Category Archives: Pets

Excessive Vocalization in an Elderly Cat

My cat, Koi, is 19 years old. She is a grey/brown tabby with white markings. She was almost perfectly silent for most of her life, but she has recently starting yowling like a banshee and it is driving me insane. I decided to write this post to document what I am trying to do to help restore my sanity, and by doing so, perhaps help others in the same predicament.

I should mention that, while I did just have my first restful night in months, I have not yet succeeded in stopping the yowling. This is nothing if not a very frustrating experience for all concerned…

First of all, let me describe the particular level of hell that I am currently living in. Koi sleeps on my bed, so we go upstairs together to sleep at night and she settles down. (Sometimes the air conditioning gets too cold for her, so she moves to another room.) Within a few hours (e.g. 1am), she wakes up, jumps off the bed, and starts yowling. She paces around my room, going from her water dish (an extra one that is there to encourage her to drink water due to renal issues) to the window (where she has access to an outdoor litter box on the balcony) to my bedroom door. She might then leave the room and go wandering through the whole house yowling. Once she starts, she rarely stops. If I wake up and pet her, it will get her to stop for a few moments, but she soon resumes the shouting. The only thing that will get her to stop is if I wake up, pick her up, and restrain her until she calms down. Sometimes she will acquiesce fairly quickly, and other times she will struggle to break free, resisting my attempts to calm her down and getting herself more worked up in the meantime.

She will do this approximately three or four times every night (e.g. 1am, 2:30am, 4:30am, 6:00am). It is crazy-making.

I have come to think of this as two separate issues, each with their possibilities for improvement. The first is yowling, and the second is waking up throughout the night.

Looking back, I think I can pinpoint the start of the yowling. When Koi first started yowling it was because she had a bladder infection. When she tried to urinate or defecate, she would pace between her cat litter boxes (I have three of them placed strategically around my house) and just SCREAM. Since she had been an almost entirely silent cat to that point, it was really jarring, and I would run to check on her every time. I think now that that was the seed of the connection in her head between yowling and my presence. I am not sure how I could have done it differently, because she was in actual pain, so it was natural for me to run to her aid, but I think this planted the idea in her head that if she yells, I will come. Trying to break that association has been almost impossible because, as an elderly cat, she is not able to learn new things as well as she could when she was younger.

The yowling has been happening for a few years now, while the waking up has been for a few months. They are clearly different issues, although it has taken me a while to realize this.

Deal With Any Medical Issues
As an elderly cat, Koi suffers from renal failure. She also has a polyp in her bladder that we are monitoring. She is almost completely deaf to everything except for the loudest, most proximate sounds. Her eyesight seems to be fine, but she is almost definitely suffering from dementia as evidenced by her seeming ability to forget who I am unless I touch her. She has slightly elevated blood pressure. She has joint pain due to arthritis.

I am convinced that her primary issues are deafness and dementia. Her eyesight, in terms of visual acuity, seems to be fine, but sometimes even when she is looking right at me, I think she can’t process that she is looking at me (i.e. the processing of the image is where things break down). If I touch her, she suddenly seems to remember. (This makes training difficult, because touching her is a reward, so I don’t want to do it when she is yowling, but if I don’t, she will not calm down.)

Any one of these medical issues, or a host of others that tend to occur in elderly cats, could be the reason why your cat starts “behaving badly”. You owe it to your little feline friend to get all of these kinds of issues properly checked out to make sure that none of them are actually causing her physical pain that needs to be remedied first. Having ruled out obvious causes of excessive vocalization, such as hyperthyroidism, I am currently testing out some medication for high blood pressure in combination to what I describe below. (Note: I thought the medicine was for high blood pressure, but actually it was for renal failure.)

I put “behaving badly” in quotes in the above paragraph because it is really important to remember that your cat is not making a conscious choice to drive you bonkers. She is trying to tell you something. You stubbornly refuse to learn her language, so she has to do what she can to try to communicate with you. ALL BEHAVIOUR IS COMMUNICATION. (As an aside, I think this is a fundamental principle of life that people need to remember, regardless of whether we are talking about pets or humans.)

Understanding Cat Psychology

I bet your cat has done some or all of these things.

