Protecting the Lives of Unborn Puppies and Kittens in Shelters

Mother dog and litter at Austin Animal Center, as posted on
Mother dog and litter at Austin Animal Center, as posted on

As a no kill advocate, I am opposed to the spaying of pregnant shelter animals.  While I do not believe in the myth of pet overpopulation, that has nothing to do with my opposition.  Even if I believed pet overpopulation was real (I do not), I would still be opposed to spaying pregnant dogs and cats because doing so means killing unborn puppies and kittens who have the right to live.  As Nathan Winograd wrote in his blog:

When we spay pregnant animals and the unborn kittens and puppies die, the fact that they are not yet born does not relieve our responsibility toward assuring their right to live. When we abort kittens and puppies, we are literally killing puppies and kittens.

If the kittens or puppies are viable, they must be individually killed, usually through an injection of sodium pentobarbital. Even when they are not, however, when a mother is spayed, the kittens or puppies die from anoxia (oxygen deprivation) due to lack of blood supply from the uterus once the vessels are clamped. They suffocate.

I tragically witnessed the spaying of a pregnant dog when I worked in a vet clinic a couple of decades ago.  There were two vets on duty and one was performing the surgery.  She threw the uterus containing the puppies into the trash.  The other vet retrieved the uterus and placed it on a sink table.  The puppies crawled around helplessly while she drew up injections of Fatal Plus for each.  Had she not killed them individually, they would have crawled around in the trash can until they eventually died.  Back then, I did believe that pet overpopulation was real.  But I still knew these killings were wrong.

In a shelter environment, pregnant dogs and cats are either killed or spayed regularly.  There are presumably times when pregnant dogs and cats are killed or spayed and no one knew the animal was pregnant.  While there may be variations among individuals, it is generally impossible to tell if a dog is pregnant just by looking at her during the first 5 weeks of the normal 9 week gestation period.  With some dogs, you can not tell even in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy.  Luckily there are other detection methods which can be performed by an experienced vet but they are limited.  It is possible for vets who specialize in canine reproduction to palpate the uterus at approximately 4 weeks.  The puppies at this time are contained in walnut sized sacs and the window for palpation is brief – about 1 week.  Even if the timing is right and the vet is experienced, there are still some dogs who carry their pups in such a way to make palpation impossible.  Ultrasound is a more reliable method of detecting pregnancy and may be used from about 3 weeks onward.  Radiographs can only be used to detect pregnancy during the final 2 weeks of gestation.  By that point, the dog may be able to diagnosed by simple observational methods such as an enlarged abdomen, development of mammary tissue, and fetal movement.  While I have very little experience with female cats, my understanding is that pregnancy detection methods are similar to those used with dogs and ultrasound is the preferred method for reliability.

What does all this mean for female shelter animals?  I believe we have a moral obligation to protect the lives of all shelter animals, including the unborn.  I would therefore offer guidelines for a certain portion of the shelter population.  That portion includes all female dogs and cats who meet the following criteria:

  • Have reached the age of puberty (approximately 6 months).
  • Have an unknown medical history and no sign of having been spayed (such as spay scar or tattoo).
  • Have not come into heat while in the shelter’s care.  (Pregnant dogs and cats do not come in season.)

For female shelter animals who meet the above criteria, I suggest the following guidelines to protect the lives of any puppies or kittens they may be carrying:

  • If the female dog or cat meeting the specified criteria has been at the shelter for less than 9 weeks, the operating assumption must be that the animal is pregnant.  For those animals meeting the criteria who have been at the shelter for less than 3 weeks, an inconclusive veterinary determination must be interpreted as positive for pregnancy until a conclusive determination can be made at a later date.
  • Under no circumstances should a female dog or cat meeting the specified criteria be killed unless a veterinarian determines she is irremediably suffering, in which case euthanasia should be performed.
  • Once a female is scheduled for sterilization, she should be evaluated for signs of pregnancy by the shelter vet.
  • If the shelter vet determines the animal is pregnant, the shelter may release her with reasonable restrictions to ensure that mother and litter are all sterilized prior to permanent adoption.
  • If the vet’s determination is inconclusive, the female may be released with a signed agreement to avoid all contact with intact males of her species until 9 weeks have elapsed from date of impound at which time she can be returned to the shelter for spay (or spayed by a private vet of the adopter’s choosing with verifiable documentation to be provided to the shelter).
  • Females meeting the specified criteria who have been at the shelter less than 9 weeks (but more than 3 weeks) may be spayed if a veterinarian determines, based upon ultrasound and confirmed by observation, that she is not pregnant.
  • Females who have come into heat while in the shelter’s care and who have been prevented from any unsupervised contact with intact males of their species may be assumed not to be pregnant and may be spayed without veterinary consultation regarding possible pregnancy.
  • Females meeting the specified criteria who have been at the shelter for more than 9 weeks and who have been prevented from any unsupervised contact with intact males of their species may be assumed not to be pregnant and may be spayed without veterinary consultation regarding possible pregnancy.

97 thoughts on “Protecting the Lives of Unborn Puppies and Kittens in Shelters

  1. I agree, in principle, but if shelters were that concerned about their inmates, we wouldn’t need this post at all. To them, this will sound like a lot of work and fuss – it isn’t at all but we know they are the Can’t Do squad in a lot of cases.

    One small point. After a bitch has ended her heat cycle, you should wait a minimum of 30 days to sterilize her. She can bleed to death due to increased blood flow and vessel expansion during the cycle which should have returned to normal by 30 days or so.

    1. Yes my vet recommended we schedule Wendy’s spay for one month after her heat cycle, which we did. The vets I used to work with did spay pets while in heat but that was a very long time ago and perhaps the industry standard has changed. IDK how frequently shelter vets spay bitches in heat, or those who have just come out. It would be interesting to know that information but would require some level of transparency on the part of the shelter and an interest in veterinary health from the shelter vet.

      On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 11:47 AM, YesBiscuit!

      1. I am not sure why you opted to spay her.. why did you ..are you expecting that you will have a litter of unwanted puppies?

