PETITION TARGETS: University of Minnesota, National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Minnesota Members of Congress
Kittens had their skulls drilled open and their brains jolted with electric currents and light rays by researchers at the University of Minnesota, who then killed the tiny animals at the end of the cruel tests.
The experiments’ protocols, obtained by Lady Freethinker through a public records request, said they aimed to better understand the human brain but used kittens as young as 10-weeks-old who were small enough to fit into the researchers’ brain scanners.
Several groups of anesthetized, temporarily paralyzed kittens underwent craniotomies, in which researchers drilled holes into their skulls and implanted electrodes or probes. Another group of paralyzed kittens had their brains scanned while researchers presented “visual stimuli” — including videos of mice — to the immobilized and defenseless animals, according to monitoring records.
While the studies were planned to be terminal — meaning no kittens would survive — records show that kittens also prematurely died from complications and suffered for days before researchers “euthanized” them.
Kittens suffered bruises, vomiting, muscle weakness, punctured veins, inflamed tracheas, and hypothermia. In 2021 alone, at least four kittens also died suddenly or suffered such severe complications from the experiments that researchers chose to kill them.
Casualties included April, a 3-month-old kitten who likely suffered organ damage after a researcher gave her a paralyzer at 4.5 times the approved dose — in alleged violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act — and Casey, an 11-week-old kitten whose tongue turned blue after repeated, failed attempts to intubate him and who had five veins blown during a single session.
Titan, an 11-week-old gray kitten, displayed muscle shakiness, low oxygen levels, a swollen face, and a seizure following a scan and suffered for at least 44 hours before researchers chose to kill him, according to his monitoring records.
Tammy — a 1-year-old kitten who had been anesthetized at least 15 times for experiments, starting when she was a 10-week-old kitten — died suddenly on a morning when researchers planned to drill into her skull. Zeus, a 10-week-old brown tabby kitten, also died on his own after suffering from an inflamed trachea and strained, raspy breathing for two days following a procedure.
The kitten experiments consumed at least $9 million of taxpayer-supported funding and years of precious research time without yielding any direct clinical applications for humans or cats.
The University of Minnesota also told Lady Freethinker the experiments had to be suspended and an “entirely new protocol” created that required researchers to “reexamine all procedures including anesthesia methods and to put in place enhanced monitoring.” That new protocol was approved, but thankfully researchers have not yet started their deadly experiments on kittens back up again — and it’s critical that they never do.
It’s time for the University of Minnesota to permanently end experiments that kill kittens and find a more compassionate way forward.
Sign our petition urging the University of Minnesota to officially shut down deadly animal experiments for good and to allow any surviving kittens to be adopted into loving homes. We’re also asking for the National Institutes of Health to never again fund experiments on kittens at this university and for legislators to demand answers about why taxpayer dollars were used to fund these experiments.