  • knock things off shelves
  • meow in the morning
  • walk on your computer
  • lie on your hands
  • look up at you and meow
  • scratch your furniture
  • bat your nose in bed
  • chase and/or bite your ankles
  • swish her tail

All of these have a particular meaning in the mind of your cat — “feed me”, “pet me”, “play with me”, “scritches behind the ears, please”, “let me out”. Your job is NOT TO GET ANNOYED when any of these happen, but to get inside the mind of your cat and try to figure out what she is trying to say to you.

Remember: cats vocalize to HUMANS, not to other cats. When your cat is meowing, she is specifically trying to get YOUR attention. You should interpret all of the meows as being directed to YOU.

Also: Meowing is attention-seeking behaviour. Your cat wants SOMETHING and she is trying to tell you, in as clear a way as she is capable, what it is. Your job is to figure out what it is, and decide whether or not to give it to her (remember that you have a choice). In a cat that is not elderly, you can fairly safely bet that any forms of behaviour/communication mean that your cat wants food, attention, or to go outside. Figure out which one it is, and whether you want to give it to her (or if you want to delay giving it to her), and you have won half the battle. (This assumes that you have determined that there are no medical issues that are causing your cat pain.)

In order to get your cat to do what you want her to do, you will have to start thinking like a cat. If you apply your understanding of human behaviour to cats, you will certainly fail. You must look at the world from your cat’s perspective in order to persuade her to change.

It is important to note that each cat develops her own way of communicating based on your responses. So, I cannot say that “this behaviour” means “this” in all cats. It will depend on how your cat has, or has not, trained you. For example, if Koi pushes something off a shelf, it usually means “I want to go outside”. If I am consistent in letting her go outside after she does that, I will teach her that “slide, crash, precious heirloom in smithereens” means “let me out”, and she will continue to use it to get me to do her bidding. I should note, however, that soon after I noticed this behaviour (read: method of communication), I stopped putting movable things on shelves (“we can’t have nice things!!!”), thus preventing her from using that particular “phrase” to get what she wants. She adapted by using a different phrase (“stand at window looking plaintive”), and we got along marvelously thereafter.

So, unfortunately, in Koi’s case, she now thinks that “YOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWLLLLLL” means “Shaney, come here and make everything better again”. My job is to somehow break that connection.

As a young cat, Koi used to do various things to try to wake me up. She has never been one to obsess about food, but she always wanted to go outside as soon as the sun was up. In a country where it starts getting light at 3 in the morning, this makes for an overall unpleasant experience. When she was younger and did this, I would wake up and very dispassionately (without making eye contact or petting her) put her in my bathroom. She then realized that yelling at me had a very negative and unappealing result and stopped doing it. She learned this lesson quite quickly.

Throughout her life, she sometimes developed unwanted behaviours, but I was always able to train her to stop doing them by using techniques like that, or by figuring out what she was trying to tell me and fulfilling her (legitimate) need.

The biggest issue now is trying not to reinforce the connection between yowling and my appearance. I am trying to go to her (i.e. reward her) only when she has calmed down. The problem is that she sometimes gets into a total spin-cycle where she is pacing and yowling and pacing and yowling and is not able to self-soothe. When that happens, I feel like I have no choice but to pick her up and calm her down — thus, frustratingly, cementing the connection between yowling and me.

Trying to Break the Connection

Here are things that I have tried so far, and the results.

I have tried to ignore Koi when she starts yowling. This does not work. She will continue yowling and pacing for a very, very long time. By way of possible explanation: if “yowl” means “pay attention to me” and I respond to that by ignoring her, she will not be satisfied that she has transmitted her message successfully. In her brain, that means, “say it louder”. This method cannot work because it doesn’t result in successful communication.

I have tried to touch her to remind her that I am here and that she is fine. This works temporarily, for a few seconds to a few minutes. She will inevitably resume her caterwauling a short time later. I am not sure if she forgets that I am there, or if she was just not satisfied with the encounter. I didn’t do the thing that she was asking me to do (“make me feel better”), so she needs to continue until I do it properly.

You know how Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer) is always brought in to deal with badly behaving dogs and he almost always works exclusively with the owners instead of the dog? I think that paradigm can work here too. It is not Koi’s behaviour that is the problem, but my response to it. And my responses are dictated by my feelings, such as “oh, she’s so old and frail, and she has so many issues, and she has been my faithful companion for so many years, and oh, I love her so much, and she can’t help it because she’s old, etc.” It is my failure to choose the right response, due to my feeling sorry for her (which doesn’t actually help her at all), that is breaking down our communication.

