Skip to main content

Why not genetically engineer feral cats to stop them reproducing?

This may be an idea that has been put forward before but which has just occurred to me. It is possible, nowadays, to genetically engineer animals so that when they reproduce the female cat is rendered sterile. This genetic modification is passed on from the male to female.

Feral cat colony. Picture in public domain.

Therefore, if you introduce into a population of feral cats some male cats who can pass on this modified gene then eventually that colony would disappear and in a very humane way.

The technology is called "gene drives". As an alternative to passing on a gene which renders female cats sterile, you could ensure that offspring are nearly always males which would create an imbalance between males and females in a large colony. This also would have the result of reducing the colony's size to the point where it became zero ultimately.

I am convinced that it must have been discussed. It is new technology but I don't recall it being discussed in relation to feral cats. In The Times newspaper date 'gene drive' is discussed in relation to grey squirrels in the UK which have had a decimating impact upon red squirrels as many people know.

A lot of people consider that the domestic and feral cat is an invasive species (like the grey squirrel in the UK) and gene drives are one way of dealing with invasive species. I don't approve of it particularly and neither does the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They dislike it because genetic engineering is unapproved for people and therefore why should it be approved for animals.

Another issue is that it may be difficult to confine this kind of genetic engineering to the target animals concerned. If it spread beyond the targeted species it may have a detrimental impact upon ecosystems.

However, I believe that this risk is being tackled. Like many other people, I am concerned about the plight of feral cats in many parts of the world. They are often abused or live rather short and miserable lives. However, sometimes their lives are quite decent because there are many volunteers running TNR programs in America, for example, which I think is wonderful.

TNR programs, I would argue, are similar to genetic engineering. In the former surgery is employed to make cats sterile and in the latter that objective is achieved through genetic engineering. Both are humane methods or considered so, certainly in relation to alternatives such as mass killing which is employed in Australia.

I would certainly recommend that the Australian government looks at this method of controlling feral cat populations. They have struggled for many years with methods to reduced the number of feral cats on their continent. As it happens, those efforts which are very cruel now seem rather futile and stupid in comparison to the estimated half a billion animals of native species which have been killed in the infamous wildfires which are largely out of controlled in the east of the country.

These fires have arguably been inflamed by global warming and Australia contributes to global warming by being one of the world's major coal mining countries. They export coal to China where it is burnt in coal power stations which contributes to global warming.

Arguably, Australia is in a complete mess with respect to the preservation and conservation of their native species. This is because of the ambivalent approach by their government and because they pursue economic growth at all costs as do most other countries which is very hard to stop in a competitive world. However, global warming is having a devastating impact upon wildlife conservation.


Popular posts from this blog

Cat Ear Mites

Brown gunge. Yes, I know this is a ferret! It does show the build up of dark brown to black ear wax caused by the presence of the cat ear mites in the outer ear canal. This parasite is not restricted to the domestic cat, which makes this photo valid and a useful illustration (I was unable to find a suitable photo of a cat with the condition). Photo Stacy Lynn Baum under a creative commons license. Ear mites (minute crab like creatures) are one of the causes of inflammation of the outer ear canal (scientific term for this inflammation is Otitis externa ). The outer ear canal is the tube that runs from outside to the ear drum (the pathway for the reception of sound), which can be seen when looking at the ear. Otitis externa affects humans and often swimmers as it is called "swimmer's ear" in humans. This YouTube video show ear mites under a microscope. They are not actually in the ear in this video. There are many possible causes of Otitis externa in c

Feline Mange

I'll write about three types of feline mange (a) feline scabies or head mange (b) demodectic mange and (c) sarcoptic mange. The source material is from Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook - the best on the market . Generalised feline mange? Puerto Rico - Photo by Gotham City Lost And Found Feline Scabies - head mange Head mange or feline scabies, is a fairly rare condition in cats, which is caused by the Notoedres mite (head mite) that only reproduces on cats. The female mites burrow a few millimeters (that is a lot) into the skin around the head, and neck to lay eggs, which hatch and lay their own eggs. Their presence and activities causes intense itching that in turn causes the cat to scratch. The scratching will obviously be noticed and it will cause the skin to become red, scratched and worse infected. Symptoms: hair loss and scabs, thick wrinkled skin and grey/yellow crusts form plus the symptoms of scratching. Feline mange (head mange) is contagious and tr

Cat Anatomy

Cat Anatomy - Photo by Curious Expeditions . The picture above was taken at Wax Anatomical Models at La Specola in Florence, Italy. The photograph is published under a creative commons license kindly granted by the photographer. I am sorry if it is a bit gruesome. It is pretty well all I could find as an illustration that was licensed for publication. Cat Anatomy is a very wide ranging subject. The anatomy of a cat is very similar to human anatomy. If you were writing a biology book for students of biology you would go through every part of the a cat's anatomy in some detail. It would be similar to writing a book about the human anatomy. It would be a thick book and pretty boring for your average internet surfer. So, how do you limit such a big subject and make this post meaningful? The answer I think lies in doing two things: Having a quick general look at cat anatomy - an overview and; Focusing on the areas of cat anatomy that are particular to the cat and of parti