      2. My vet recommended spay b/c Wendy came to us in very poor health and even though she has improved quite a bit in the couple of months we’ve had her, she still suffers from chronic anemia. My vet said removal of the uterus was recommended to rule out that the uterus was the source of the problem, which in her experience was a good possibility. Wendy appears to have whelped a number of litters and that can take a toll on the uterus which can lead to other chronic health problems. My vet also strongly believes in removing the uterus for prevention of pyometra as, in her experience, it is a surgical disease, not a medical disease, often needing to be performed on old dogs who are not ideal surgical candidates. We talked about possibly leaving one ovary in place but Billy was strongly opposed to this and I took that into consideration when making my decision.

        In regards to your question about unintended pups, it is a concern as Wendy has managed to squeeze out (or under or over – we don’t know) the fence once already in the short time she’s been here. She was not in season at the time (thankfully) but it’s possible it could happen again. We bought some additional fencing to attempt to secure her better but frankly our yard already looks like Gitmo with multiple layers of fencing all around and she still managed to squeeze out so we’ll have to see how things play out over the long term.

        Why do you ask?

      3. I can only speak for my shelter, which is small (350-450 animals/year) and has been committed to lifesaving for over 10 years. For us personally, we ask our vet to spay all in-heat canines unless they see something abnormal that gives additional contraindications to doing so.

        We weighed the pros and cons and ultimately decided that we preferred getting animals ready for adoption right away rather than placing them in foster, releasing them intact, or holding them. Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right way to do it, but nor would I say it’s the wrong way.

        I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how often we do so, but statistically I suppose it would be about 1/6 of intact adult females. We have not to date ever had any complications.

  2. Every morning we wake up and try to make sense
    of the pet-shelter issue.

    But every morning when we wake up we find that the
    pet-shelter issue has slipped further down the rabbit hole.

    While everyone I know is frantically struggling to accommodate the gazillions of living breathing homeless pets wandering the streets and overwhelming our rescue groups and shelters, you people have created

    the Pro-Life-For-Unborn-Cat&Dog Fetuses movement.

    This is what happens when mad people get control of stuff.

    Until a sane person wrests control of the shelter reform issue
    away from Nathan Winograd and his cadre of lawyers- former pet breeders & raving fundamentalist rabble we will continue to wake up every morning trying to make sense out of jabberwocky.

    1. If advocating for the lives of puppies and kittens is your idea of going “down the rabbit hole”, I’d hate to see your version of acceptable standards.

      1. I get what Terry’s saying. For example, the Shelter Reform movement has become a Right-To-Life movement for the Unborn. I’m pro choice for humans so understandably I am for animals. My county isn’t fortunate enough to have unlimited funds.

      2. Sky Walker – I am pro choice for humans because humans are capable of giving informed consent. Animals are not. If we set the standard for accomplishing ANYTHING at “unlimited funds”, we will never get anything done.

      3. Terry’s acceptable standards and those of her friends require the spaying and neutering of all pregnant cats and dogs immediately and the killing of all puppy’s and kittens.

    2. Oh, it’s Terry Ward, the mad-woman of Long Island. How are those schipperkes. Terry? Don’t waste your time on this one, YesBiscuiters, she should have been put down years ago.

  3. I agree with your recommendations. All animals deserve to live. Just because they haven’t been born yet makes no difference. It isn’t euthanasia when these babies are killed. its outright murder. Selma, Good shelter should have no problem following the guidelines. As we all know we are all in constant fight with bad shelters and their murderous ways.

  4. I am pro-choice for people. Meaning I am all for aborting fetuses. Got no problem with it. I support aborting canine and feline fetuses as well.

    I would never force my pro-choice decision on any human, just as I don’t want anyone forcing their pro-life for fetuses stance/belief on me.

    A strong case can be made that these cats and dogs were raped and shouldn’t be forced to give birth. I support that case.

    1. Humans are capable of personal consultations with their physician and providing consent. Dogs and cats are not. The mating behavior of dogs and cats is instinctual and rape is not a valid issue.

      On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM, YesBiscuit!

      1. Another freakin’ shelter apologist too chicken shit to post their wrong-headed opinions under a real name. “Askimet,” btw, is the software program that deletes spam for WordPress.

      2. Does it matter that the animals cannot give consent? Wouldn’t the life of their unborn kittens and puppies have just as much value even if the mother could consent? Honest question, I have never been able to understand that argument.

      3. Andrea, The issue of consent inevitably comes up in any discussion of aborting puppies and kittens because someone always draws a comparison to the same issue in human beings. The comparison is invalid in this issue. Cats and dogs mate by instinct. Humans mate by choice. Whereas a human female is capable of making reproductive decisions based upon consultation with her physician and anyone else she chooses, cats and dogs are not. It is their instinct – their raison d’etre – to mate and for females, to raise their young. As humans, we control this instinct by having them desexed because we feel it makes them better pets, because we feel generally incapable of controlling their instinctual behavior and because we don’t want to be responsible for having more puppies and kittens. There is simply no valid comparison between pets and humans in this issue as regards consent. Exploring the pet/human comparison beyond that, regarding the issue of abortion, is beyond the scope of this blog.

        On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 12:28 AM, YesBiscuit!

      1. Can’t argue with math! I can’t take seriously anyone that would deny that that Nathan Winograd’s “No Kill Equation” works!

    1. Do you believe in Santa Claus too? I suppose you think Facebook really IS giving a dollar for every “like” received on a picture of a sick kid? Need a bridge? Do some research, Luree, educate yourself!

  5. This is one of the things that makes me angry when these issues come up – there is always at least one idiot who says, “Amazing all of these holier than thou ranters are never able to foster or adopt any of these dogs they scream about. Just want someone else to do it. ” My response to that person is – YOU have no idea what other people do or do not do. We DO foster and/or adopt many animals in our communities. If I was in THAT community (Memphis) I would be doing it there. I do not want someone else to do it where I am – I AM someone!

  6. You’re advocating on giving a pregnancy test to every female prior to spay? Do you have the name of a popular one for cats so I can buy some stock in that company?

    1. If you are just going to troll, you will be banned. If you decide to actually read the post and comment based upon its content, you are welcome to do so.