Here is what I am trying today. I am trying to see if I can use the old “shut her in the bathroom technique” (negative response) to curb her yowling. As soon as she yowls, I pick her up and put her in the bathroom. I did a halfhearted attempt at trying this a while back, but it didn’t succeed (not surprisingly, because it was halfhearted) and I gave up. I am going to be more clinical about it this time, and try to keep my feelings in check. I am trying to teach her that I think “yowl” means “put me in the bathroom”. I am hoping that she will realize, through my consistent response, that yowling does not result in communicating her message of “give me attention” and so she will find another way to communicate with me.

Please DO NOT Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

The second prong in my approach, however, needs to be recognizing that she wants and needs more attention. (This is where the energy that I am using in feeling sorry for her needs to be directed.) She used to be an outdoor cat, so she was stimulated by her regular rounds of the neighbourhood, where she would rule the area with an iron paw, challenging all potential usurpers to a duel to the death. She is the smallest full-grown cat that I have ever seen, but that did not deter her from challenging all other living things on points of personal privilege (that privilege being her right to destroy all beings who dare enter her extensive domain). I used to have an arrangement where she was free to come and go as she pleased throughout the day. This made for a very happy kitty, and a very happy Shaney.

Over the past little while, however, I have had to limit her freedoms, one-by-one. I used to leave a window open at all times so she could come and go freely. I had to start closing the window at night because neighbourhood cats would come in and help themselves to her food while we were asleep. More recently, I closed the window whenever I left the house because sometimes the local cats would come in and it would result in a massive cat fight. Eventually, I just let her out for a couple of times during the day, but kept the window closed otherwise. Now, the window is permanently closed. She does not seem to have an interest in going outside anymore. (I tested this out yesterday by taking her outside and putting her in my garden. She immediately tried to jump back inside. I tried it again, with the same results. I think she knows that she is too vulnerable outside, so she is fine with being inside and protected.)

All this means that she once had a very active and stimulating life, and now she does not. So now I have to figure out how to compensate for this. However, she is far too old to want to play, she won’t walk on a leash, and she doesn’t really seem to have developed any other indoor hobbies that I can use to our mutual advantage. So, the only card I can play is “lavish attention”.

The goals are twofold:

  • keep her awake enough during the daytime so she doesn’t wake up so often at night
  • do NOT give her attention when she is yowling

So this is my current gameplan.

  • continue giving her medication for high blood pressure renal failure
  • give her a negative consequence for yowling (bathroom time out for up to 10 minutes), and not react to the yowling in any other way
  • give her as much attention during the daytime as possible

Another thing that I may try in the near future is a supplement called “Antinol” that is made from green lipped mussels. It is supposed to help with joint pain. I would prefer not to give Koi any kind of medicine if at all possible, so I am first going to extend the trial of the blood pressure renal failure medication and then decide what to do about the supplement.

Last night, I had my first full night’s sleep in months. This may be a fluke, so I am not willing to use my limited good fortune as proof that anything is working just yet. However, I thought that I was certainly doomed to a life of constant sleep deprivation, so even this brief respite is worth celebrating.

I will write another post once I see how my current gameplan plays out. Wish me luck!

Update: August 14, 2017

Here is an update on what I have tried and what the situation is now.

What I Tried
Koi is taking Antinol (green lipped mussel extract) for joint pain and Semintra for her kidney disease. There is a Feliway diffuser in my bedroom. I put a small, battery-powered sensor light in my room that lights up when she walks past it at night to help with disorientation. I try to keep my sleeping and waking patterns as regular as possible. If Koi starts to yowl, I try to address it (by giving her attention, and if necessary, restraining her) as soon as possible so that she doesn’t get into a spin cycle.

I haven’t put Koi in the bathroom after she yowls lately, but I think doing that had an immediate impact and made the yowls happen less often. If she starts doing it again too often, I may have to do it again for a day or two.

The Results
I have noticed a great improvement, although it is still not perfect. Koi used to shout ALL THE TIME, during the day and night. The yowling has been greatly reduced. She still does it, but it is not constant, so it is manageable. She usually still wakes up once or twice a night, but she will usually just walk around and won’t always yowl (proving, again, that the two issues of waking up and yowling are actually separate). Her walking has visibly improved. She sometimes even kind of runs, or walks quickly, which she really wasn’t able to do before. I think that the Antinol is having a good effect in that regard, and that the Semintra is doing a good job of making her feel better.

