Urethral catheterization and sperm vitrification for simplified semen banking in felids
Semen banking of domestic cats and wild felids represents a vital resource for their long-term conservation, but current methods require access to advanced training and specialized equipment. A newer method of semen collection, urethral catheterization of medetomidine-treated cats, allows recovery of high sperm numbers, but it is unclear if this approach permits maximal sperm recovery or is feasible using less expensive alpha-2 agonists. Similarly, a newer sperm preservation approach, vitrification, offers advantages of simplicity and minimal equipment needs, but its efficacy in combination with urethral catheterization has not been investigated. Our specific objectives were to (i) evaluate sequential semen recovery with urethral catheterization and electroejaculation in domestic cats, (ii) assess the effectiveness of a weak (xylazine) versus strong (dexmedetomidine) alpha-2 agonist for inducing sperm release, and (iii) compare post-thaw sperm motility, acrosome status and fertilizing capacity of catheter-recovered samples after vitrification or straw freezing. Results indicated that electroejaculation following repeated catheterization allowed recovery of additional spermatozoa (range, 11–32 × 106 sperm/male) and that xylazine was ineffective for inducing meaningful sperm release (range, 0–0.4 × 106 sperm/male). Post-thaw motility and acrosome status of vitrified catheter samples did not differ (p > .05) from that of straw frozen samples. Preliminary results indicated that in vitro fertilization success (9/30, 30%) of vitrified catheter sperm did not differ (p > .05) from that observed with straw frozen samples (17/30, 57%). In conclusion, urethral catheterization of dexmedetomidine-treated cats allows recovery of substantial sperm numbers but electroejaculation still may be warranted for maximal sperm recovery. Xylazine is not suitable as an inexpensive alternative to dexmedetomidine for catheterization. Vitrification of catheter samples results in comparable post-thaw parameters to straw freezing and may be adequate for use with oviductal insemination procedures.