  7. I totally agree with you, Shirley. I still cringe when I think about the woman at the s/n clinic who told me they would go ahead with a spay on a pregnant animal “unless we actually see a head sticking out.” And this wasn’t even a shelter, simply another organization so caught up in the hysteria that they went to obsene lengths to combat “overpopulation.”

  8. I would only spay after she had given birth to her puppies and only with a vet consulting , I would not kill the pregnant mom’s babies I would save them because they deserve a life too and a fair chance to live one.

  9. It is a real dilemma in the TNR community. These are animals that are going back out into the community and the longer you keep them the less ethical it is to release them again – because they have now come to depend on humans for their food and water, and if you release them in an unsafe area might have lost their natural fear of humans. If you release them while they are pregnant you might not be able to catch them again at all, or you might catch them after they gave birth but they are pregnant again already (a cat can get pregnant within 3 days of giving birth). Plus now you have to catch all those kittens! The protocol for most TNR places is to just spay them all no matter what, but it would be nice to have other options.

    1. With cats there is the advantage (as far as determining pregnancy) of heat cycles repeating every 2 or 3 weeks. Unlike with dogs where you are waiting on something that only occurs once every 6 months or so.

      1. You really don’t want to be keeping feral cats for 2 – 3 weeks at a time. It isn’t good for them or for you. The longer you keep them the more damage you are doing to them if the long term goal is to release them back. Plus them going into heat isn’t always as obvious as you would like. I had an unspayed cat in my house for a full year (couldn’t catch her to get her to the vet after she gave birth in my spare room). It was at the one year mark that I realized when she was going into heat because she kicked it up a notch. Until then it was so subtle I just couldn’t tell.

      2. The 2 -3 weeks would be the maximum length of time you’d be keeping them (if waiting for them to come in season) but I understand your concern. Another option would be to work with a feral friendly vet who has an ultrasound. While it won’t detect very early pregnancies, it will detect those that are 3 weeks along and later.

      3. I do work with a TNR program. We had one feral who couldn’t be released back into his original colony so we were keeping him for our colony. He bit at least 4 people and that was over a period of 5 days. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally able to be released into our colony. I can’t imagine the damage he could have done if he was kept for 2 -3 weeks. Plus he was also getting very stressed out having all these humans be around him.

        That cage we kept him in meant that when we did TNR at other sites we could trap one less cat. Right now we are trapping sites with 25+ cats. So that means if we keep every female cat for 2 -3 weeks we trap about once a month. At a certain point every single female we trap will be pregnant. How pregnant I don’t know – but they will be. Cats are exceptionally fertile. We can house 15 cats. So the first 15 would be kept and then no more trapping for about 2 -3 months (since we need to keep mom and kittens for that long). Which kinda defeats the purpose of doing TNR. Plus now we have the problem of what to do with moms if they didn’t become very friendly in the meantime.

        If you look at AlleyCat Allies and other big TNR groups the protocol is to spay abort no matter what age. I don’t agree with that. I really don’t like late term spays. But I also don’t think we can keep every single pregnant female in the springtime. We don’t have the resources or space for it. It’s a big conundrum and we have lost sleep over what to do about it. And I don’t have a perfect answer either – I just have a “this one is not as bad as that one” answer.

      4. I second the part about cat heats not always being obvious. When I had my female cat spayed at around 18 months of age, I made the appointment right after I thought she had come out of heat, and I found out after the surgery that she had been in heat at the time of her spay.

      5. Our cat wasn’t pregnant (we kept her pretty well confined until we could afford to spay her, which was when we moved to an area with low-cost s/n), and I am against late term spay-aborts, but if it were too early to really tell on a cat, I would be okay with it.

    2. FYI there are several TNR programs in place in most communities. Having one cat stay and extra day or so is not going to imprint human companionship with people. I take care of a feral community that know me well but will not approach me but will show gratitude that I care enough to make sure they have food water and shelter. I am here to tell you, ferals staying in the clinic a day or two makes absolutely no difference they are just as feral as they were before.

      1. 1 to 2 days – no that wouldn’t make a difference. But 2 – 3 weeks could make a difference. and 6 – 8 weeks would definitely make a difference.

      2. I have kept a feral for two months. I work with a TNR group and we trapped a very pregnant feral. I took her as a feral foster and she delivered her 7 kittens who were all socialized and she went back to her colony. She was as feral when she left as she had been when she arrived. She did not growl or hiss and she let me socialize her babies and do what I needed to do but I couldn’t get near her and did not try. I worked around her and respected her as a feral. There are ways of doing things. You cannot make a flat statement about what will affect a situation. A lot depends on how things are done. She was a true feral. I have also fostered strays and semi-ferals.

    3. As Daniela says, I don’t see how this could be doable for feral cats. It would bring TNR operations to a screeching halt and would be detrimental to the cats themselves. TNR only works when cats can be efficiently altered and returned to the colony.

      What about a homeowner who traps the feral stray on their own land and cannot bring that cat inside at all? We used to frequently do spays/neuters on such animals and keep them until they were awake or overnight. The land owner would then return the cat. The vet office certainly wouldn’t be able to keep such a cat for several weeks, and the landowner wasn’t able to.

      Again, as Daniela says, keeping female ferals would mean many organizations would have to wait to spay/neuter the next set of cats…allowing more cats to get pregnant. Paying for the use of an ultrasound would reduce money for the actual spay/neuter operations.

      Under your proposed policies, the number of cats being TNRed would drop dramatically.

      1. It’s my job, if you will, to put forth what I feel are best practices – that is, what I believe would result in saving the lives of all unborn puppies and kittens in the shelter. Realistically, I have no expectation that any shelter will implement all of my suggestions or even any of them. But if I can at least manage to start (or continue) a conversation about the saving of unborn puppies and kittens in shelters, I think we’ve managed to put the ball a little farther down the field.

      2. But it isn’t best practice if it results in the dramatic reduction of feral cats being TNRed, or if it results in feral cats being held and unduly stressed because of it. I have seen pregnant ferals abort their kittens while trapped…holding them for long periods would only increase the risk of that. It also wouldn’t be best practice for the safety of the humans involved.

        Basically, it isn’t best practice if it saves kittens but negatively impacts adult ferals.