I have noticed that setbacks have often been caused by me not keeping to a rigid schedule. She really does not like being woken up at the wrong time to go to bed. Also, she doesn’t like sleeping in past a certain hour. If I can keep to a more regular schedule (which is really hard for me), it seems to keep her more calm.

The problem has not gone away completely, but it has gone from “intolerable” to “manageable”.

Update: June 17, 2018

I am still giving Koi Antinol (2 capsules per day now, one in the morning and one at night), and Semintra. I also have Feliway diffusers upstairs and downstairs in my house. I have started to use a syringe to inject water into her mouth every now and then so she gets a good amount of water into her. The yowling has improved dramatically since last year. She usually only yowls just before she urinates, which is now once a day, and a huge amount (of urine) at once.

I think the combination of medication, Feliway, extra liquids, and the extra attention that I try to give her as often as possible has caused the decrease in yowling. I am also considering giving her regular IV fluids, but I haven’t done that yet.

She is 19 (almost 20) years old, and she is clearly not going to be with me much longer. I am trying to make her as comfortable as possible in her twilight years. I am very, very glad that the yowling has dramatically decreased, but I feel like she is already living on borrowed time. I will probably have to write a long, cathartic post about pet euthanasia in the not-too-distant future.

Here is a page on the ASPCA website that offers some advice about “Older Cats with Behaviour Problems”.

My Visit to the JCN Inawashiro Shelter

On Thursday, I went up to Japan Cat Network‘s Inawashiro shelter. The shelter is located in a building called “Club Lohas” that is actually a dog cafe and a guest house. Inawashiro is a beautiful resort town in northern Fukushima. Lake Inawashiro, famous for its glassy surface and the swans that come to the lake every year, is at the foot of Mt. Bandai, a popular ski destination at the entrance to Tohoku.

The shelter currently has 5 dogs and 36 cats. (I may not have the numbers exactly right. I’ll ask Susan — the leader of the shelter — to confirm.) Looking after these animals, many of whom have medical conditions, is a full-time job as it is, but the shelter has a dual mission of rescuing and caring for animals from the exclusion zone at the shelter and also going into the exclusion zone on a regular basis (four-hour round trip drive) to feed and care for the animals that have been left behind. Susan has been in contact with some of the owners of the pets and will follow the wishes of the owners to either keep the animals in the shelter until the owner can take them back, try to find foster homes or new owners for the pets, or try to care for the pets in their (abandoned) homes until the owners can return. (That lost option is usually for outdoor pets who would not do well in a shelter and are not good candidates for rehoming.)

The work that the shelter is doing is very important, as they are providing an invaluable service to the people who had to evacuate due to the nuclear crisis. While the initial shock of the triple disasters is over, this kind of support is going to remain necessary for a long time. Also, Susan is dedicated to the idea of implementing a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program in Fukushima to help keep the unwanted pet population in check over the long term.

The shelter can operate on about 200,000 yen per month (at a minimum). That includes the rent that they pay to Club Lohas, gas for the two trips into the exclusion zone per week, and a few supplies. They also receive donations of pet food and some medical supplies. Susan, who runs the shelter, manages to accomplish incredible things on a “barely qualifiying as shoestring” budget. She uses, reuses, and then recycles everything she can get her hands on and has a policy of never throwing anything out that still has a bit of life in it. She and Takumi, the other full-time volunteer, work at the shelter with no compensation. They are surviving on food that was donated by some people at the army bases.

These volunteers have dedicated their lives to a very important cause and I am confident in recommending their shelter as a very worthy recipient of any charity you can bring yourself to give. Everything you donate — food, supplies, money — will be put to very good, efficient, and productive use. No padding, no money wasted on vague “administrative costs”, no frills. And if you can donate some time to help out, on the weekends or during the week, even better. Dogs need walking, litter boxes need cleaning, and Susan and Takumi need to be supported and encouraged! Susan is working on setting up a schedule that can be put on the JCN website to let people know when volunteers are most needed — but basically volunteers are always needed! One of the guest rooms is available to volunteers for 2000 yen per night (which goes to the owner of the building and further serves to keep good relations with the owner). The Inawashiro area is beautiful, so you can make a weekend of it by spending some time helping out at the shelter and then going out and seeing the sights of Inawashiro (and hopefully spending some of your “tourist yen” in the area to help it recover).

