BRUSSELS – Belgium is set to embark on a radical plan to sterilize most cats in the country by 2016, an official said Wednesday, confirming a report by the Sud Presse newspaper group.

The measure is meant to solve the problem of feline overpopulation. In a country of over 10 million people, there are an estimated 1 million cats, a spokesman for the health ministry told the German news agency dpa.

According to the “Multi Annual Cat Plan,” due to be rolled out in 2011, sterilization will first be carried out on cats held in shelters, then extended to breeding establishments and pet shops.

At a later stage, sterilization will be made mandatory also for domestic cats, which are expected to be identified and placed on a national registry.

However, an official from the animal welfare department in the health ministry, Catherine Terclavers, told the Belgian press agency Belga that the plan has not received final approval because of funding difficulties.

“This is why it is still nothing more a project; we still have to discuss it. For the moment, no funding from the federal government is foreseen,” she said.

She said that pedigree cats will be excluded from the program.