GonaCon is an immunocontraceptive vaccine, meaning that it uses the animal’s own immune system to prevent it from fertilizing offspring. Recently, some researchers at the University of Illinois ran a study on the potential use of GonaCon for cats. On the whole, the results were not encouraging, but there were nonetheless some interesting things included among them.
How Was GonaCon Tested?
The researchers were interested in GonaCon’s potential use for free-roaming cat populations. As a result, they wanted an environment that would be similar to that in which free-roaming cats can be found. This is why the researchers came up with a two-level open enclosure to serve as housing for the cats that would be used as test subjects in the study, which came with a wide range of enrichment opportunities such as toys, hiding spots, and climbing spots.
Unfortunately, the study revealed that GonaCon was not an effective solution for preventing pregnancies in free-roaming cats. However, the lead researcher Amy Fischer has stated that the plan is to hold onto the open enclosure so that it can be used in future studies as well. While this is bound to be beneficial for the researchers, the open enclosure promises to be beneficial for the cats as well because it is a much more pleasing environment for them to live in than what most of their counterparts can expect.
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
As for why there was interest in GonaCon’s potential use for preventing pregnancies in free-roaming use, well, suffice to say that it is a much more important issue than what most people would expect upon initial consideration.
Essentially, cats breed very fast. Under optimal conditions, it is possible for a single cat to give birth to three separate litters in a single year, with each litter consisting of an average of four kittens. Of course, free-roaming cats won’t be experiencing optimal conditions, but it isn’t uncommon for a single free-roaming cat to have one or two litters containing a similar number of kittens per litter in a single year. In other words, if there are sufficient resources to support free-roaming cats, their numbers can explode with remarkable speed.
With that said, one of the most horrendous parts is that there aren’t sufficient resources to support such a huge surge in the number of cats. Simply put, a particular environment can’t support more than a limited number of cats, meaning that when the local population of free-roaming cats exceeds the carrying capacity, they will start suffering. On top of this, it should be mentioned that while cats are famous for being predators, they are also small enough that they can be considered prey by a wide range of animals as well. Never mind the other potential threats that can pop up.
Naturally, shelters and other animal welfare organizations are doing what they can to help, but ultimately, there is a serious limit to how much they can help because they have limited resources on hand. There is evidence to believe that such organizations have had a positive impact in recent decades by encouraging people to be more responsible pet owners, but they and the rest of society are still very, very far from the point when we can say that every free-roaming cat can be taken care of. As such, there is still enormous interest in various solutions that can be used to keep the population of free-roaming cats at a more reasonable level for their sake as well as the sake of humans.
Under those circumstances, it is no wonder that an immunocontraceptive vaccine such as GonaCon was looked into with such serious interest. After all, it would offer a much more convenient way to keep free-roaming cat populations under control than most of the solutions that exist in the present. Although GonaCon hasn’t proven to be the solution that was looked for, its study has produced the open enclosure at the University of Illinois, meaning that it isn’t unreasonable to suspect that this particular byproduct could contribute to further research on the topic. For that matter, so long as free-roaming cat over-population remains a serious issue, research on various ways to keep them more manageable is bound to continue at a wide range of institutions.