I have only good things to say about this shelter and about Susan and Takumi and the work they are doing. I would like to encourage you to support them in any way that you can, and to keep them in your mind as they continue the important work of supporting the people of Fukushima and their pets.

Richard the Lionheart and his Medical Fees

During the summer of 2010, my neighbours moved out. Three days after they left, their dog was still at the house. (This is a picture of him when I found him. Note the very short leash.) I asked around the neighbourhood and no one seemed to know what was going on. As I was going out of town the next day, I asked one of my other neighbours to look after him while I was away. During the time that I was gone, the dog’s owners came and picked him up.

Fast forward six months to early December 2010.

When I left my house to go to work one December morning, I noticed a dog that looked an awful lot like the same dog sleeping in the former neighbour’s yard. Since I had taken some pictures of him in the summer, I compared him to the pictures and, sure enough, it was the same dog. I called the real estate agent to get in touch with my former neighbours, and after a great deal of time, I finally found out that they had asked someone to look after the dog, but that it had run away and returned to its former home. I’m not sure whether that story is true or not, but it is clear that they didn’t have any intention of looking after the dog anymore. They had moved to an apartment building and there was no way for them to keep the dog. They offered to take him to the pound (which would mean that he would die within one week), but I refused to let that happen. So, now I am the proud owner of my former neighbour’s dog, whose name was Fugu (but who was renamed “Richard The Lionheart” soon after he adopted me).

When I checked his records at the city hall, I was told that my neighbours had registered their ownership of a dog named Fugu who was born in 1999. They also said that the dog was a Shih Tzu (which Richard is not), but I assumed that was a clerical error. I also asked some of my current neighbours and they agreed that Richard had been around for a long time, so I just assumed that he was around 11 years old.

When I took him to the vet, I was told that he had heartworm and that there was nothing that could be done about it. I figured that he was old and sick and probably wouldn’t last out the year. During the summer months, I gave him heartworm prevention medicine, but other than that I didn’t treat his sickness.

I had to bring Koi, my cat, to the vet last night for her shots, so I thought I would bring Richard along for a second opinion. His coughing was getting really bad and I had run out of the preventative medicine, so I thought I would give it a shot. (I brought Richard to the closest vet to my house originally, but Koi has been going to a vet in Ninomiya since before I moved to this new place, so her vet is different.) My cat’s vet took one look at Richard and said that there was no way he was 11 years old. She thought maybe he was more like 7 or 8 years old. She also said that there was a treatment for heartworm, but that it was expensive, so I had to decide if I could pay for it. He would need an x-ray, ultrasound, and a blood test to figure out the best treatment. If he is determined to be a good candidate for treatment, he would have to take three different pills for about two years. One of the pills will hopefully kill the worms and the other two pills will protect his organs so that he can live long enough for the other pill to work.

I don’t know all of the details of the costs, but there is no way I want Richard to suffer if he doesn’t have to. It is heartbreaking to watch him cough. When I told my friends about this development, they told me to figure out a way for them to donate towards Richard’s medical fees so that he could get the treatment he needs. I am a bit embarrassed to ask for money for this, but it certainly will help me out. I will keep track of his medical bills and if the amount I receive is more than his bills cost me, I will donate the extra to Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, which is a group that is doing amazing work up north in the tsunami- and radiation-affected areas of Japan.

Here is a ChipIn widget that you can use to donate towards Richard’s medical bills.

I’ve never done this before, so I’m not sure if it is going to work smoothly. Fingers crossed!

Richard Now

Richard and I thank you very much. (Koi begrudgingly does too.)

Help My Friends Help the Kitties

There is a cat rescue group called Japan Cat Network in Shiga Prefecture and it is run by an American couple, David and Susan Wybenga. They are really doing amazing work in trying to decrease the stray cat population, find new homes for animals that get abandoned, and educate the public about animal welfare. They use “trap, neuter, release” techniques to try to decrease the stray population and they run a shelter in their own home for the ones who are able to be re-homed. I have been to their house and met both of them and I can vouch for the fact that they are doing good work and are not making any kind of profit off of their organization. I have never met such a dedicated team.

