Question about the ethical, logistical, and medical implication of having a cat neutered that doesn’t belong to you.
May 23, 2011 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Question about the ethical, logistical, and medical implication of having a cat neutered that doesn’t belong to you.

Asking for a friend, though it’s a friend that lives in my old neighborhood and I am well acquainted with situation and all the people and cats involved.

“Dave” is a massive tomcat with aggression issues – he’s like the cat version of a super-muscled steroid freak. He roams the neighbourhood attacking and/or attempting to mate with every other cat he encounters, meaning that everyone else must keep their cats indoors at all times. He is, however, very, very sweet to humans and in fact that he’s kind of a neighbourhood pet and legend, though everyone recognizes that he’s a problem.

Dave belongs to “Ethan”, who doesn’t believe in spaying or neutering because it’s not “natural”. Ethan is an extremely sweet-natured and easygoing hippie guy who makes pebble mandalas in his front yard, grows or hunts all his own food (which he shares with his neighbors) but he has some very strange ideas about the world. Other people have approached him about neutering Dave, even offering to pay, and he smilingly refuses.

My friend “Beth”, who lives a few houses down and who has recently had to dispose of the mangled body of one of Dave’s stray feline victims, and who had to deal with a litter of kittens most certainly of his issue in her shed last year, wants to get Dave neutered without Ethan’s permission. Her plan is to get her mom, whom Ethan has never met and whose surname name she doesn’t share, to take Dave to the vet in the next town, keep him for a couple of days while he recovers, and then bring him back. It would not seem unusual for Dave to go missing for a couple of days, and when he returns the chance that Ethan will call around to vets to find out who is at fault is pretty slim –he doesn’t even have a telephone and is laid-back to the point of, erm, catatonia.

So, three questions :
1. Morally, which is more important to consider – Ethan’s ownership and wishes concerning the cat, or the cat’s aggression, the fact that he kills other cats, the unwanted litters he fathers, and the fact that other cat owners in the area can’t ever allow their cats outdoors?
2. Legally, if somehow Ethan found out who had taken his cat to be neutered, and if he somehow found the wherewithal to pursue the issue, what kind of trouble could my friend and her mom find themselves in?
3. Medically, when a cat has been this way for so long, will neutering even change his personality enough to matter? Obviously it will solve the fathering-kittens-for-miles-around issue, but what about the aggression?

This will probably be a controversial question, but please don’t shout at me! I’m asking because I genuinely don’t know the answer. I’m just trying to help a friend make a decision and any input you have will be greatly appreciated.
posted by Wroksie to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How would Beth feel if someone decided they had cart blanche to perform a medical procedure on her pet? Doing something to someone/something and thinking it's OK because they'll never know about it is heinous.

If this cat is a menace to other animals in the area, then call your local version of animal control. In fact, get all of the people who have had to deal with the fallout from Dave to call animal control too, so they can see how much of an issue it is. Let them deal with it.
posted by Solomon at 2:26 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Male cats can be neutered in a few hours. There are no scars. The scrotum looks identical post op. I've done it 10 times. Screw ethics. There is no shortage of cats. Ethan will never know. Arrange in advance. Kidnap the cat and take to the vet. Await neutering. Take home for 1/2 day of convalescence while anesthesia wears off... release.

Females are more difficult. These days, they have smaller wounds, but they still need to be watched for a few days.

As sad as their reproductive 'death' is, it is superior to other methods I have used to deal with stray animals, and is ethically questionable, but relatively benign by comparison. When an animal is on my turf, for a while, he's mine. Be prepared ror conflict if you get found out, but do not expect to be found out. Ethan doesn't fondle his cat's testicles much, I am willing to bet.

Note that my experience was that neutered male adult cats don't see much change in behavior. The often still spray. It's most effective with kittens.
posted by FauxScot at 2:32 AM on May 23, 2011 [15 favorites]

FauxScot's answer is an embarrassment. There is precisely zero concrete evidence that this cat is responsible for any of the problems described, and even if he was there is no justification for the remedy put forward.