        The implication of this post is that many readers who TNR ferals or assist in doing so are doing wrong by the animals in spaying possibly pregnant females. Even if that is true from an ethical standpoint, from a practical standpoint they really aren’t left with much choice other than not TNRing at all.

      3. The primary group of females being addressed in this post are the ones specified – not TNR cats. However, my response to you was to basically say that no one is likely to follow these guidelines, in whole or in part, but hopefully someone will have a thought in the back of their mind about it in future. Maybe someone who does TNR will decide to work with a clinic that has an ultrasound on site. Maybe someone who does TNR will decide to keep their eyes open for the development of a simpler and less costly pregnancy test for cats which will perhaps be marketed in future. Or maybe not. But I put my opinion out there, FWIW. Most shelters are doing either zero or extremely small numbers of TNR cats. I intended the guidelines to apply to the group of females I specified in the post, the vast majority of which are not TNR cats. But if it helps anyone involved with shelter pets (doing TNR or otherwise) to think more about the issue, I’m glad of it.

        Instead of continually focusing on the tiny percent of females (TNR cats) who would fall under the guidelines specified, I would rather address the vast majority, since it’s merely a hypothetical discussion. The tiny minority have a right to live as well, but in practical terms, since no shelter is adopting these guidelines and we are merely having a theoretical discussion, it makes sense to focus on the most likely scenarios.

        I liken it to a discussion of saving shelter pets who have a treatable illness or injury such as a cold or a broken leg. No kill advocates say these pets have a right to live. Killing apologists inevitably counter with something along the lines of “What about an 18 year old cat who needs a $20k kidney transplant – should the shelter pay for that too?” The fact is that the overwhelming majority of shelter pets being killed are either healthy or have some treatable medical condition such as a cold or a broken leg. When we talk about no kill, we are not expecting that every shelter (or any shelter) will in fact stop killing their pets today based upon our advocacy work. What we hope though, is that we are putting the ball a little further down the field by putting forth our best practices that all shelter pets have the right to live.

        It does not advance the cause and in fact serves as a distraction to get tangled up over the hypothetical $20k kidney transplant cat in a no kill discussion because we are so far from being there. If/When we someday have advanced to the point that there are not millions of healthy/treatable pets being killed in shelters then yes, I would be all for addressing the kidney transplant situation – is the animal a good surgical candidate? Is there a donor kidney available immediately? Is there a surgeon qualified to do the surgery available locally? If not, is the cat a good candidate for transport? Would the surgeon be willing to offer a discounted rate for a shelter pet? Can we raise the funds from donors? All of these would be practical questions in terms of a no kill discussion if we weren’t throwing perfectly healthy, friendly shelter cats in to the dumpster by the millions.

        I hope I have addressed your concerns. I sincerely doubt anyone is interested in reading my comments saying the same things over and over to one person so I’m going to end my part of this discussion here.

        On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 12:48 PM, YesBiscuit!

  10. Larkin Vonalt Says:

    April 12, 2013 at 3:43

    “Oh, it’s Terry Ward, the mad-woman of Long Island. How are those schipperkes. Terry?
    Don’t waste your time on this one, YesBiscuiters, she should have been put down years ago.”

  11. I think saying you can’t abort puppies and kittens, but you can abort HUMANS because of an issue of consent is a ridiculous argument. EVERYTHING we do to animals is without their consent. I’m pretty positive that my dog has never consented to going to the vet for her check-ups. In fact, I KNOW she hasn’t consented by the fact she is scrabbling on the floor pulling to get out of the room. I doubt dogs consent to wearing prong and choke collars. And I damn well doubt they would consent to having their sex organs removed from their body. Something “higher thinking” animals such as humans don’t even like to do. Instead we go with vesectomies, etc. So to say that aborting a human is okay, but the dog/cat isn’t, I have to ask when we as owners really cared so much about having consent? Either they have the right to live, or they don’t. And if they have the right to live, then why don’t human babies as well? If you were pro-life for people as well I wouldn’t really care so much about your stance on the issue, but in my mind your views are currently hypocritical.

    1. You are falsely characterizing my argument. If you decide to read the post and comment on the actual content, you are welcome to do so. If you’re just going to troll, you will be banned. I won’t be drawn into a pro-life debate regarding humans. One time warning.

    2. Everyone with their right to life comments need to keep that to themselves. This issue is with animals and only animals. Erica my animals have no problem going to the vet. Maybe you need to change your vet. My animals actually like my vet and greet them for a petting.

  12. The problem that many shelters are facing is MAN POWER. If pregnant animals are allowed to whelp or queen, they now need to be placed into special foster homes comfortable and experienced in this. If everything goes perfectly, these babies will be in foster care for a minimum of 8 weeks before they are available for adoption. Most of the time there are multiple babies per litter, and most fosters can’t handle more than a few puppies or kittens at a time once they are weaned. So, now even more fosters are being needed.

    In the shelter I deal with, foster families are the limiting factor as to how many puppies and kittens (and mommies) we can handle at one time. It takes a special person to take care of neonates and their mom, and heaven forbid that problems occur because now you are faced with bottle feeding.

    We will spay pregnant females if they are not at term. If mom is close, we do place them into foster and let them give birth. This is the way we have chosen to deal with this subject. We are scrambling to find fosters for puppies and kittens that are born and thriving and need our help, and justifying bringing more into the world just doesn’t make sense right now.

    1. Luckily there is no need for justification. They have a right to live. FULL STOP.

      Yes it would require even more hard work. See previous paragraph if any questions on that.

  13. I haven’t had a chance to dig into this, but I don’t think this process is actually necessary for dogs. While there is no early PREGNANCY test for dogs, I believe you can tell from a blood (and maybe urine?) test if a bitch is in or was recently in estrus. If not, she obviously cannot be in an undetectable stage of pregnancy. If so, then you could potentially implement your protocol.

    With feral cats, I believe this will only become practicable when we have reliable non-surgical sterilization, which I think is coming soon. Then we won’t need to worry about catching them again after they have their kittens.

    I wonder if they could develop some kind of time-release implant or drug that would allow the kittens to be born but prevent future reproduction in the queen. I don’t see why that would be impossible… science is pretty awesome, and I find it hard to believe that would be harder on a female cat than cutting open her abdomen and cutting out her repro organs. Not to mention it would be cheaper and easier.

