Artificial insemination in cats

2015 | Reproduction | Dr. Emmanuel Fontaine

New artificial insemination techniques in cats are now being implemented. In this article, our expert, Emmanuel Fontaine explains the current options available and some of the future techniques out there.

Semen collection and artificial insemination is not widely used in cat breeding, but may become important tools in the future. Artificial insemination in cats is more often used for research purposes particularly into wild felid breeding programs.

Horse and dog breeders utilise artificial insemination worldwide and as a result, have been able to build more genetic diversity. The use of artificial insemination in cat breeding could open up similar opportunities, and reduce reliance on utilising local male breeding cats only.

Artificial Insemination Techniques

Cats are induced ovulators – they are stimulated during mating to ovulate. Without this mating stimulus, hormone injections would need to be used in breeding queens to induce ovulation artificially.

Semen is usually delivered into the vagina near the cervix. Sedatives are not usually necessary to perform vaginal inseminations in cats. A tomcat catheter can be used for insemination, and is inserted into the vagina as far as the cervix. The queen should be held with elevated hindquarters for approximately 10 minutes after insemination.

The use of laparoscopy to inject semen into the oviduct of cats has been reported. This technique requires a general anaesthetic and two small surgical incisions where a small camera and instruments are inserted. This technique has had reasonably good success rates with a 50-75% pregnancy rate reported. Although it is an advance in cat breeding, the need for a general anaesthesia and cost may preclude its use. 

Fresh vs Frozen Semen

Artificial insemination can be performed using fresh semen or frozen semen. Fresh semen is extended using a buffer and chilled. It can be stored for 24-48 hours. Frozen semen is also extended with buffers and then frozen for long-time storage.

Pregnancy rates are typically higher when using fresh semen. Frozen semen is typically of lower quality. The freezing and thawing process reduces sperm motility and numbers and so pregnancy rates of about 10% can be expected.

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