Most disturbing in this question is the denigration of "Ethan," who you clearly view as an easy target. As if ownership of a telephone should have any bearing on this situation whatsoever. Allow me to rephrase the question like this -

Dave belongs to “Ethan”, who doesn’t believe in spaying or neutering because it’s not “natural”. Ethan is an extremely well-heeled and professional corporate lawyer with twin daughters aged 8 who spends most of his spare time at charity dinners with his wife who is an executive at Shinsei Bank, but he has some very strange ideas about the world. Other people have approached him about neutering Dave, even offering to pay, and he smilingly refuses.

And then decide if your opinion of the cats owner is clouding your judgement.
posted by fire&wings at 2:39 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

It would not seem unusual for Dave to go missing for a couple of days, and when he returns the chance that Ethan will call around to vets to find out who is at fault is pretty slim –he doesn’t even have a telephone and is laid-back to the point of, erm, catatonia.

So, Ethan doesn't care that much about Dave. Get Dave snipped. To hell with Ethan and his notions of 'it isn't natural'. His beliefs don't outweight the drama of kitty mothers, the people who have to listen to the kitty mother being impregnated, the litters or his victims.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:44 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

A rare occasion, but I disagree with FauxScot here. This is firmly in Oh, Hell No territory for me.

the unwanted litters he fathers

So it's irresponsible for Ethan not to neuter Dave, but perfectly reasonable for others to let their unspayed females outside? Surely you see the inconsistency?
posted by jon1270 at 2:45 AM on May 23, 2011 [13 favorites]

Ever heard the phrase "2 wrongs dont make a right"? - many people consider it morally wrong to not neuter your pets, especially outdoor cats but if you put that issue aside, I think there are very few people who wouldn't think that its morally wrong to steal/kidnap someone else's pet and have a medical procedure performed on it, not only without the owner's knowledge but against his wishes which he has already made clear.

As others have said, call animal control and let them deal with it.

So it's irresponsible for Ethan not to neuter Dave, but perfectly reasonable for others to let their unspayed females outside? Surely you see the inconsistency?
QFT... it takes 2 to tango
posted by missmagenta at 2:47 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fire&Wings - My description of Ethan exists to explain why he feels the way he does about neutering the cat, why and how he might react to his cat being neutered. I can assure you that I harbor absolutely no sneering disregard for him or his lifestyle. I didn’t have a telephone myself, by choice, for nearly six years in my early twenties. Ethan was a friend of mine, I thankfully received quite a bit of his garden produce and venison and genuinely respect him in many, many ways. If that didn’t come through in my description of him, then that is due to my lack of skill in expressing myself, and I apologise if it upset you.
posted by Wroksie at 2:51 AM on May 23, 2011

Response by poster: The kittens Beth found were feral, as was their mother. The bigger problem is the aggression towards non-feral owned cats, spayed or neutered or not, which prevents them being allowed outside at all.
posted by Wroksie at 2:54 AM on May 23, 2011

fire and wings...

I politely disagree. the embarrassment is having irresponsible pet owners. Having had two cats killed by off-leash dogs and seeing the destruction wrought by feral felines in the wild, I just started my own, quite expensive, animal control project. Some of this was encouraged by an aggressive/assertive late wife, and nowadays, I just donate to animal spay clinics.

This past year, I have had to deal with off-leash "natural" dogs.

I haven't had to do this kidnapping thing in a long time, since my interpersonal skills have progressively improved, but not every one can effectively approach / convince someone to be a responsible pet owner, and Ethan has been approached, but declined to deal with it. Good chance the kitty isn't vaccinated.

Many of the critters I neutered were done after I offered to pay for the procedure(s). always, the neutering was accompanied by vaccination.

Even the state will vaccinate your kids if you're one of the fruitcakes that doesn't believe in vaccination. Cats are destructive critters, though I love them. I am on my last two, down from 7 years ago. Phew.

Technically, what I'm advocating is certainly intrusive. I maintain that having a feral feline is an overt aggression. Animal control authorities are next to useless, in my experience.

