for the right reasons and any potential cat contraceptive-giver must take a survey and then speak with a FeralStat vet.
A four-month supply costs $67 and treats as many as 81 cats. Sicuranza said about 200 caretakers are using the product and treating thousands of cats.