GonaCon™ Contraceptive Study
Over the past several years, male
cat studies led by Dr. Julie Levy
(University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program), plus another small study conducted by the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW)
at the Cincinnati Zoo, have demonstrated a particularly promising contraceptive effect in female cats of a vaccine called GonaCon. To further evaluate this vaccine's potential to be the first long-term contraceptive commercialized for female cats, ACC&D sponsored a study which began November 2015.
The study utilizes GonaCon in a “natural” non–laboratory environment, where cats can live indoors or out, experience seasonal variations in temperature and light/darkness, and are genetically diverse. Based on results from prior studies, the goal is for the vaccine to prevent pregnancy in the study’s treated cats for an average of over three years with a single shot. Dr. Amy Fischer-Brown (University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences) serves as Principal Investigator, and Dr. Julie Levy is Co-Investigator.
A facility has been created that is uniquely suited to this objective where cats enjoy the highest standards of enrichment and welfare. They have free access to a specially built 2-story indoor home where they can snooze on comfy couches or in warm cat beds, relax on cat trees, or climb a two-story real tree made especially for them! And when they want some fresh air, they have access to a large outdoor yard that’s enclosed with a predator-proof fence. Outside there are trees, climbing structures, and plenty of surfaces where they can soak up the sun.
In addition to Dr.Fischer, a full-time Project Manager, and two part-time employees, multiple student volunteers come for daily visits. Their primary job is to love the cats—cuddle with them on couches, entertain them with toys, and make sure that each individual gets lots of positive human attention. The cat’s environment is designed to help these once homeless cats transition easily into adoptive homes at the end of the study.
The study has provided a wealth of knowledge about the vaccine, cat behavior, and how to design, and successfully conduct, a breeding study with cat welfare as the utmost priority. We hope this progressive model of research will positively shape future studies intending to benefit free-roaming cats.
Though we designed the study to last three to five years, we have decided to end the study at the one-year mark (November 2016) due to a higher rate of pregnancies than our benchmark for continuing the study.
The cats who participated in this study have contributed greatly to cat-kind and deserve wonderful homes. Given that a number of cats we rescued were found not eligible for the study, we were able to save the lives of 44 cats in total. Many study cats are spayed and currently ready for their new home; the rest will be available in November. If you are interested in adopting one of these special cats, please let us know!
Please contact us with any questions; we’re happy to provide additional information!
Thank you to the Morris Animal Foundation and John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation for generously funding this study and supporting new ways to humanely manage cat populations.