I'd like to know, what you have actually done in this area that was actually effective? Do you have any experience to go with your smug outrage? If so, by all means, share your success stories.
posted by FauxScot at 3:07 AM on May 23, 2011 [11 favorites]

Start dropping the corpses and kittens off on Ethan's doorstep going forward. Tell him his cat is killing neighbourhood cats and if he doesn't get it spayed then animal control will kill it. Ask which of those options seems more natural. Tell him he has till the end of the month.
posted by smoke at 3:24 AM on May 23, 2011 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Start dropping the corpses and kittens off on Ethan's doorstep going forward. Tell him his cat is killing neighbourhood cats and if he doesn't get it spayed then animal control will kill it. Ask which of those options seems more natural. Tell him he has till the end of the month.

That might work with some kinds of people, but it sounds like Ethan is the kind of hippie who doesn't have it together enough to ever get the cat neutered even if he decides that it's a good idea. Really earnest hippies tend to be some of the nicest, kindest souls that you'll ever meet, but getting them to do anything outside of their creative inclinations is pretty close to impossible. If he had plenty of money, he might do it, but he probably doesn't and finding an option for it that he can afford is going to be way too much hassle for him.

My gut instinct in reading this was "getting the cat secretly neutered seems wrong in principle but I think it might be justified in this case." Then I had another thought-- based on my own experience, I don't think it's going to accomplish all that you're hoping for:

I had a barn cat that was neutered as an adult, and he was a slightly-less terrible version of Dave regardless. He was featured in the old AskMe when he went missing. Al was a massive, authentic New England proto-Maine Coon barn cat, and we brought him home to our dense first-ring suburb of Boston after he walked in to our rural outdoor wedding. My parents had him neutered for us while we were on our honeymoon and he was a bit over a year old at the time.

Like Dave, he was a neighborhood celebrity who was very charming to people and would have been thoroughly loved by everyone nearby who appreciated cats, except that he was an utter asshole to every other cat in the neighborhood. He set about taking over the neighborhood within hours of being allowed outside: absolutely shredded the ear of the aging, established neighborhood alpha cat; beat the crap out of our favorite neighbor cat to the point that there was orange fur blowing all over street; and a couple days later he jumped a golden retriever being walked on a leash. We'd taken his balls, but he still had huge ones metaphorically. The problems mostly went away after a bit, but it was because the neighborhood adapted to him rather than him settling down-- the other cats hardly came out anymore, and they had advance warning to avoid him because we fastened a huge, undignified bell to his collar in an attempt to prevent him from turning our elderly neighbor's birdfeeder into the Killing Fields. He still fought with cats that were foolish enough to wander into the neighborhood and still lay in wait to get in a couple quick swipes at dogs who were walked down the street. He was one incident away from being shipped up to my folks' rural compound permanently (which is where he belonged in retrospect, except that they already had cats who would have suffered at the hands of the little tyrant) when he disappeared. It was probably outside forces that caused the disappearance, but if he hadn't been chipped I'd wonder if one of my neighbors hadn't taken him to a distant shelter and said that he was a local stray. I don't think Dave's aggression is going anywhere.

It will stop Dave from fathering more kittens, but you're not exactly getting Dave on "Maury" to establish the paternity of the kittens that you're finding and you might not find a drop off in feral cat litters.

If I thought the plan was likely to get the desired results, I'd be in the "this is wrong in principle but pragmatically I think you need to do it" camp. But instead I think you're planning something ethically questionable that's ultimately going to make you disappointed. Don't do this.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:18 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Honestly, I can't see why you're asking the internet. The cat is deadly, either get it snipped or call animal control and have it put down. Sitting here worrying about Ethan's feelings isn't helpful. He doesn't give a crap about yours or anyone else's.

If you have a problem, you fix the problem, otherwise it stays a problem. Get the cat fixed and soon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:28 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Does Ethan know that the cat is killing other cats? Or does he just think you offered to pay for a neutering because of the pregnancies? Those really aren't an issue justifying intervention, in my opinion, but the violence might be.

