Three healthy Pallas' cat kittens were born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden following a laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination (AI) procedure conducted by scientists from the Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW).
This pregnancy and birth are the world's first ever in Pallas' cats from artificial insemination.
Dr. Bill Swanson, CREW's Director of Animal Research, performed the procedure using laparoscopy or minimally invasive surgery combined with a new oviductal insemination technique for cats that was developed at CREW.
The Zoo's female Pallas' cat, "Sophia", was treated with two hormones to stimulate ovarian follicle growth and ovulation, resulting in three fresh ovulation sites on her ovaries. She then was inseminated in both oviducts with a total of five million motile spermatozoa collected from the Zoo's male Pallas' cat, Buster.
"Sophia and Buster were paired up for natural breeding earlier this year but they weren't very compatible with each other so we decided to attempt the oviductal AI procedure," said Dr. Swanson. "We're thrilled that Sophia became pregnant and gave birth to these three healthy kittens that will contribute new genetic diversity to our zoo population."
Pregnancy was diagnosed 49 days after AI by detecting an increase in urinary hormone levels and three healthy kittens were born on June 8 following a 69 day gestation.
Although a first-time mother, Sophia is taking excellent care of the kittens in an off-exhibit housing area of the Zoo's Veterinary Hospital. The mother and kittens will remain at the Veterinary Hospital for the next two to three months but the public may see the kittens on a video monitor in CREW's Public Exhibit via a live camera feed from Sophia's nest box.
Pallas' cats are native to Central Asia and are considered near-threatened in the wild due to poaching, habitat loss and rodent control programs.