Cryptorchidism in Cats
Cryptorchidism is a medical term referring to the incomplete or nonexistent descent of the testicles in a male cat. The word is based on the Greek words kryptos meaning “hidden” and orchis meaning “testicle”. Keep reading to learn more about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for cryptorchidism in cats.
The testicles in a male cat usually drop into place in the scrotum before birth. If the testicles have not descended before birth, they will often drop by 2 months of age. Any male cat at least 4 months old that has one or both testicles missing from their final scrotal position, is considered to be cryptorchid.
Cryptorchidism is much less common in cats than it is in dogs. It can occur in all breeds but may be slightly increased in Persians. A unilateral cryptorchid, when only one testicle fails to descend normally, is more common than a bilateral cryptorchid, when both testicles do not descend into the scrotum.
Retained testicles are located either in the abdomen or in the inguinal canal (groin). Sometimes the cryptorchid testicle can be seen just under the skin in the groin area.
Causes of Cryptorchidism in Cats
Cryptorchidism is commonly seen in families of cats and appears to be inherited. What causes a testicle to remain undescended is not known, and therefore this condition is not preventable.
Symptoms of Cryptorchidism in Cats
Retained testicles are rarely associated with pain or any other sign of disease. The most common symptoms of cryptorchidism are male marking behavior such as spraying, male cat-associated odors (tomcat urine), and aggression.
In the early stages, a unilateral cryptorchid testicle is significantly smaller than the other, normal testicle. If both testicles are retained, a cat will likely be infertile.
One complication of a retained testicle, called spermatic cord torsion, occurs when the testicular cord twists around itself. This presents as sudden severe abdominal pain and requires immediate treatment because the testicle will cut off its own blood supply and become necrotic.
There is also an increased risk that a retained testicle will become cancerous. The clinical signs associated with this depend on the particular type of cancer.
How can I tell if my cat is cryptorchid?
For a diagnosis of an inguinal cryptorchid, your vet will palpate the retained testicle in the inguinal canal. When only one testicle can be palpated in the scrotum and the other testicle cannot be located, the retained testicle is assumed to be abdominal. An ultrasound can be used to definitively diagnose this but is rarely required to proceed with surgery.
If a cat is exhibiting male behaviors, especially an obvious tomcat urine odor, your vet can examine the penis for barbed spines, which are dependent on testosterone. There is also a hormonal test, called an hCG stimulation test, that can be done to determine if your cat is already neutered.
Treatment for Cryptorchid Cats
Surgical removal is the only treatment for cryptorchidism. If the cat is a unilateral cryptorchid, both testicles should be surgically removed. The retained testicle should be removed to prevent testicular torsion or cancer, and the normal testicle should be removed to prevent cryptorchid offspring.
Often, cryptorchid cats will have 2 incisions following their neuter surgery, one for each testicle. The recovery time will be longer than that for a routine neuter, and your vet will likely recommend 2 weeks of reduced activity, especially if the cryptorchid testicle was in the abdomen.
Prognosis for Cryptorchid Cats
The prognosis is excellent for cryptorchid cats who undergo neuter surgery early, before any complications develop. The surgery is relatively routine, and the results are overwhelmingly favorable.
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