The above picture shows one side of Miami Dade Animal Services mobile spay/neuter clinic. Check out the stats they’ve plastered on this massive vehicle: “One unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce 11,606,077 cats in 9 years.”
Let’s stop and think about that for a minute. 11 MILLION CATS IN 9 YEARS. All stemming from one unspayed cat. Does that sound logical to you? Given the number of unspayed ferals at large in the US, wouldn’t we be utterly overrun with cats if this statistic were true? The streets would be stacked 100 cats high everywhere we looked. They’d be fighting us for food. Frankly by now, they’d probably have driven humankind into homelessness.
So, in case you hadn’t guessed, this statistic is utterly and completely false. Numbers like this have been circulating for years as an attempt to convince people to spay/neuter, but I have to say – 11 million really takes the cake. That’s the brashest exaggeration I’ve heard yet. I emailed MDAS leadership to question where they got that number, but haven’t heard back. If I do – I’ll update this post with their source. To be fair to MDAS, however, this statistic is all over the web, too, ludicrous though it is. People have a tendency to accept numbers as true without actually verifying their legitimacy – I’m guessing that’s the case here. But a government body should know better. (If anyone knows the original source of this “statistic”, please let me know.)
Disseminating false statistics like this is a public disservice. While the importance of spay/neuter cannot be overstated, misleading people is NOT the way to go, especially from a government agency. Exaggerations and falsities don’t help the cause, and attempting to shock people into submission just doesn’t work.
What does work? Low cost spay/neuter and TNR programs. I’m a big fan of MDAS’ mobile spay/neuter concept – just not the ridiculous “statistics” they have plastered on the side of it.
So what are the REAL numbers? Based on mathematical modeling done by Wilford, DVM at the University of Washington, one unspayed female cat and one unfixed male cat would average 1.5 litters per year, with an average of 4 kittens per litter. 50% of a litter is female, with a 50% survival rate. The result? This female cat and her offspring would produce between 100-200 cats in seven years. HOWEVER, even this is high because it makes the following assumptions, which won’t always be true: no cats die during the seven years after surviving kitten-hood; no cats get “adopted” into homes; no cats get spayed and no cats become indoor only.
The Wall Street Journal also did their own assessment several years back, and came up with a range of between 98 and 5,000, depending on the number of litters assumed. Still a FAR cry from 11 MILLION.
These exaggerated numbers have been debunked time and time again – and yet they’re still used by regressive shelters and proponents of the status quo in attempts to shock people into submission.
As the Journal’s article said (and remember, this is in reference to the oft-referenced 420,000 claim, not the even-more-ludicrous 11 MILLION claim): “The earliest reference I could find to the cat-reproduction figure was a 1988 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (citing the Humane Society). If you take a mythical cat beginning in that year, and let her and her offspring reproduce at the theoretical rate over the 18 years since, you’d have a cat population of nearly 50 trillion. That would mean the U.S. produces far more cats than coal: If each cat weighed, on average, five pounds, this catastrophically huge feline colony would weigh 120 billion tons — or about 100 times the amount of coal produced in the U.S. last year.”
Seriously, MDAS? Give the public some credit, and instead of false numbers, offer real solutions.