There are serious ethical issue surrounding cat blood donations which a cat owner needs to think about before offering their cat as a blood donor.
The first problem is that the owner is making a decision on behalf of their cat without any input from their cat. The procedure is imposed on the cat. It is not as if the decision is risk free. There are real but slight risks for a cat giving blood. This is because the cat has to be anaesthetised. A study 1 concluded that all cats anesthetized when giving blood experienced hypotension (low blood pressure). Intervention was necessary in many cases. Post-procedure hyperthermia is also a risk. There would appear to be a risk, albeit very slight, of death. The outcome would depend on the skill of the veterinarian or assistant. There is considerable testing before a cat is deemed acceptable as a blood donor.
As far as I’m concerned, these risks are probably too significant when considered in the light of the fact that the cat owner is making a decision on behalf of their cat and the blood donation is given voluntarily.
Apparently, cat blood cannot be stored in a blood bank as is the case for humans. This must mean that cats have to give blood on specific occasions or sometimes cats are kept specifically as blood donors in large veterinary clinics and universities.
That, in itself, raises ethical questions. I was unaware of this until today. Keeping a cat for the sole purpose of giving blood at an institution feels wrong to me. On the plus side the cat blood donor is possibly saving the lives of other cats. Also, perhaps such cats are unwanted therefore if they were not giving blood they might have been euthanised at a shelter. It could be argued that, on balance, it is ethically acceptable.
For cats, a small quantity of blood is collected, no more than 40-50 mL. The blood is collected from the jugular vein in the neck. I find this disturbing but it is a typical way the blood is collected. It takes place over about 30 minutes.
I’m wondering what kind of cat owner consents to putting their cat forward as a blood donor. Bearing in mind the risks I would have thought that blood donor cats would be rescue cats who have avoided euthanasia but even that is arguably ethically incorrect because it means that these sorts of cats have less value than others. All cats have equal value.
1. The study compared intramuscular ketamine-midazolam-butorphanol (KMB) versus inhaled sevoflurane in oxygen (SEV).