They are currently trying to raise money to buy more cat food for the winter months. They are running a sponsorship drive, but they are also accepting donations of cat food and money to be put towards cat food. The details of their current drive are here.

Their main website is here.

And you can find information about other ways you can help here.

If you like to donate money at this time of the year and you are looking for a worthy cause, I would recommend Japan Cat Network as a good recipient of your charity. I guarantee they will put your money to good use.

Tactics and Techniques for Controlling the Pet Population: Spaying and Neutering Cats

I work as a volunteer web designer for several animal advocacy groups in Japan. One of the biggest problems these groups face is trying to make a dent in the number of dogs and cats that are put down by public authorities. The Ministry of the Environment of Japan has stated that public authorities kill 160,000 dogs and 240,000 cats every year (source:, which means that over a thousand animals are put to death every day. One seemingly obvious way to alleviate this problem is for people to have their pets spayed or neutered at a young age. Unfortunately, a great deal of prejudice and misinformation surrounds spaying and neutering in Japan, and it is often perceived as being prohibitively expensive, especially for females, so it is not widely practiced. Thus, the problem persists.

In light of this, I decided to use an assignment on “developing resource guides” in my library class as an opportunity to explore any research that has been done on techniques for controlling the pet population, in particular as it pertains to spaying and neutering cats. I am hoping that some research has been done on successful tactics in North America or Europe that will serve as an example of what can be done in Japan.


Broad Search
spay or neuter and cat

Narrow Search
American Veterinary Medical Association
Early age altering
TNR (trap neuter return)

Subject Headings

Animal Welfare
Population Control
Spay and Neuter
Veterinary Medicine


Print Resources

  • American Veterinary Medical Association. “AVMA: Mandatory Spay/Neuter a Bad Idea.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 234.10 (2009): 1232-1232. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: One way to encourage pet owners to spay/neuter their animals is to make the operation mandatory. Laws mandating altering of pets by a certain age have been adopted in some communities in the United States. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association does not support mandatory spay/neuter legislation because the decision to perform the surgery needs to be made in consultation with a medical professional. Furthermore, it is believed that pet owners who have not spayed/neutered their pets will not take them to veterinary clinics for medical care after the age of mandatory spaying/neutering in order to avoid detection. This can lead to increased risk of various diseases. See also: AVMA policy on “Dog and Cat Population Control” (

    Access: Full text not available in Langara library, but one copy was located at the following link.

  • Chu, Karyen, Wendy M. Anderson, and Micha Y. Rieser. “Population characteristics and neuter status of cats living in households in the United States.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 234.8 (2009): 1023-1030. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 22 Aug. 2009.

    Note: I was not able to see a full-text copy of this article without paying a fee. The abstract notes the relationship between income and neutering cats, saying that households with incomes below $35,000 only neutered 51% of their owned cats, whereas the numbers were in the 90% range for households with incomes over $35,000. The study concludes that approximately 80% of owned cats are neutered in the United States (Can we find a figure for Japan?) and that annual family income was the strongest predictor of whether cats in the household were neutered (Can we say whether this is also true in Japan?). The study did not address feral cats.

    Access: Full text not available in Langara library, and not located online.

  • Longcor, Travis, Catherine Rich, and Lauren M. Sullivan. “Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap-Neuter-Return.” Conservation Biology, 23.4 (2009): 887-894. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 22 Aug. 2009.

    Note: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is advocated by many animal welfare groups as a way to control the cat population through spaying/neutering animals and then returning them to their habitat. This resource claims that TNR may improve the welfare of feral cats, but is not necessarily an effective way to control the population. According to mathematical models, 71-94% of a population must be neutered for the population to decline (as long as no new cats are introduced). It may be possible to achieve a decrease in the population by pairing TNR with adoption. It should be noted that this article is written from the perspective of conservation rather than animal welfare, so its primary goal is to advocate for the protection of birds and other wildlife from predation by cats rather than advocating an alternative solution to the problem of controlling the cat population.

    Access: Full text not available in Langara library, but one copy was located at the following link.

