Over 20,000 cats are used in research every year in the U.S. A significant proportion of these animals, nearly half, are used in experiments that cause pain and distress. Cat use has been declining gradually, but often they are being replaced with smaller, less protected species such as mice and rats.

Cats are frequently used in neurology research to study spinal cord injury, as well as problems related to vision, sleep, and hearing. They are also used to study Parkinson’s disease, cancer, genetic disorders, and other human conditions and ailments. Cats have been used so often that they are usually the species of choice because so much is known about their neurological functions. This type of research is extremely invasive, however, and almost always results in the euthanasia of the cats after they are subjected to grueling vivisection procedures.

In addition, cats are also commonly used in HIV and AIDS research due to a pair of AIDS-like feline viral diseases: feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). However, there are numerous important differences between the feline and human diseases, making cats a problematic and unsuitable model for HIV/AIDS research.

The primary reason cats are used in such research has more to do with logistical and practical criteria. Cats are easy to handle, house, and subject to experimental manipulations, especially when compared to primates, the other species of choice for HIV/AIDS research. In addition, cats are readily available, as easy to purchase as inanimate laboratory supplies, and can even be found for sale on the internet. Many are still removed from pounds or shelters to be used in this lethal, scientifically unsound research.

Read More about Cats Used in Research

“Cat Madness: Human research using cats,” AV Magazine, Winter 2003.
Cats are a frequently used tool in research and often the subjects of highly invasive experiments, forced to languish in excruciating pain and distress for months, while receiving little or no pain relief.

“Cats, AIDS, and Grantsmanship,” AV Magazine, Winter 2003.
Examines the shortcomings in the growing effort to find a cure for AIDS, where cats have become a popular model in this type of research.

Individual Unknown: The use of cats in research,” AV Magazine, Spring 2006.
Although cats are cherished companion animals, they are also popular models of human disease and are used frequently in invasive biomedical research.

Additional Information

pdf Number of cats used in research from 1973-2006

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