The problem is that there's no guarantee this will calm him down. The best solution might be for the owner to keep him indoors -- again, talk to him. Otherwise, call animal control.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:42 AM on May 23, 2011

If the cat is killing other cats, call animal control and have it put down.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

The neighbourhood my parents live in had a Dave, though he was fairly clearly a pet whose family had moved away and who just left him outside. He got in fights all the time, was clearly unneutered, and was the most affectionate cat to humans. (As far as I know, he never killed another cat.) At one point, a family took him to the vet, had his cuts treated, and had him neutered. He remained just as wonderful, but less aggressive and he very rarely gets in fights now. It was, however, immediately obvious that he'd been neutered.

If Dave is short-haired, it is fairly certain that Ethan will notice; if he is long-haired, it is possible he will not.

Is it wrong? Probably. Would I do it? Probably also, as I think it's more wrong what Ethan is doing. If Ethan comments, you can say something about hearing about a TNR program.
posted by jeather at 5:52 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you should talk to Ethan in the strongest of terms about his cat's behaviour, and the consequences of having an unspayed/neutered animal wander around outside. Make it clear that while it might be 'natural' to let Dave keep his balls, it's unspeakably cruel to the many kittens he'll produce who will more than likely be put down. Offer to take care of Dave's neutering and cover the costs. If Ethan refuses it's on him, but you should let him know that he's being an irresponsible asshole.

Pardon my tone, but I *detest* people who don't neuter their pets.
posted by nerdfish at 5:58 AM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Based on your description of Ethan, my bet is that he isn't into the role of "owner" because every life is a free spirit. Dave just happens to live with him. You have my full approval and authority to get him snipped as per your plan.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:01 AM on May 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

Dave is a damn menace. Wroksie, if I lived near you, I'd take him to the vet myself. Politics surrounding indoor vs. outdoor cats aside, allowing an intact cat outside is a jerk move. If you're going to disclaim responsibility for your animal by not providing appropriate veterinary care and leaving the animal to roam free outside, you give up the right to be angry that the neighborhood takes responsibility for you.
posted by crankylex at 6:25 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


not sure on what grounds they might sue or how they might prevail? unless ethan is a breeder, he hasn't been harmed economically. cutting off a cat's testicles isn't illegal, especially if you have a professional perform it. if it were, you couldn't get the service performed anywhere.

the cat is property, perhaps, but it's not income producing property (almost certainly) and he has in no way been harmed or abused, according to social standards we'd all pretty much agree with.

you know that the cost of euthanizing a cat is about 1/4 of neutering it. the cost of shooting it is about a dime, the cost of drowning in a pond, even less. all of these are suboptimal, and I consider them cruel, but they are alternatives that have been avoided at great expense by the volunteer rogue neuterer.

I sincerely doubt that either would be legally sanctioned, even if it were discovered. Human murders go unsolved and unpunished every day. Even our government sanctions torture. OPs buddy is a saint compared to GW Bush!

just saying....
posted by FauxScot at 6:26 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

jon1270... i agree with you that the females are a better target and the best choice is to have folks maintain their animals.

we've got a spay/neuter operation here that will visit the rogue cattery and offer to neuter all the cats for free. best outfit i can ever recall seeing. they do about 50 cats a day in this county alone, in one of the smallest states in the country. they raise money from vets and donations, and very minor charges. what an outfit. the euthanizing numbers at the county shelter have collapsed as a result. i love those folks and they are getting realllly good at convincing the recalcitrants to spay. it's the best alternative i have seen in years.

sadly, not everyone has access to this and not many have the interpersonal practice to pull off an approach to an owner successfully.

my animals are indoor and/or leashed when out. i've been attacked a dozen times by loose dogs. i hates me some irresponsible pet owners and as a do-er, I am used to acting, so that's where a lot of this opinion comes from.

i do value yours, though! good points.
posted by FauxScot at 6:37 AM on May 23, 2011

Are you in the UK? I feel like this is an easier question in the US, where, first of all, off-leash cats roaming the neighborhood are illegal in most municipalities and animal control WILL come pick them up, and Dave can pay a fairly expensive ticket and get a stern talking-to. Secondly, cats must be vaccinated and "licensed" (in most places) and failure to do so, when the authorities notice the cat, will result in tickets and fines, mandatory vaccination, etc. In most places in the US, it costs CONSIDERABLY more -- like sometimes ten times more -- to have an intact cat or dog than to have a neutered one. Animal control will subsidize or even pay for the neutering. Third, killing one pet or attacking one human might result only in a warning and a ticket (and higher insurance premiums, if it was a human who was attacked), but killing two pets or attacking humans twice, ESPECIALLY while the owner isn't bothering to control the pet, will typically result in euthanasia.

