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Saturday, December 11, 2010

I was raised with housepets, a dog and a cat. Moving into the farm three years ago, I had to adjust to having many “pets”, none of whom stayed in the house. It’s been a going concern for me. I’m always worried about the animals and how they are faring out of doors.
I’m quite happy to have the animals living outside, because I tend to be allergic to most of them. I do let them in to visit quite often, however. We have one cat that can open the sliding door himself. We often see Tiger strolling around the kitchen (accompanied by a swarm of mosquitoes in the summer).
In winter the cats disappear for long periods of time into the depths of the barn, where they burrow into the big round bales of hay together for warmth. The horse warms a family of cats in the stable too, and we often have those ones wandering up a well-beaten path through the snow to the house.
Occasionally we will have a barn cat that is extremely friendly. They will allow themselves to be petted and held. At the moment we have three or four of these tame little critters and I would like to see them adopted into good homes before it gets really cold outside.
Saturday was Stinky’s lucky day.
I didn’t think the little grey-and-white kitten had a name, but apparently he was dubbed Stinky by our daughter one day. I don’t think he is smellier than any of the other cats – he just gets close enough for us to smell him, while the rest keep their distance.
In any case, it was Stinky’s sparkling personality and not his scent that got him adopted on Saturday. Now he lives with a nice young couple and their beagle dog near Oxford Station. Latest reports claim that he is adjusting well to his new lifestyle, even if he has to share the home with a dog.
Controlling the cat population is a continuing battle, and I can’t afford surgery for all of them. Many times I have said, there must be someone out there who has developed a contraceptive for cats. Well, there is.
According to Pet Publishing’s website: Michelle Meister-Weisbarth, 32, a third-year student at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM), has genetically engineered a strain of Salmonella, one that does not produce disease, for use as an oral contraceptive vaccine with female cats. Her creation is an immunocontraceptive vaccine, i.e., one that prompts a cat's immune system to produce antibodies that prevent sperm from fertilizing her eggs.
"Immunocontraceptive vaccines have been around for a while," says Meister-Weisbarth, "but no one had married the idea of our feral cat problem with the vaccine. The key is to make the vaccine species-specific so you can put it in food pellets, drop them as bait, and not worry about blocking fertilization in any other animal."
Well, I’ll be. Are they looking for test cats? And if it has been around for a while, why haven’t I heard of it?? What a great idea.
There are still a few kinks to work out, of course, but it looks as though the vaccine will be available on the American market, at least, within the next 5 to 10 years.
Imagine the impact this vaccine will have on the feral cat population. Animal shelters will benefit hugely from this development. Not to mention the farmers with loveable barn cats like Stinky, who was recently given the more noble name of Oliver.

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