Scientists have developed a single-dose contraceptive for female cats that shows promising results for life.
The breakthrough was developed by scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in Ohio, who set out to expensively control the world’s population of 480 million wild or stray cats.
Treatment involves anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), which connects to receptors in the ovary and helps regulate ovulation.
The injection is administered into the thigh muscle of the animal while it is awake and could be used on other species in the future.
Scientists Have Developed a Single-Dose Contraceptive for Female Cats That Shows Promising Lifetime Results
An estimated 480 million domestic cats around the world are feral or stray, with somewhere between 30 and 80 million free-roaming cats thriving alone across the United States.
The strays face difficult lives themselves, often ending in euthanasia in an animal shelter.
To make matters worse, these cunning and hungry wild hunters are responsible for the decimation of endangered species of birds, reptiles and small mammals across the world.
But researchers have found a more practical solution than costly and failed surgical sterilization efforts: a new long-term contraceptive injection for felines.
“We are cat lovers,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Bill Swanson, director of animal research at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, “which is one of the reasons why we are excited about what this new technology can do to improve the lives of domestic cats.
‘The trap, neutral [spay]the return model,” Dr. Swanson said, “is difficult to achieve on a large scale because the surgery requires general anesthesia, a well-equipped surgical facility and more veterinarians than are currently available.
Swanson and his team’s solution, as published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communicationis a single dose of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) gene therapy, which they claim prevents ovulation in female cats over a long period of time.
Six cats from the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden were treated with the long-lasting contraceptive injection.
Alongside these six felines dosed with the contraceptive AMH gene therapy, three untreated women served as a control group.
Researchers hope to help ease the strain caused by the estimated 480 million domestic cats around the world that are feral or stray. Six cats from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (above) were treated with the long-lasting contraceptive injection
After three years, with the success of the study, the nine cats in the study became eligible for adoption. Dr Swanson himself brought home three of the lab cats
“The evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment is strong,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Lindsey Vansandt, director of CREW’s Imperiled Cat Signature Project.
‘All control [non-treated] the cats produced kittens, but none of the cats treated with the gene therapy got pregnant,” she said.
AMH gene therapy works by inducing the cat’s muscle cells to produce AMH, which is usually only produced in the ovaries.
A single injection of the treatment increases the presence of the hormone in cats approximately 100 times.
The high concentration of AMH serves as a contraceptive by suppressing the creation of ovarian follicles in female cats and other mammals.
Following the success of the CREW team’s two four-month breeding trials, the treated cats were followed for approximately three years to better guarantee the safety of the new treatment.
With the green light given, the nine cats in the study became eligible for adoption. Dr. Swanson himself brought home three of the lab cats.
Swanson said the inspiration for it The proof-of-concept study “was really about solving the problem of overpopulation of cats and dogs and the euthanasia of large numbers of these animals in shelters.”
“The best way to avoid euthanasia”, he told CNN‘isn’t having all these animals that don’t have homes.’
The study’s lead author, Dr Vansandt, pointed to the positive impact the treatment could also have on rare or declining wildlife species.
Scientists believe that feral cats kill between 1.3 and 4.0 billion birds and between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals per year just in the United States.
“I’m both a domestic cat advocate and a wildlife advocate,” Vansandt said. “Our technology has the potential to dramatically improve the well-being of both.”
The Cincinnati Zoo CREW team worked on this project alongside researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Horae Gene Therapy Center, funded by the Joanie Bernard Foundation and the Michelson Found Animals Foundation.
“A non-surgical sterilant for community and companion animals is long overdue and will transform animal welfare,” said Gary K. Michelson, Founder and Co-Chair of the Michelson Found Animals Foundation.