What are the rules where Dave is about control of pets, registration of pets, and pets that attack other domestic animals and/or humans? Dave may wish to come meet reality on this one rather than put his "natural" animal at risk.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:41 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does Ethan feed this cat? Does he provide shelter for it? Does he take the cat for regular veterinary checkups? If you can find a legal definition of "ownership" in your state, maybe you will find that Ethan doesn't really qualify as the legal owner. If you present this to Ethan, maybe he will agree to give up any claim to the cat, and Dave can be given to a rescue group, who will neuter him and [hopefully] find him a new home.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:00 AM on May 23, 2011

It might help to point out to Ethan that any authorities who show up to investigate complaints registered against his cat may also be extremely interested in any herbal illegalities happening in or around his home, and that while you personally would not want to turn him or his cat in, others in the neighborhood might not be so neighborly.

(As I reread that, it seems like a pretty awful threat, so let's call it the plan of last resort.)
posted by elizardbits at 7:12 AM on May 23, 2011

If you call Animal Control and tell them there is a cat roaming free that attacks other cats, be prepared for them to come and take away any cats that are allowed to roam outdoors in the neighborhood, which is perfectly within their rights.

This is a tough situation. I personally feel that all owned cats should be spayed or neutered; you can't adopt from a shelter here unless the cat has been fixed. So I disagree with Ethan completely on that issue, and I feel strongly for the poor creatures Dave is killing (!) and their owners, if they have any (I'm unclear whether Dave specifically targets the feral cats in the area or those that are owned by the neighbors).

But Ethan is technically right about nature playing a part here, in that cats are natural predators, and nature is often ugly and harsh. I imagine the other cats in the neighborhood that are allowed to roam free are going after lizards and birds and mice and rabbits and no one is as concerned because they aren't aww, kitties!

Ethically, I would think the three solutions I would feel most comfortable with are:
1. Keeping neighborhood cats inside so they are not endangered by Dave.
2. Getting Ethan to put a bell on Dave, even buying it yourself and doing it if Ethan would allow it (he might not, as bells aren't natural, either).
3. Calling Animal Control and letting them deal with the situation.

And I'd probably do all three of those things. I just can't see taking someone else's animal myself and having surgery done on it. I do realize that Animal Control will probably neuter the cat if they pick it up, but then I would know it was done because a third source considered it the best course of action for all involved, and I wouldn't have it on my conscience that maybe I had let my personal feelings affect my objectivity.
posted by misha at 7:12 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: few comments removed - folks, please address comments towards the OP or take them to email or metatalk, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:48 AM on May 23, 2011

The answer to your question depends on your ethical framework.

If you are a utilitarian, as I am, you will act in a way that reduces suffering and maximises utility, or happiness. Seems pretty clear that neutering is best for most of the animals and humans concerned (and that their utility outweighs Ethan's anger).

If you are a deontologist, you will not care about the consequences of the act and focus on conforming to rules, duties and rights -- like "we have a duty not to neuter our neighbour's cat without their knowledge". Why? Because "it's heinous" (Solomon) or "just not right" (odinsdream).

I'd suggest that you concern yourself with the impact on the animals and humans concerned, rather than the unfounded, "common sensical" ethical qualms of deontologists. But then I would say that.
posted by dontjumplarry at 7:51 AM on May 23, 2011

Best answer: Seconding misha's suggestion of calling animal control. I'd do it without a second thought, frankly. The hippie combination of aww, kitty + it's NATURE, man! is a particularly unfortunate one here, because in this case those two values directly contradict one another.