  • Lord, Linda K. “Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 232.8 (2008): 1159-1167. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: I was not able to see a full-text copy of this article without paying a fee. A study was performed to discover Ohio residents’ attitudes towards feral cats and the need for them to be regulated by the government. It was found that attitudes and perceptions differed according to whether the respondent was a cat owner and where he/she lived (area of Ohio). The author suggests that statewide approaches to regulate feral cats will be “challenging or unrealistic” to implement due to these differences in attitudes.

    Access: Full text not available in Langara library, and not located online.

  • Macejko, “Christina. DVM auctions spay/neuter surgeries on eBay.” DVM: The Newsmagazine of Veterinary Medicine, 40.6 (2009): 3-3. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: This article is informal and does not include original findings. A veterinarian in Davidsonville, Maryland offers sterilization services via eBay. Her fees are $250 to spay any size dog or $100 to neuter, and $100 to spay any size cat or $40 to neuter. (This is roughly in line what what it costs in Japan.) She states that some vets charge $600 to $800 for such services.

    Access: Full text available online from Langara library. Also available at the following link:

  • Murray, J.K, E. Skillings, and T.J. Gruffydd-Jones. “Opinions of Veterinarians About the Age at Which Kittens Should be Neutered.” Veterinary Record: Journal of the British Veterinary Association. 163.13 (2009): 381-385. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: I was not able to see a full-text copy of this article without paying a fee. This study looked into veterinarians’ perceptions and beliefs about early age altering. It showed that British veterinarians believed that a mean age of about 22 weeks was appropriate for altering kittens. The veterinarians beliefs tended to depend on the time since they graduated, their perception of the population control issue, and their clinic’s policies. Vets who thought that kittens should be altered before adoption were more likely to agree to the appropriateness of altering at 12 to 16 weeks. Vets who believed that surgical complications and diseases could result from early age alteration were significantly less likely to agree to the appropriateness of altering at 12 to 16 weeks. (Have any studies been done on the beliefs of Japanese veterinarians regarding age of alteration? What is considered to be the right age in Japan?)

    Access: Full text not available in Langara library, and not located online.

  • Poss, Jane E. and Julia O. Bader. “Results of a Free Spay/Neuter Program in a Hispanic Colonia on the Texas-Mexico Border.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 11.4 (2008): 346-351. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: I was not able to see a full-text copy of this article without paying a fee. This study followed a free spay/neuter program in an impoverished community. It noted moderate success despite the residents’ initial reluctance to alter their dogs.

    Access: Full text not available in Langara library, and not located online.

  • Whitcomb, Rachael. “Cat Neuter Rates Reflect Income Levels.” DVM: The Newsmagazine of Veterinary Medicine, 40.7 (2009): 26-26. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Langara College Lib., Vancouver. 22 Aug. 2009.

    Note: This article is informal and does not include original findings. It reports that a study by Alley Cat Allies found that nearly 91 percent of people in the $35,000 to $75,000 income bracket neutered their pets, whereas only about 51 percent of those who earned less did so. The surgery needs to be made more accessible to low income families. As the source of this article is a magazines for veterinarians, it points out that vets cannot be expected to shoulder the extra costs. The author sees the role of veterinarians being to “educate potential or new pet owners about the lifetime costs of caring for their pets and help them budget for the best care”.

    Access: Full text available online from Langara library. Also available at the following link:

Listservs, Newsgroups, or Blogs

  • Blog: Japan Cat Network

    Note: This blog documents the activities of the Japan Cat Network, a non-profit organization that is run by an American husband and wife team. This group is the leading proponent of trap-neuter-return (TNR) techniques in Japan. They also run a shelter and work towards finding adoptive homes for the cats they take in.

  • Listserv: Angels with Fur Japan

    Note: This is a mailing list for people in Japan to share information about pet ownership and pet welfare. Key leaders of animal welfare groups in Japan are members, including the leaders of Animal Friends Niigata, Animal Refuge Kansai, Heart Tokushima, and Japan Cat Network. This list is a useful starting point for finding information that specifically relates to pet-related issues in Japan.

  • Listserv: Veterinary Medicine Library Issues and Information

    Note: In the archives of this mailing list, one of the members mentions a “Spay/Neuter Pack” that is a compilation of scientific studies done over a twelve-year period on spaying and neutering. (See: The message dates from 2004, so it is possible that the pack is no longer available, but it would be worth trying to contact the author just in case it is.