  14. Taken right from the “Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook” (the experts).
    4. Pregnant cats
    Gestation for a cat averages 63 days. During the early part of a pregnancy, there is no way to tell visually that a cat is carrying kittens. Towards the later stages, the female’s belly is noticeably round and protruding below her. In the last one to two weeks
    of pregnancy, the nipples become distended and lactating actually begins shortly before birth.
    If a cat is known to be pregnant, there are three options: (1) trap and spay her and abort the pregnancy, (2) trap her and let her give birth in a cage or other confined space where she can then raise the kittens or (3) don’t trap her and allow her to give birth
    outdoors, trapping her and any surviving kittens at a future date.

    Unless a caretaker objects on religious or other deeply personal grounds, Neighborhood Cats recommends trapping a pregnant cat and aborting the kittens when possible. This is because of the harsh realities of cat overpopulation. If the kittens are born and you find homes for them, it could mean other cats already in the
    shelter system will not be adopted and will be euthanized instead. If the kittens are born and not adopted, but live outdoors as ferals, their mortality rate is likely to be high and most of their lives short. Right now, with so many cats dying in shelters and on the
    streets, more kittens only make the situation worse. If your veterinarian is very experienced with spay/neuter, cats can be safely spayed right up until the last day of a
    pregnancy. Discuss with your clinic or veterinarian to find out what their policies are.
    If the decision is not to abort, whether for ethical reasons or concerns for the health of the pregnant female, then what happens to the kittens becomes the focus. Should you trap the mom-to-be and let her raise the kittens in a cage, or leave her be to give birth
    outdoors? Certainly, having her give birth indoors in a secure environment will be much safer for the kittens. Outdoors, they face numerous threats – anemia induced by fleas, disease from other cats which their undeveloped immune systems can’t fight off,
    predators, traffic, and more. In addition, if the goal is to eventually adopt out the kittens, it will be much easier and faster to socialize them if they are born indoors and handled by
    people from birth.

    1. That’s…a weird argument. You have to kill to prevent killing/death? I think that they just argued themselves into a corner on that one.

  15. I’m currently fostering a female dog. While waiting for the paperwork to be completed, several people looked at her – Gracie – and asked me, “What happened to her puppies?” Naively, as it turned out, I said, “I don’t know. No one said anything to me about puppies.” When I read her medical history, I discovered Gracie had been scheduled for a spay procedure on April 18. After she was under anesthesia, the vet noted: “Spay not completed due to late term pregnancy.” Well, needless to say, the next day, the spay was completed. Of course, Gracie got an infection and rather than drive 90 minutes to ACS, I just took her for a checkup and antibiotics to my private vet. I’m so sorry for what happened to her. Gracie’s not an easy dog; there are no boundaries as yet. But I hope to teach her some manners and find a wonderful home for this loving dog who apparently hasn’t had many good things happen to her thus far in her life. Wish me luck!

  16. I no longer have female ferals spayed if they look pregnant. If I know someone who can foster the cat (keeping her in a large dog crate) until her kittens are old enough to be adopted out, I’ll trap the mom; if not, I’ll wait until the kittens are old enough to be without her for a few days (around 6 weeks) and get her spayed then. If the kittens are staying in the colony, I’ll get them spayed or neutered at about 10 weeks; if they’re being adopted out, I’ll grab or trap them when I have the mom spayed; they’re easier to tame at that age. The ferals I work with now are mostly in urban areas and have a lot of contact with people, so they are at least somewhat socialized and often completely tame. By the way, I’ve had some tough, not socialized cats who would hiss and swat whenever I’d open the cage door stay with me until I could find a barn home for them, and I managed to care for them, including transferring them into a trap for transporting, without getting bitten, and I don ‘t wear gloves–there are ways to care for and transfer the cats without ever touching them.

  17. My dog has recently become pregnant due to my parents not spaying her or my male dog. I have went on many sites, for help on how she could have a safe pregnancy and what should i do as far as satisfying her needs. Ive been so far disgusted by various comments on different sites saying how you should abort them now, take her in for a emergency spay,your irresponsible for not watching your dog or getting them fixed,your just another byb who is breeding disease ridden dogs and selling them for quick cash,If your dog isn’t certified or a show dog and given various tests its just another mutt. I cant deal with people like that, who gives you the right to say whether a dog should have a abortion or not. Any animal has the right to live. No certification,and or Great bloodline is going to determine a How the dog will turn out in the future and to say you should spay a dog because the shelters are over run is selfish. Your killing unborn puppies to “Save” dogs in the shelter. You’re killing to “save” but “saving” dogs in poorly funded shelters will sadly still be killed. Stop focusing on puppies being born and going to good homes and start focusing more on the shelters if you really want to save them. Give donations,because the poorly funded shelters are the ones killing the dogs, not the puppies.

    PLEASE GO TO THE FACEBOOK PAGE OF arlington animal services to make your claim to follow up this with a rally to SAVE LIZY and not let SUSAN WAIT OR WAITS THE (KENNEL COLDHEARTED SUPERVISOR) DESTROY LIZY.

  19. I must say that while I have ethical concerns about HUMAN abortion, I feel that with
    cats and dogs, it usually IS the lesser of 2 evils!
    I honestly don’t know how any intelligent person can argue that the US (as most other places in the world), doesn’t have a serious pet overpopulation problem!
    Have you ever seen a stray or feral cats?
    Cats are dying BY THE MILLIONS in the US by starvation, disease, cars, and human cruelty because there are TOO MANY OF THEM!
    All cat and dog unborn litters that are “saved” by not being aborted are either themselves condemned to live wretched lives, or there existence will cause OTHER cats and dogs to live wretched lives.
    While I DO NOT agree with PETA’s policy of the wholesale killing of BORN pets, I feel it IS different with the UNBORN ones!
    Best solution is, of course, have DOGS AND CATS SPAYED/NEUTERED BEFORE PREGNANCY!

