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They might seem cute and cuddly, but some of the cats you see roaming neighborhoods or hanging out by restaurants are wild animals, born without any people caring for them. And experts estimate that about 50 million of these feral cats are running free throughout the U.S. Feral cats, if left unchecked, can impact bird populations and threaten public health. But now University of Florida researchers say a vaccine may help control feral cat populations. Research shows that a single dose of an immunocontraceptive vaccine blocks an important reproductive hormone in cats that control fertility.
Dr. Julie Levy/UF Veterinarian: “This is a very exciting discovery for cats because it is the first time that a single treatment has ever been shown to cause multi-year infertility. This is very important because cats in the wild typically can be handled only once.”
Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned cats. Researchers say the vaccine works for up to five years, about the average lifespan of a feral cat. Veterinarians currently use surgical procedures such as spay or neutering to control feral cat populations, but these procedures are more complicated.
Dr. Julie Levy/UF Veterinarian: “Developing a less technical and less expensive alternative contraceptive such as a vaccine for cats will be very powerful in increasing our ability to control their numbers.”
The vaccine works in male and female cats but it is not intended for use in household pets.