As leading cat experts, Alley Cat Allies often receives questions about non-surgical methods of sterilizing cats, asking if such a method exists or if this will be an option any time soon.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no safe, tested, and approved method of sterilizing cats without surgery.
While there are some promising contraceptive drugs and vaccines, most of these developments are still experimental. Others have been approved for use in dogs or in other countries, but have a long way to go to meet the needs of the feral cat population in the U.S.
Considering the current state of the science and the complex regulatory and manufacturing hurdles between the laboratory and the market, experts do not expect to see a non-surgical contraceptive or sterilant available for legal, widespread use in cats any time soon.
Trap-Neuter-Return is still the Gold Standard.
There is no new product on the horizon that provides as many benefits and improves the lives of cats as comprehensively as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) does.
Our goal is to do what is best for the cats, and stabilizing colony size is just one reason we perform TNR.
Currently, Trap-Neuter-Return is the only option that meets all of the requirements and needs of feral cats.
First, to indicate that the cats have been sterilized (so they are not trapped a second time), feral cats must be eartipped while they are under anesthesia during surgery—there is no other way to do this permanently. Secondly, TNR ensures that we can provide feral cats with the benefits of ongoing reduced mating behavior as well as rabies vaccination.
Finally—and above all else—we can only endorse a method that is safe and effective. Until the U.S. government and the veterinary community have tested and approved a non-surgical alternative, neutering is still the only proven safe and effective method of sterilization. (*Note: Alley Cat Allies is against testing on animals, as we are against all cruelty toward animals. There are better alternatives to animal testing—including mathematical and computer modeling or using cultures from cells, organs, or tissues—that are precise and sophisticated.)
Even if (and when) a non-surgical product is approved for use in the U.S., each individual situation will need to be evaluated to determine which method is the right one for the animals.
Alley Cat Allies vigilantly monitors and reviews emerging research in feline medical care. We are optimistic that new and improved methods of care will be developed, but we will continue to proceed with caution on sanctioning advancements to ensure safety for all cats. You can count on us to keep you updated.
Our conclusion, backed by experts at an April 2010 conference focused on this topic, is that Trap-Neuter-Return continues to be the best method of helping stray and feral cats.