    1. Your comment is filled with logical fallacies, e.g. Because there are stray and feral cats, there is overpopulation. The reason there are so many animals being killed by starvation, disease, cars, and human cruelty is because there are “too many of them.” And probably the most outrageous of all: any animal born is either going to live a horrible life, or displace another who will then live “wretched lives.”

  20. Have you ever worked in a shelter which doesn’t have the option of turning animals away when they are full and their rescue/foster resources are exhausted? Ever see carriers stacked upon carriers of cats/kittens waiting as shelter staff work tirelessly to put together crates, rearrange cages, and find foster homes for ALREADY BORN ANIMALS, so they DONT have to euth healthy animals? If you think animal overpopulation is a myth I invite you to observe a few intake rooms in a shelter of your choice which DOESN’T turn animals away to be left to suffer. If you find one with the funds, rescue/foster resources, space, time, and staff to keep these female cats and resulting kittens for your specified period of times please do let me know. They must be miracle workers and I’d like to meet them

    1. You either did not read or did not understand the post. There is no need for shelters to hold female cats and kittens for any specified period. Your argument against allowing unborn puppies and kittens to live seems to be that since shelters are killing animals already born, why bother, especially when it sounds like work. I reject that argument. It does not trump any shelter pet’s right to live.

  21. I have fostered a few pregnant ferals/strays. At one point, I had my 10 cats in the house (now 15 including a foster) and I had fosters: 3 female cats and 12 babies. One cat had 4 kittens, one had 1 kitten left (three had died of complications from leukemia) and one feral had 7 kittens. It was a lot of work but I had them in separate rooms/or separate kennels. The healthy cats and all of the socialized kittens were adopted from our local shelter. The mama and baby with leukemia were also adopted by a loving couple. The feral mama was respected and returned to her colony when her kittens were weaned and her caretaker welcomed her back. All the animals were vaccinated and spayed/neutered. I have a hard time with the idea that it is okay to TNR pregnant cats in the name of giving them a better life when we are so willing to abort their unborn babies. I don’t get that. It is not a better life for the kittens! It’s a death sentence. If we all worked a little harder at the TNR model, we would reduce and eventually eliminate the homeless population. It feels like a losing battle sometimes and it is a lot of work and it is heart-breaking to lose the babies who are the runts or aren’t strong enough to make it but it is priceless. I am only one person and can have only a small effect on this population but I will continue to fight for the babies, too. By the way, I am not a freak. And my house does NOT smell like a cat. I have a full-time job, a big heart and I love cats.

  22. Dog Luver, the puppies should be OK. If the trash is bad for your dog, it will just make her vomit. But it would be good to keep her away from things that might be bad for her. I hope she and the puppies are healthy and that the puppies find good adopters.

  23. Carolyn Jean, it is wonderful that all these cats will have good lives because of you. Currently, I have a mom cat who was found as a stray by someone who knows someone I’ve done TNR for. She had 6 kittens 5 weeks ago; when the kittens are 10 weeks old, they will be spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and the mom will be spayed, vaccinated, and tested for FeLV and FIV and scanned for a microchip. They will then all be adopted out (unless mom has an owner who is looking for her).

    1. I know this question asked about shelter animals but I work with a TNR group and have wrestled with the same question but in the lives of ferals. I wish I could help more of these cats but I am at capacity. I have a FeLV positive cat also. It scares me but I couldn’t see him put down just because of that and all of my cats are vaccinated, which is not fail-proof but I am trusting it works for all my cats, as we found out another cat I took in had FeLV. Good for you working with the strays, too. Almost all of mine a rescues, some ferals, some strays, a few foster-failures and a few needing re-homing. It is always a pleasure to hear positive stories from people doing the same work!! Carry on!! :)

      1. Carolyn Jean, you say you work with a TNR group – do they actively seek out more volunteers? I’m just wondering if you could get volunteers who cannot/do not wish to trap to instead do fostering? Of course, fostering with a truly feral mom is a bit challenging, but a quiet place and a couple of large dog crates works very well for it. In fact, as the kittens become mobile, you can separate them from mom for little socializing sessions and return them to her for care.

        I’ve done this – and actually had a mom snarling and hissing at me and the kitten was like, “Aw mom, it’s not THAT bad! She’s got toys and she plays with me!”

        There is only so much each of us can do alone. But if we work together, we can do so much more!

      2. Mikken – Both of the ferals I have had were respected and left to be feral and yet the kittens were socialized and adopted out. I have done this a couple times and have had very good success with it. Yes, they actively seek out volunteers. Once trapped, however, most cats go to get spayed and neutered and the powers that be have made decisions that some of us may not necessarily agree with and despite volunteering to open my home repeatedly to foster the pregnant cats, they are not interested. There are several arguments they raise and they are mainly concerned with overpopulation. It is not an easy or good solution for me and I live with it daily. Believe me, I remind them that I am here and willing to foster pregnant ferals and strays. Funding for vet care, vaccinations, food, etc. is also a large factor and there are not a lot of people who are available to volunteer a lot of time, much less foster. I continue to work with this group in a few capacities and believe in what they are doing, despite this difference of opinion in this important issue. I am working for the cause. Carolyn

  24. Some of the inconsistancies I have noted in this post and the comments are pretty glaring.
    I will start with the feral cat problem.
    Humans are directly to blame for the feral cat problem, and the suffering they endure.
    While I DO NOT agree with PETA’s approach of mass killing, I think going to the extreme of saying there is NO pet population problem is beyond absurd.
    Cats with HOMES are too often mistreated, because they are so numerous and easy to obtain.
    Cats WITHOUT homes are often even worse off.
    Cats, ESPECIALLY feral, need to ALWAYS be spayed/ nuetered until their numbers come down, and they are valued more (thus treated better).
    Unless a pregnant cat is close to term, I think “spaying” is truly the best thing to do in a bad situation.
    While one MAY be able to find good homes for the kittens in their care, that is denying ANOTHER kitten a home, and condemning that nameless kitten to a life of misery.
    Sorry, but this really is the reality.
    Yes, born (maybe even near term) kittens should be given to good homes IF POSSIBLE.
    Willfully adding kittens into this terrible mix is not wise.
    Also, I can’t help but notice the absolute irony of most of those OPPOSING killing unborn pets (even though,
    if born, they would likely mean a death sentence for BORN pets), while SUPPORTING the killing of unborn HUMANS (in much less dire straits).
    I love animals, and I am mostly vegan, but I also have a fondness for people.
    It just “boggles my mind” how one could advocate against killing unborn animals, but think it is “ok” to kill unborn humans.???

