Scientists have designed a contraceptive to limit gray squirrel numbers so why not feral cats?

On reading the story about the creation of a contraceptive specifically designed to reduce the population size of gray squirrels in the UK, I immediately thought of the feral cat in Australia. If you want to do something humane for feral cats on the planet, think of the feral cats of Australia where they are considered to be pests and vermin and where they are killed using wide range of cruel methods. Surely the more humane option would be a version of this contraceptive which is effective against squirrels?

Grey squirrel in my garden
Grey squirrel in my garden. Pic: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The BBC reports on a plan to use oral contraceptives to control the gray population in the UK and we are told that it is making good progress. The plan includes luring gray squirrels into feeding boxes. Only gray squirrels can get into the boxes where they have access to pots containing hazelnut spread laced with a contraceptive which prompts the endocrine system to restrict the production of sex hormones. This leaves both females and males squirrels infertile.

The drug is not permanent and they are doing further tests on trying to find out how the dose can be made longer lasting and to ensure that it is safe in the wild.

They have built a special feeder with a weighted door which keeps out other species. In trials in Yorkshire and Wales they found that 70% of squirrels in each wood visited the bait boxes over a four-day period. Only two mice got into the boxes. The hazelnut spread is irresistible to gray squirrels. They have included a weighing system within the box which only lets the heavier greys have access to the contraceptive spread.

Computer modelling has concluded that this method of contraception could bring gray squirrel populations to the edge of extinction in some areas; maybe eradicate them from some areas. However, as you might expect, there needs to be a coordinated and widespread approach to make it work effectively.

Dr. Giovanna Massei believes that the technique could be used to help control the population of other invasive species and he quotes rats, mice, deer and wild boar. I think he has missed one very important animal: the feral cats of Australia!

It seems to me that it would not take an awful lot of science to use this technology which is quite near fruition and modify to make it suitable for the control of feral cats. It would be nice to think that some top conservationists in Australia are in contact with Dr. Massei from the UK government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency. The research is being funded by the UK Squirrel Accord which is a partnership between forestry and conservation organisations. £1 million has been raised to cover the research and development of this technique.

On a separate note, I believe that the gray squirrel is badly maligned in the UK and in other countries. They say that they damage trees and destroy them by stripping bark from them. I feed grey squirrels at the back of my garden and, yes, they do damage trees slightly but what I see is not enough to kill trees or cause me any real concern.

The broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham, is very enthusiastic about the project and describes it as a “dream ticket” if it proves to be viable and practical. Certainly, a species-specific oral contraceptive is a great and humane method of dealing with unwanted and invasive species in many countries but top of that list, and I will say again, is the poor, cruelly-treated feral cat on the Australian continent where they are badly mistreated.

Below are some more articles on feral cat spaying and neutering etc..

Intact male tortoiseshell is asexual

Can cats be asexual?

I'm referring to domestic cats. The word "asexual" means to lack the desire to have sex. Both intact male and ...

Kotor Kitties is a brilliant non-profit spaying and neutering cats in Montenegro

Luka. Photo: Kotor Kitties. This is an article about Kotor Kitties. They have a nice website which tells you how ...
Tomcat jowls created by the presence of testosterone

Unneutered male cats have a more masculine facial appearance compared to neutered male cats

This is a discussion about whether the neutering of male cats (castration) changes their facial appearance. It can also have ...
How we like them

De-sexing our cats changes them from real animals to living toys

We are fooling ourselves if we believe we are forced to spay and neuter our cats for their benefit and ...
Note left by a cat owner with her seven cats when she dumped them at a veterinary clinic in Australia

Cat owner’s desperate note to vet shows how Australia’s cost-of-living crisis affects cat welfare: ‘Sorry to have to do this’

NEWS AND OPINION- AUSTRALIA: Inflation in America 2023 is around 6%. In Australia it is around 8% and, in the ...
Botched spaying

Do spayed and neutered cats put on weight?

The answer is that spayed and neutered domestic cats 'tended to be heavier than those that weren't'. So, the answer ...
Stray cats of Dublin

How many feral cats in the US 2021?

A recent research project in the UK may indicate that the number of feral cats in America is much lower ...

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

3 thoughts on “Scientists have designed a contraceptive to limit gray squirrel numbers so why not feral cats?”

  1. The calm before the storm. The University of Florida veterinary students have spent the past four weeks studying how to improve neighborhoods with humane community cat management. The Grand Finale was a clinic in which they performed 374 spay and neuter surgeries in one day. This is all part of the Community Cat Management course offered by the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida in partnership with Operation Catnip. This course is made possible by a grant from the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.

    1. Thanks Julie. Very impressive. I love the people who spay and neuter to improve cat welfare and the charities who fund it. And of course, the thousands of volunteers across the US who run TNR programs. They are heroes to me.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

follow it link and logo

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

I welcome and value comments. Please share your thoughts. All comments are currently unmoderated.

This blog is seen in 199 of the world's country's according to Google Analytics which is pretty much the entire world.

Scroll to Top