Guest Opinion by Kip Hansen — 8 June 2023
I have written more than once here at WUWT about the effect that feral cats have on native bird species, particularly low- and ground-nesting species, to say nothing about small reptiles and small mammals.
There has been on ongoing fight between those who would euthanize all feral cats, the Trap-Neuter-Release advocates and those who consider cats, feral or not, as non-human persons [ personal communication ] and due all the rights and respect due homeless humans.
The media is full of reports of a new (possible) contraception shot for cats – one shot to last a lifetime, with headlines such as :
Science Magazine: Hello kitty, goodbye kittens? Gene therapy spays cats without surgery
New York Times: Gene Therapy May Offer Birth Control for Cats
The ScienceNews piece states: “An injected gene therapy given to female cats prevented them from getting pregnant, researchers report June 6 in Nature Communications. None gave birth to a litter of kittens even after mating with a fertile male. The tactic, if it holds up in further testing, could offer a more efficient way to control a global population of feral cats that numbers in the hundreds of millions.”
“The experimental gene therapy targets anti-Müellerian hormone, also known as Müllerian inhibiting substance, a protein that helps fetal sex organs develop. After injection, a modified virus introduces the gene that makes the hormone into the cats’ cells. The cells then make more anti-Müellerian hormone than normal. High levels of the protein may prevent a cat’s ovaries from releasing eggs by keeping follicles — the structures that house and release eggs — in a dormant state.” [ source ]
Simple injections would certainly speed up the Trap-Neuter-Release programs and injections are far safer, for the cat, than surgery. Both surgical neutering and this new injection provide permanent contraception in the female feral cats. And for your beloved tabby at home, the injection would probably be safer (pending more testing), and maybe less cruel, that surgery as well.
The comes the not-so-good news:
“Still, “it’s a really different way to do contraception,” Pépin says. And anti-Müellerian hormone is common among animals, so it may be possible to expand to other invasive species. Pépin and others are even exploring ways to leverage the hormone in humans as a nonpermanent form of contraception (SN: 8/22/17). There’s still a lot to learn, “but I think there’s a great opportunity here.””
Using a method that is apparently permanent in cats and applying it to humans would produce only a nonpermanent form of contraception? Not permanent sterility?
We can only wait and see. Will our sciencey experts limit themselves to sterilizing cats? Or will they extend their hormone therapy to other invasive species, like humans.
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Mid- to long-term contraception, from months to years, might be a good thing for women who do not wish, for whatever their reasons, to be come pregnant and bear children. I think of high school students and university students, who choose to be sexually active but don’t wish so start families (married or most often not).
Possible permanent contraception, easily delivered as an injection, might tempt too many governmental social programs to opt to effectively sterilize the poor or the otherwise considered unfit, especially in more authoritarian nations.
Personally, I am a supporter of strong families, permanent when possible, ideally with a father and a mother living and working together to raise their children.
I am not a supporter of feral cats and tend to the view that they should be systematically eliminated from the environment. Further, like other animals kept as pets by humans, cats should be restricted to the homes and property of their owners and not allowed to range free. Pet owners not wishing to be pet breeders should have their pets spayed or neutered.
Thanks for reading.
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