Apparently not many people know this, but oral contraception for cats has been around for as long as 30 years, according to some veterinarians who don’t want to be quoted. However, there is a good deal of information at the web site for FeralStat, a company that produces the drug. But it’s not really a pill. Anyone who has ever tried to give a tame cat a pill knows how impossible that would be with a wild one. Instead, the drug is mixed into canned food and set out at feeding stations to be sure it’s ingested by all the cats.
Though not specifically used for birth control in the past, the drug has been used by vets for years to treat feline disorders. It contains progestogen, a hormone group that’s been approved by the FDA for humans, according to the web site, and has more recently been found to be effective enough to provide good population control for feral cat colonies that are being properly managed. Management is key. You can’t just give it to them and walk away. It has to be given repeatedly, just as people must take birth control pills on a schedule.
It’s not the best option, but it’s less costly and easier to administer than capturing every stray that needs it. Anyone who manages a feral colony can attest to the sometimes losing battle of getting all the cats “fixed” before the next batch of kittens is born.
The best option, of course, is surgical sterilization, but that’s not always possible, or affordable by the volunteer groups and individuals who come forward to help these animals. Seldom does a community ever provide this degree of humane animal control, which is why it’s more a citizen-driven effort.
The idea of an oral contraceptive for wild animals is not new, either. For years, wildlife experts have used drugs to control populations such as horses and raccoons. Why not cats?
Those who have been using FeralStat for a while are pleased to note that there have been no new litters of kittens, the cats look healthier, are less aggressive, and no side effects have been reported, even for the male cats and kittens who have ingested the drug.
The biggest drawback to oral contraception for these cats is that they are not as likely to be captured and vaccinated or checked for medical problems at the same time. Still, it’s a very big step in the right direction for feral population control.