The domestic cat is a brilliant companion animal for millions. However, the relationship is imperfect. There are two aspects of domestic cats which return in discussion forums like bad pennies over and over again: allergies to cats and bringing in dead or alive mice and birds.
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About ten percent of humans are allergic to cats. The entrepreneurs have been looking at ways to create an hypoallergenic domestic cat for ages. Someone got quite a long way into this project with Allerca cats. Remember them? The top model was a F1 Savannah cat (labelled the Ashera GD) because the theory is that F1 Savannahs are more likely to be hypoallergenic.
About 100 percent of the cat owning public don’t like it when their cat brings in dying mice and flapping birds. Hunting is the reason for living for most domestic cats even despite 10,000 years of being fed and cossetted by humans.
It is firmly embedded in their DNA and rightly so but wouldn’t it be nice if domestic cats never wanted to hunt? No more looking for that mouse that escaped in the living room and crawled under the sideboard. No more blood on the floor to clean up. No more slaughter of the innocents inside your home.
There would be a spin-off in behaviour from a cat who had no desire to hunt: they would stop playing as well because all cat play is based on their desire to hunt. That would be good and bad. Good in that you would no longer need to play with your cat and bad in that he’d put on weight.
Well, if you agree that these feline traits would be better eliminated, it might be possible in the near future with genetic engineering. There is a market for genetically engineered pets (Larisa Rudink – Guidance for Industry USA: Center for veterinary medicine).
There is talk about genetically engineering feral cats to stop them procreating. It is a long term project both in terms of getting it off the ground and the time it will take to be effective but I believe it will happen one day. It would resolve the ‘feral cat problem’ humanely provided they were cared for during their gradual decline in numbers to zero: the statistical Holy Grail of feral cat population.
Livestock has been genetically engineered to improve food production and salmon have been genetically engineered to grow year-round instead of during spring and summer.
The science is advancing rapidly. The only issue – a major issue – is the avoidance of animal cruelty in developing this science. If science demands that cats are the subject of animal experiments to develop genetic engineering I would be firmly against it.
For me it is impossible to justify animal experimentation for any purpose that improves human life. It is only justifiable if it improves the lives of animals and even then it is doubtful because why should humans have the right to decide that some animals must die for the benefit of others?
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