Our objective was to examine the influences of differing media, protein supplementation and the microenvironment on cat vs dog primordial follicle viability in vitro. Ovarian cortical slices were cultured for 3, 9 or 15 days in α-minimum essential medium (α-MEM) or MEM supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS), 10% knock-out serum replacement (KSR) or 0.1% polyvinyl alcohol (protein free). In a separate study, cat and dog ovarian tissues were cultured in protein-free α-MEM and MEM, respectively, in cell culture inserts, on 1.5% agarose gel or in 24-well cell culture plates (control). Follicle viability was assessed in both studies using calcein AM/ethidium homodimer and histological evaluation with haematoxylin/eosin staining. No cat follicle sustained viability beyond 9 days of in vitro culture in α-MEM compared to 37.5% of those incubated for 15 days in MEM in protein-free condition (p < 0.05). In contrast, α-MEM was superior (p < 0.05) to MEM in maintaining dog follicle viability (32.7% vs 8.1%) in protein-free condition at 15 days. Serum was detrimental (p < 0.05) to follicle survival in both species. Knock-out serum replacement supplementation and a protein-free condition supported cat follicle viability, whereas the latter was superior (p < 0.05) to the former for sustaining dog follicle survival. Likewise, dog follicle viability was enhanced (p < 0.05) by the agarose gel compared to the cell culture insert and control groups after 3 and 9 days of culture. For the cat, the agarose gel better (p < 0.05) supported follicle viability compared to the control, but was equivalent to the cell culture insert. Therefore, sustaining primordial follicle survival from intracortical ovarian slices requires a different in vitro microenvironment for the cat vs the dog. A key factor to enhancing survival of these early stage follicles in culture appears to be the use of agarose gel, which enhances follicle viability, perhaps by promoting gas exchange.