Naidenko, S. V., Alekseeva, G. S., Klyuchnikova, P. S. et al. 2022. Application of felid hair for non-invasive tracking of animal reproductive status and adrenal activity. Animals 12(20), 2792.

Hair can be a useful matrix to examine the hormonal status of an animal, although it is difficult to correlate the results to a specific time point. The aim of this study was to evaluate seasonal changes in cortisol and testosterone levels in the hair of four feline species (lynx, Lynx lynx, n = 8; Amur wildcat, Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus, n = 8; caracal, Caracal caracal, n = 6 and domestic cat, Felis catus, n = 17) with different breeding strategies. Animals of both sexes were sampled over the year, once per season (every three months), and the concentrations of hair testosterone and cortisol were measured by EIA. Both hormones showed annual dynamic changes, which coincided with the reproductive seasonality of the studied species. Sexual differences in testosterone level were found only during the mating season (spring for lynx and Amur wildcats, spring–summer for domestic cats), when testosterone levels were higher in males than in females. Cortisol levels were higher in males than in females in domestic cats and Amur wildcat, but also only during the mating season. Seasonal increases in testosterone were observed in three seasonal breeders (lynx, Amur wildcat and domestic cat) but not in caracal, which had high testosterone levels over the whole year. In lynx and Amur wildcat, it decreased sharply in the summer. Cortisol levels increased during the mating period in domestic cat males and lynx of both sexes; in caracal, an increase in cortisol was related to the transfer of animals to smaller winter cages. Measurements of steroids in hair can provide a reliable method for evaluating the reproductive status and the activity of the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis in several felid species.

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