Citation Levy JK. Contraceptive vaccines for the humane control of community cat populations. Am J Reprod Immunol 2011; 66: 63–70
Free-roaming unowned stray and feral cats exist throughout the world, creating concerns regarding their welfare as well as their impact on the environment and on public health. Millions of healthy cats are culled each year in an attempt to control their numbers. Surgical sterilization followed by return to the environment is an effective non-lethal population control method but is limited in scope because of expense and logistical impediments. Immunocontraception has the potential to be a more practical and cost-effective method of control. This is a review of current research in immunocontraception in domestic cats. Functional characteristics of an ideal immunocontraceptive for community cats would include a wide margin of safety for target animals and the environment, rapid onset and long duration of activity following a single treatment in males and females of all ages, and sex hormone inhibition. In addition, product characteristics should include stability and ease of use under field conditions, efficient manufacturing process, and low cost to the user. Two reproductive antigens, zona pellucida and GnRH, have been identified as possible targets for fertility control in cats. Zona pellucida, which is used successfully in multiple wildlife species, has achieved little success in cats. In contrast, immunization against GnRH has resulted in long-term contraception in both male and female cats following a single dose. GnRH is an ideal contraceptive target because it regulates pituitary and gonadal hormone responses in both males and females, thus suppressing nuisance behaviors associated with sex hormones in addition to preventing pregnancy. The responsiveness of cats to fertility control via GnRH suppression should encourage researchers and cat control stakeholders to continue efforts to optimize vaccines that induce multiyear contraception following a single dose in a high proportion of treated cats.