Cats may be animals and therefore part of some global "nature," but their presence here in the U.S., and their part-subsidization by human handouts, is not natural, and when they are allowed to roam outdoors they do tremendous damage to the actual wildlife. This is particularly the case when they are allowed to reproduce freely. If you value nature, then great-- kill the cat, confine it or or remove it, just as we routinely do to other invasive non-native species.

On the other hand, we keep cats around because they're cute and fluffy and aww, kitty! But it's important to recognize that there's nothing "natural" about that impulse, and there's no reason why "nature" should trump the standard rules governing other pleasurable personal practices. Included in those rules is the obligation to make sure one's activities don't harm others, including one's neighbors or the animals under one's care. So this guy's allowing the pet he loves to roam off his property, attacking other people's cats and putting Dave himself at risk, is an antisocial human behavior that it's perfectly legitimate to correct using the public channels already in place to deal with stuff like this.

Either the cat is wild, or it's a pet-- either way, there's a clear obligation to confine and control it that should be enforced by your local authorities. It's only by confusedly lumping those two categories together, so that Dave is partly Ethan's cute kittykin (so it's mean to Ethan to intervene), but partly also a "wild animal" (so Ethan has no responsibility to control him), that you get the situation where the cat is allowed to roam free and unneutered, and everybody feels guilty about interfering.
posted by Bardolph at 7:58 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Someone needs to talk to Ethan, and maybe present him with info on the how humane it really is to neuter/spay a cat. You may have luck with the local animal rescue possibly someone from there can help with the approach... What stops Ethan from taking in another Dave?
posted by jerseygirl at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2011

Best answer: If it were a dog killing other dogs, Animal Control would have been called long ago and the aggressor put down. If Dave was a stray cat that was killing pet cats, again, he would have been put down already. Ethan's pet cat is killing other pet cats. A drive-by neutering is a lot more humane than either Dave's death or the death of another of his victims.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:59 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Take a photo of Dave.
2. Call/contact Alley Cat Rescue: -- give them Dave's photo.
3. Ask them to come trap-neuter-return him.
4. Save yourself the cost of paying for the neutering.

Dave is basically a quasi-feral cat, the way he is 'cared for' by Ethan.
posted by gsh at 10:03 AM on May 23, 2011

misha: "I do realize that Animal Control will probably neuter the cat if they pick it up,"

Animal Control will not spend money on veterniary bills. That is not their job. If a cat rescue does not find out about cats held at Animal Control (through regular visits, or via a kind-hearted animal control officer), this cat will probably be destroyed. It depends on the Animal Control, but that is the most likely outcome.

Aniaml Control != Humane Society
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:03 AM on May 23, 2011

posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:04 AM on May 23, 2011

Wow. If I caught wind of one of my neighbors plotting to kidnap another neighbor's cat and have it spayed, I'd call the cops on you. Depending on the jurisdiction, you'd probably be arrested too. (You're not my neighbor, and haven't actually done this yet, so I'll reserve judgement for now.)

You're certainly free to call animal control (and to warn Ethan that you're going to call animal control), but the limits on what you can do to another person's pet end right there.

You don't even have any evidence that there isn't some other animal (ie. a fox) prowling the neighborhood, and killing small cats. To me, it sounds like you're letting your feelings about Ethan get in the way of your judgement.
posted by schmod at 10:21 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've done this. In my case it was a city cat that I'd see most days hanging out on the next block over. While she was outside 85% of the time, I would occasionally see her through a window especially in very bad weather. She also had a food and water dish on the stoop of the house. So she was clearly "owned" or at least cared for by a specific set of people, but largely treated as an outdoor pet. But she was for the most part healthy, clean, etc. and seemed ok, so I minded my own business.

Except that twice a year, she would get hugely pregnant. Then, she would disappear for a while and when she reappeared she'd be nice and svelte. A few weeks later I'd glimpse a few darty little figures in the alleyway. I caught a few as kittens and adopted them out. Several more were killed in the road. This happened for a few cycles and I just couldn't handle it anymore. I picked her up, got her spayed, let her recover in my bathroom for a few days, and returned her. Everything returned to normal except the deluge of unwanted kittens.