Specialized Subject Directories (i.e. Collections of Resources Related to the Topic)

  • Open Directory Project >> Recreation: Pets: Cats: Issues: Health: Elective Surgery: Spay and Neuter 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: This is a collection of twelve links to web-based articles on the advantages of spaying and neutering cats. Some of the articles are written by veterinarians, but others are by lay people and individuals who run shelters. There are two dead links.

Informational websites (with links)

  • Cruden, Diana. A Winn Feline Foundation Report On Early Spay/Neuter in the Cat. The Cat Fancier’s Association website, Inc. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: This article discusses a study where three groups of kittens were altered at different times and then compared for physical and behavioural differences. Group 1 kittens were altered at 7 weeks of age, Group 2 were altered at 7 months, and Group 3 were not altered until they were at least 12 months old (after the first phase of the study was finished, so for these results, they can be considered the control group). It was found that there was no difference in food consumption or level of activity between the three groups. Kittens in Groups 1 and 2 were larger (longer and taller) than Group 3 cats. Group 3 cats were noticeably less affectionate and more aggressive. There were some physiological differences noted in secondary sex characteristics, but nothing that would affect a cat’s normal development. Pre-adoption early age altering has been adopted by several organizations in the United States with anecdotal success in decreasing the number of pets being euthanized over a period of several years.

  • Dog and Cat Population Control. Vers. April 2009. American Veterinary Medical Association website. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: The AVMA does not support mandatory sterilization, but it does support mandatory licensing of all dogs and cats. It also supports prohibiting the sale/adoption of unaltered dogs and cats by humane organizations and animal control agencies. (Does the organization representing Japanese veterinarians have a similar policy?)

  • Little, Susan. Early Age Spay and Neuter in the Cat. Dr. Susan Little website. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: This article reviews a number of studies on the health and behaviour effects of altering cats, focusing on the practice of early age altering (spaying or neutering between 8 and 16 weeks instead of 5 to 7 months). The author states that “[o]wner compliance with sterilization programs [after adoption] is often under 50%, despite screening of adoptive homes, prepayment of or discounted surgery fees, contracts requiring altering and follow up by shelter personnel.” She includes a list of references to consult on the topic of early age altering of cats. (Do shelters in Japan perform early age spaying/neutering of their cats before adopting them out? Have they considered it?)

  • New Scientific Study Finds Vast Majority of Pet Cats Are Neutered. Alley Cat Allies. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: This article reiterates the Chu et all (2009) findings about the relationship between income bracket and neutering. It also states that while owned cats are generally being neutered in the US, this is only true for about 3% of feral cats. However, I could not find a specific citation to confirm this figure.

  • Nolen, R. Scott. $75M Dedicated to Nonsurgical Contraception for Cats and Dogs. American Veterinary Medical Association website. 23 Aug. 2009.

    Note: Since there are economic and psychological barriers against surgical sterilization, a non-profit organization called the Found Animals Foundation has decided to award US$25 million to “the first person or group that develops a safe and efficacious nonsurgical means of permanently sterilizing cats and dogs”. A further $50 million in grant money has also been offered to assist in the development of promising technologies. There have been advances in this area, but a lack of funding has prohibited the ultimate development of a nonsurgical solution. (Since the same economical and psychological barriers exist in Japan, the development of a non-surgical form of contraception could possibly make a dent in the feral populations.)

Major Findings

  • Mandatory spay/neuter legislation is not supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • In the US, household income is related to the decision to spay/neuter pets. (The higher the income, the more likely the owner is to alter the pet.) Also, it is believed that while approximately 80% of owned cats are neutered, only about 3% of feral cats are (need to find a source for that figure).
  • Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) techniques alone are not enough to decrease feral cat populations. They may need to be paired with adoption. More scientific study is necessary on TNR.
  • State-wide (or nation-wide) attempts to solve the feral cat issue may be hampered by differing attitudes on and perceptions of the problem.
  • Some veterinarians in the US charge over $600 to spay or neuter a pet.
  • Early age alteration has been proven in scientific studies not to adversely affect the development of cats. However, it is not yet widely accepted by veterinarians in Great Britain. It is gaining acceptance amongst vets who have performed the procedure or who believe in having pets altered before being adopted.
  • Even free spay/neuter programs may only meet with limited success.
  • Grant money is available for people who are working on one-time non-surgical contraception methods for cats and dogs.