    1. “Cats with HOMES are too often mistreated, because they are so numerous and easy to obtain.”

      No, cats with homes are mistreated because some people are assholes. CHILDREN with homes are too often mistreated and they are not “so numerous” or “easy to obtain” (although some might argue that it should be MORE difficult to obtain them, but that’s another discussion). Making cats less numerous is not going to make humans value them more. Think about exotics. How many assholes own a bear or a wolf or a tiger and abuse/neglect them? Yet these animals are expensive and difficult to obtain. Making pet cats “rare” is just going to drive their price up, not protect them from assholes.

      Case in point – a rescue group just took in a group of Bengal cats, dumped outdoors and left to fend for themselves. These cats are unsocialized and were likely used for breeding only. They are expensive and harder to obtain than your average house cat. But that did not protect them from some asshole out to make a buck.

      “While one MAY be able to find good homes for the kittens in their care, that is denying ANOTHER kitten a home, and condemning that nameless kitten to a life of misery.”

      I have to disagree. If you are denying another kitten a home with you, what prevents that kitten from finding another home elsewhere? Just because I won’t adopt a particular kitten doesn’t mean that someone else doesn’t want him desperately. Why not just find homes for all of them? And if there “aren’t enough homes” right this second, how do you know that a home won’t be available tomorrow? Or the next day? The universe is a weird place, you know?

      For example, last year I helped out a man who had far too many cats in his home. We got all of his adults s/n (after two females gave birth – he refused to spay a cat if he thought they might be pregnant) and removed 8 kittens from the home after they were weaned. Two of those kittens died (despite extensive medical care). Two went to adoptive homes that “had been thinking about maybe getting a kitten at some time”, but only decided upon adoption when they saw the kittens in person (one was a vet tech who helped with s/n, one was a friend of the family over for Christmas).

      The other four kittens stayed with me because they have chronic health issues. Was I in the market for kittens? Absolutely not. I do hospice for seniors, not kittens. Did I want FOUR (unsocialized/inbred) kittens? Nope. But I made room for them and they’re family, now.

      No other kitten was denied a home because I took these kittens in. No other kitten suffered a life of misery because I took these kittens in.

      And by your logic, one should not try to adopt out ailing seniors, either. Because they would take up a home where a young, healthy cat could live, instead. Why spend so much money and effort on a dying animal when so many youngsters need homes? Shouldn’t we just euthanize them and work to get homes for the cats we already have?

      “I love animals, and I am mostly vegan, but I also have a fondness for people.
      It just “boggles my mind” how one could advocate against killing unborn animals, but think it is “ok” to kill unborn humans.???”

      Well, I don’t know how many people here think it’s “ok” to kill unborn humans. But I do know that humans are capable of consent. Cats are not.

      Perhaps it’s just as mind-boggling to some that someone should advocate for the right of a unborn human to live, yet says that unborn cats should die even though both humans and cats are subject to suffering, torture, and abuse (sometimes).

      If you’re killing an animal to “protect” them, then you ARE in PeTA’s camp. They just don’t bother with the whole “born or unborn” argument.

      1. No matter how you rationalize it, not getting male and female cats, ESPECIALLY FERAL ONES “fixed” is beyond irresponsible.
        Before pregnancy is preferred, but early pregnancy “fixing” is still better than the alternitives.
        As for “exotic” breeds, they should be outlawed, period.
        In Muslim countries, where cats are supposed to be “well liked”, they roam the streets by the thousands, starving, because humane ways of controlling their numbers are not used.
        This situation is only SLIGHTLY better in the US.
        I think pet abuse (along with child abuse) HAS gone down over the last few generations, largely owing to population control efforts.
        I will just add that I have honestly never heard of unborn humans giving “consent” to be aborted.
        They are usually aborted only because they are a “burden” to someone.
        Again, it is absurd reasoning to think unborn kittens have “rights”, but unborn humans do not!

      2. Oh, I agree that s/n is vitally necessary to the health and welfare of community cats.

        And if you have a true feral cat, holding on to her throughout a pregnancy/weaning may be entirely too stressful and it would be easier on her (and kinder) just to spay/abort in certain situations.

        The consent you speak of comes from the adult female. Humans can give consent, cats cannot. And the argument for human abortion is irrelevant here, anyway.

        It is for us to act with the best interests of the cat and assess each animal individually. There is no one size fits all rule.

        For myself, if I come across a pregnant female who is capable of undergoing a holding period for birth/weaning, then yes, her kittens will live, be socialized (which can be done, even if the mother is feral), and get homes of their own. Then the mother is also spayed and assessed as an individual and put into the best situation for her, as well.

      3. “I think pet abuse (along with child abuse) HAS gone down over the last few generations, largely owing to population control efforts.”

        I doubt that population control has a thing to do with it. I suspect it has more to do with evolution/education.

        The same way we don’t play “pull the head off the live goose tied upside down in a tree” for fun, anymore. The same way that some people are looking at bullfighting and seeing “torture” rather than a fun day out. The same way that some people are seeing fox hunting as abhorrent, rather than a good dose of exercise and fresh air for all.

        The human race IS moving forward, hard as that may be to see, sometimes.

  25. I notice how you didn’t mention about the starving cats in Muslim countries, starving because they are overpopulated, and humane ways of keeping their numbers down are NOT employed.
    I think it is Greece, where every summer the cats are all over the place for the tourists, and, after summer, they are poisoned en mass.
    Even if you don’t think a cat should be “spayed” at ALL during pregnancy (which, at least in early pregnancy, I disagree with), I HOPE you see the point of urging cat owners to spay their cat at OTHER times!

  26. Cats are starving in some places because there isn’t enough food for them. When this happens, they either have smaller litters, often only one kitten, or they don’t come into heat at all, so fewer kittens are produced. This happens with any species that is living with diminished resources. The cats’ primary need is more food; once they have a regular food source, getting them spayed or neutered. It’s not Greece that’s killing cats en masse, it’s Australia.