Cats are not wild animals. They are domesticated. We keep the in artificial environments like cities and suburbs. We control their reproduction and range of territory. In exchange, we provide them with food, shelter, and medical care. You wouldn't refuse vaccines or medical care for your pet just because these things aren't available "in nature", nor should you let a domesticated, tame animal reproduce and leave the progeny outside to fend for themselves. They will either die sad, hard deaths, or become feral causing a whole other set of issues. Or, if they're extremely lucky, they might get taken in by a passing bleeding heart turning your irresponsibility into someone else's problem to solve.

Ethically it may not be entirely clear cut. That is unless you weigh the cat's side as well. That's usually the tipping point. If he's mauling other cats and fathering uncountable offspring, his balls are a problem. It's a problem that can be solved easily and without any psychological insult to the cat. The only one with a ideological dog in this fight is your friend. The cat won't care.
posted by troublewithwolves at 10:44 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Even if he was neutered, I'm skeptical the aggression would go away at this point.

To me the much larger issue here is whether or not Dave has his vaccinations and has recently been tested for FIV (the feline equivalent of HIV).

If Ethan has problems with neutering, it's not a stretch for his beliefs to extend to other veterinary care. I'd find out. Even if he became less agressive, the infectious risk doesn't go away, and if people start letting their cats out again, it could escalate into more than unwanted kittens and mangled cats. The risk of FIV is there anytime a negative cat comes into contact with a cat of unknown status, but if he's the neighborhood bully, then I think there's a good chance he's positive.

I'd call animal control to remove the animal. He's a hazard even if he's a cute fuzzy one, and if he doesn't receive proper medical care, it may be the humane option. But if that's not appealing, then kidnapping him for a blood test is a non-invasive, bare minimum alternative that can inform future decisions by Ethan (or if he won't make them, the neighborhood).
posted by syanna at 10:55 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even if he was neutered, I'm skeptical the aggression would go away at this point.

Yeah, setting aside the ethical and legal questions, I think the medical question is in enough doubt that it makes this plan not worth the trouble. Neutering adult male cats is not a reliable way to reduce aggressive tendencies. Heck, it doesn't always work in kittens.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:00 PM on May 23, 2011

Check your local ordinances regarding animals on your property. In some places, you can basically do whatever you want to an animal that gets itself onto your property. You can trap it and take it to Animal Control; you can shoot it; you can get it fixed and bring it back. If it's not only roaming loose, but on YOUR property, you may have quite a few legal options.

Your Animal Control may know offhand, but your city, county, state ordinances are probably online and searchable.
posted by galadriel at 1:52 PM on May 23, 2011

When I was a kid, my parents took our neighbor's fighty male cat to be neutered, without telling them. The result was a less fighty, less yowly cat that still spent more time at our house, but at least wasn't kicking the shit out of our cats. At that point, the neighbor's cat was costing us money and time due to taking our own cats to the vet and treating their abscessed scratches.
This was in a part of the world where people were allowed to shoot animals that wandered onto their property.

Neutering can sometimes help aggression in older cats. It's a tossup though; the one thing it will definitely do is prevent him from fathering kittens.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:03 PM on May 23, 2011

Yes, it's wrong.

But I'd do it anyway.
posted by MeiraV at 2:32 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm with MeiraV.

If Ethan REALLY REALLY doesn't want to neuter Dave, then Ethan should make Dave into an indoor cat. But if he refuses to do jack shit about the Dave problem, and there are ways to get him fixed without Ethan really even noticing, then hell, I'd totally do it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:38 PM on May 23, 2011

Sure, let the tom go around and make tons of new litters of cats that will almost certainly get gassed in an animal shelter or starve to death. Better that then hurting his feelings, right?
posted by speedgraphic at 4:29 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Very possibly "wrong." I'd still do it, if only to keep the unwanted litters down.
posted by Neofelis at 4:43 PM on May 23, 2011

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