Immunocontraceptives as a potential feral cat population management tool

I have just seen a tweet from Ellen Cottingham of the University of Melbourne, Australia. The tweet is below. It seemed to be saying to me that in Australia’s drive to eradicate feral cats from their continent they have tried everything and are now looking at feline immunocontraceptives as a potential population management tool. So, what does it mean?


A while ago I wrote about genetic engineering to make male cats sterile. This seems to be something similar but more advanced in terms of its impending use. I believe this form of sterilisation works by using a ‘virally-vectored’ vaccine which is injected into cats to make them temporarily sterile. It achieves this by instigating an ‘adaptive immune response’. This means a response to specific pathogens through antibodies (immunoglobulins) and T-cells. The term ‘virally vectored’ means that it works a bit like some of the coronavirus vaccines in using a virus to carry the vaccine. It uses a virus to deliver the vaccine inside a cell because viruses are designed to enter cells.

Virally-vectored immunocontraceptives as a potential population management tool
Virally-vectored immunocontraceptives as a potential population management tool. Tweet by Ellen Cottingham.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

But in this case, the vaccine does not stimulate the production of antibodies against a pathogen but against Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which releases two hormones which ‘orchestrate the reproductive cycle and regulate the sex secretion from the gonads’.

As I understand it, this vaccine interferes with the Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which makes the cat sterile. The vaccine is designed to get the cat to fight itself in a similar way to an autoimmune response.

They say that immunocontraception is more practical and cost effective compared to surgical sterilisation and return to the environment (TNR). And TNR is limited in scope due its ‘expense and logistical impediments’ (practical issues of getting it done).

In short, immunocontraception is simpler and cheaper, which is why it is being developed as an alternative way to sterilise feral cats and reduce their number in Australia. That’s my understanding of this development. Comment: I am not sure that it is easier logistically. It will still mean trapping the cats and injecting them although and injection is simpler than a spaying and even a neutering operation. So maybe it is a good development. Perhaps they’ll use darts to inject the cats!


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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

2 thoughts on “Immunocontraceptives as a potential feral cat population management tool”

  1. That all sounds so fancy and wonderful, kind of like rainbows and unicorns.


    Didn’t their parents teach them that if something sounds too good to be true, that it is NOT true?

    Which brings about a slue of questions: How do they plan to administer the “vaccines”? How do they know which cats are male and which have already been “vaccinated”? How do they know when it is time to revaccinate an individual cat? etc.

    Also, what sort of nasty side effects do the cats suffer? That type of sterilization doesn’t seem right or as effective as they are telling us. Too fishy sounding to me. Maybe it is their way of killing the cats with cat-lovers support? Pretending to do a humane thing?

    Considering Australia’s track record with “wildlife maintenance”, the TNR option is better suited. TNR is permanent sterilization and they can control where the cats live afterwards. Plus, they aren’t spending a ton of money on research to make sure their “vaccine” actually works the way it is supposed to work.

    The TNR option should be reconsidered, especially in light of the rat infestation in areas WITHOUT any cats. Not only would the birds be safe again from feral cats, the rat population would be decimated and feral cats would feast until their death of natural causes (NOT man). A true win-win situation for all.

    1. And don’t forget these geniuses brought in snakes to control the rats. Snakes that only eat ONE (!) every few days. Just saying!

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