New contraception for domestic cats works, says Cincinnati Zoo researchers who studied it
Researchers at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden say an injectable long-term contraception for domestic cats they studied works, and should be able to eventually reduce the growing community cat population.
Experts estimate these unknown outdoor cats number between 30 million and 80 million in the U.S.
Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital developed the contraception that the Cincinnati Zoo studied. It's like a blueprint, and tells the cat's DNA to greatly increase the amount of a certain protein it makes and that's what prevents pregnancy.
The injection was designed by David Pépin (Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Surgery, Harvard Medical School; Boston) who is the senior author on the paper.
The zoo's director of Imperiled Cat Signature Program for CREW, Lindsey Vansandt, studied the injected domestic cats and explains how it acts as a contraception. "They're making a protein that they make naturally but at much higher levels — approximately 100 times greater than they normally make," she says. "And so that feeds back on the ovary and prevents it from developing follicles."
For eight hours a day, five days a week for four months, injected female cats were with a male cat and did not get pregnant. This was repeated in several cycles over a two-year period.
Because this pilot study only included six adult female cats, more research is needed — so is FDA approval.
Vansandt and her team are excited with the initial results. "Spaying — although it's routine — is still an invasive surgery," she says. "I think we do a really good job as a veterinary profession of doing adequate pain control, but certainly animals with pre-existing diseases — heart disease comes to mind — we might not want to put that animal under general anesthesia."
The zoo’s domestic cat "scientists" will be up for adoption by Cincinnatians at the conclusion of the study.
The study was funded by The Joanie Bernard Foundation and the Michelson Found Animals Foundation.
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