I’ve found myself having a LOT of conversations about feline abortions this year. And I’ve been on both sides of the conversation (both pushing to abort, and making the decision not to). So, let’s dive into some of the facts, concerns, and why abortion is crucial to cat rescue.
To start, I’d like to say that the policy for pregnant cats at QSC is to abort feral cats, early term pregnancies, and extremely young/old pregnant cats. The only cats we allow to carry to term are cats that are friendly, already late in their pregnancy when surrendered, and in ideal health/age to birth.
The reason abortion is so important, is that there are already more kittens than available homes. Why add more kittens to the issue if you can avoid it? We ideally allow cats to have the kittens if they are later in the pregnancy. The reason for this being partly ethical (if the pregnancy is viable and and the third trimester, many consider it not only aborting, but euthanizing the unborn kittens. Euthanasia is not always unethical choice, but we do avoid it as much as possible) and partly medical (although there are no studies available to cite, many vets believe that it is more dangerous to spay cats later in pregnancy). The exception is if it would be more dangerous for mum to birth the kittens than to abort (if she’s sick, very young/small, or very old) or if she is still too feral to keep in foster care (or keeping her indoors that long would cause psychological stress that could cause her not to care for her kittens, furthering kitty suffering), as saving born lives always takes president over unborn lives.
The procedure for aborting is the same as a regular spay. The reproductive organs are removed, but in the case of pregnant females, the unborn kittens are removed with them.
The The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ 2016 Veterinary Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Programs ( https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.249.2.165 ) says:
“When spaying pregnant cats and dogs, fetal euthanasia is not necessary to ensure humane death. Mammalian fetuses remain in a state of unconsciousness throughout gestation and, therefore, cannot consciously perceive pain. When a gravid uterus is removed en bloc, fetuses will not experience consciousness regardless of stage of gestation and death will occur without pain.”
We are strong advocates for the importance of abortion in animal rescue, and we weigh the decision carefully every time we encounter a pregnant cat.