D. E. Larsen, DVM
When I returned from delivering a calf out on Berlin Road, Vicki was waiting in an exam room. I changed my scrub shirt and washed my hands one last time before looking at Vicki’s problem.
“Doctor, we took this cat to the spay and neuter clinic in Salem a few weeks ago, and they said he had already been neutered,” Vicki said. “Maybe I am seeing things, but he sure looks and acts like a tomcat to me.”
“Well, let’s get a look at him,” I said as I lifted the carrier onto the exam table. “Does he have a name?”
“We are calling him George,” Vicki said. “And be a little careful with him, he starts out fine, but he can get a little aggressive all of a sudden.”
I did a quick exam on George and then rolled him over to check his scrotum.
“Nothing in here,” I said. “It is easy to see how they thought he was neutered.”
“Could it be that we are just imagining things?” Vicki asked. “I mean, Doris agrees that he acts like a tomcat.”
George was a young cat, not a kitten but not a full-grown adult. He was starting to show some of the physical signs associated with tomcats. He was well-muscled with a broad chest, and his jowls were starting to thicken.
“You have to trust your judgment,” I said. “You guys see a lot of cats. Sometimes we can’t define what we see but know it is not in the normal range. That’s important stuff, knowing what’s normal. You can always find someone to help define the problem. The book always talks about other sources of testosterone in the body other than the testicle. That obviously happens to some degree, but usually not enough to cause all the extra muscles and masculine features.”
“So what do we do now?” Vickie asked.
“We start looking for what has to be there, the testicles,” I said.
I turned George over on his back and palpated his groin.
“Ah ha, there is a testicle in his left groin,” I said. “But I can’t feel one on the right side.”
“What does that mean?” Vicki asked.
“Either it is in his abdomen, or it was removed when someone tried to neuter him,” I said. “When there is only one testicle found, a surgeon should search for and remove the hidden testicle before removing the visible one. Otherwise, you just muddy the water for the next surgeon.”
“Will you neuter him for us?” Vicki asked.
“Sure, but it won’t be a simple cat neuter,” I said. “It might, no, it probably will require opening the abdomen to find the right testicle or to make sure it was removed previously.”
“Why do you say probably?” Vicki asked.
“Sometimes, I can pull the testicle out of the abdomen by using a structure that pulls the testicle out of the abdomen in the fetus,” I said. “That structure is called the gubernaculum. That’s a big word that most people never hear. In a cat this age, it is a small and fragile structure, but if we are lucky, I can grasp it and pull the testicle through the inguinal canal. Otherwise, I will have to open the abdomen.”
“I am hoping I can leave him with you today,” Vicki said. “Do what you must and call when he is ready to go home.”
We kept George and got him on the surgery table in the late afternoon. I tried to do my surgeries in the morning hours so the patients would be recovered by the late afternoon. Most of them went home the same day.
“Let’s prep George like I’m going to do an abdominal surgery,” I said as Dixie started getting him ready for surgery. “I will make incisions on both sides of his groin, but if I don’t find the right testicle, I will open his abdomen.”
When I started surgery, I explored his right groin. I could not find his gubernaculum, and there was no testicle in his inguinal canal.
I opened his abdomen and reflected his bladder out of the way. Then I could follow the right spermatic cord from his prostate to the right testicle. With a light tug on the cord, the right testicle popped into view.
I tied off the testicle and removed it.
“That solves that mystery,” I said. “As soon as I close his abdomen, I will remove the left testicle from his groin, and we will make George a new man.”
George was ready to go home in the morning, and Vicki was happy to pick him up.
“It made me feel good to find his right testicle,” I said. “That means that someone hadn’t messed on an earlier surgery. I think you will find him a good neutered male now.”
“I am glad you could fix him,” Vicki said. “I don’t like having those low-cost clinics do anything beyond the basic surgeries.”
“When I was doing the surgery, I got to thinking about your population control issues with your feral cat colonies,” I said. “Cats like George generally shoot blanks. Retained testicles are at body temperature, which is too high a temperature for the development of sperm. You could release these cryptorchid cats into a colony, and they would mate with the females in heat. The female cat ovulates when it is mated. If the male cat is sterile, no pregnancy occurs. You could reduce the fertility of the colony. Sort of biological control like they did years ago with the screwworm fly in Texas. They sterilized many male flies with radiation and released them. It worked like a charm.”
George was such a nice cat; Vicki was able to find him a home in a short time. We saw him again for suture removal, and then he was gone. I don’t think Vicki was impressed with my idea of population control in the feral cat colonies.
Photo by Eugen Proskouriakov on Unsplash.
3 thoughts on “The Neutered Tomcat”
Well, while you can hope that George would be the one mating with the queens in heat you couldn’t be sure. Too many ppl let out unfixed tomcats, as they aren’t the one burdening their owners with unwanted kittens.
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It’s just a numbers game, just something that came to mind, probably not a practical solution. Cryptorchids are not common, maybe even could be said to be rare.
My comparison to the control of the screw worm fly in Texas was very real. They dropped thousands of sterile males from the air, over a large area. It is a classical example of biological pest control.
Since mom cats are infamous for often having more than one father to their litter, it might be harder to control than with those flies.
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