    1. It actually IS happening is Greece, unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything about Australia.
      I think it is great what you do, and I have a kitten-turned-cat from a feral litter.
      I get the most concerned when SOME individuals talk about cat overpopulation as being a “myth”, and don’t really advocate altering cats AT ALL.
      People fixated with certain ideas, when all logic and evidence goes counter to that simply CANNOT be reached.
      It sounds like you are far from that category.

      1. Actually, the numbers support that overpopulation is a myth in the US. The data is out there if you google for it.

        But those who support no kill also strongly support s/n. In fact, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t support s/n.

        I have to wonder where you’re getting that from.

  27. I don’t have a problem having a cat spayed early in her pregnancy, but with ferals and strays, I have no way of knowing if they’re pregnant until they’re showing, and by then, the kittens are sentient, so I let her have them, then get them all spayed/neutered and vaccinated when the kittens are 10 weeks old, have mom tested for FIV and FeLV, and adopt out the kittens and either adopt mom out or return her. I have three moms and 12 kittens right now; this is going to be an expensive summer.

  28. Oops, I meant “once they have a regular food source, getting them spayed/neutered would be the next step.”

  29. Mikken.
    I am glad you support S/N, not sure why you would not see the horrible pet overpopulation issue, but I HOPE you just keep getting the non-pregnant’s “fixed” anyway.
    I think animal advocating groups “hating” on each other is NOT productive.
    Even though I think PETA is definitely hyoocritical on “pets”, it is STILL invaluable for its undercover work, exposing cruelty that otherwise would not be exposed.
    Let us just HOPE they can keep doing that, in light of current efforts to impose”ad gag” laws and such.
    And they should leave “pet/feral rescue to others.

    1. I don’t see pet overpopulation so much as I see a broken shelter system. There are still shelters adopting out unaltered animals. There are still shelters that see themselves as separate from their communities. There are still shelters that kill for convenience while blaming the community they are supposed to serve.

      PeTA has shot themselves in the foot more than once. All they’re doing is lending credence to “crazy animal people” at this point. Maybe if they spent all of their money on lobbying for more humane laws instead of killing pets and advocating for the slaughter of pit bulls, they could be taken seriously. But they’d have to give up the shady stuff –

      1. I also think “factory farms” lie to the public, AND put out propaganda like this to discredit PETA’s work.
        Why not set up cameras in these places 24/7 on special “public access channels” in the local areas that randomly shows different farms??
        Wouldn’t that answer these issues once-and-for all?
        You could especially “train these cameras in” when calves are separated from their mothers, when chicken’s are “de-beaked”, and when pigs are in “gestational crates”?
        I have strong feeling which side would favor this type of “surveillance”, and which side would not.

      2. Except that PeTA has been caught lying more than once. If they really cared about animals, they would stick to the facts and be transparent. Because yes, some industries will fight back and they’ll fight dirty. But if PeTA is truly on the side of the angels, they’ve got the truth to shield them. Except… they’ve lowered themselves into the mud, too. Which I guess is inevitable if you have to push “we’re FOR THE ANIMALS” with one hand while simultaneously killing “to save them” with the other.

        PeTA needs new leadership if they’re to survive and actually do good. But their management structure is not conducive to that at this point.

  30. I am no fan of PETA, believe me.
    I wish they WOULD get new leadership that would get them out of the “pet collection”
    business once and for all.
    Having said that, I think people should know where their “meals” are coming from.
    If even a portion of what they are saying about “factory farms” is true, it is truly shocking.
    I do not see anything wrong with my suggestion about the survellance cameras.
    It certainly would not make conditions any worse for the animals, and would let the public
    KNOW whom to believe.
    Why would anyone oppose it?
    If you think PETA is “full of it” on this issue as well, those 24/7 cameras would confirm that.

    1. Except it will never happen. The factory farms would oppose it. They want less scrutiny, not more and they have enough money and lobbyists for such an idea to never happen.

      We have to work in the real world.

  31. Then exactly what is your suggestion?
    Just let the animals continue to live horrible lives while everyday America just sits back and enjoys their cheese burgers?
    I am sure than people once thought things like human slavery, or inhuman “sweat shop” working conditions would never stop, either.
    We live in the digital age.
    We can barely go out doors anymore without cameras trained on us.
    I think we need to tackle an issue that relates to every other issue– campaign finance reform, so the meat industry can’t “buy their way out” out of tackling their horrendous cruelty issues.
    Scientists need to research more into finding realistic, economical meat replacements.
    To do nothing just because the problem is overwhelming should NOT be an option.

    1. I never said “do nothing”, just that your proposal was impractical.

      How about forcing a slow down of slaughter houses. Instead of killing animals six times a minute, force them to kill one every six minutes? Yes, they’ll produce less meat at a time, but they’ll also be able to take more care in killing/processing.

      I’ve heard about how slaughterhouses are not only inhumane to animals, but also the people working there. They are forced to go faster, faster, even when they’re slipping in blood and gore. People get injured. People lose perspective on what they’re doing. It’s dehumanizing and dangerous.

      The rush to produce has done nothing good for man nor beast.

      1. Aaaannnnddd. I just realized how irrelevant this is to the original thread. Apologies.

  32. I have a very relevant ? I just picked up our family dog po po from the vet that we used to get her sprayed. When we was paying the bill they informed us she was a couple weeks pregnant and that they had to terminate the pregnancy which they did without our consent! We are furious about this. We are both pro life. What can we do about this? PLease lend your advice

  33. Omg, our shelters here in Louisiana are completely full. Our ferals go into 3 breeding cycles a yr due to hot weather conditions. We can’t keep up with TNR nor do we have enought ppl available to trap. During the spring if we catch 10 cats in a night at least 6 are pregnant females. I can’t even imagine if we tried to save all those kittens. Ppl here already trapping & dumping, poisoning, and just flat out killing cats.
    Our rescues are busting at the seems.
    We do what we must and we try as early as possible.
    Reality is, if we didn’t spay these pregnant ferals they would die of hunger and flea infestation on the street.

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