Effects of Cryptorchidism – From the Cat’s Point of View
Cryptorchid cats have one or both of their testicles in their abdomen or in the inguinal canal, which is the passageway between the abdomen and the scrotal sacs. Normally, the testicles descend from the abdomen through the inguinal canal into the scrotum by the time a kitten is 6 to 8 weeks old. Unneutered cryptorchid cats still produce testosterone and will still feel the urgency to mate. They may or may not be able to successfully impregnate a female, depending on whether one or both of their testicles are undescended and the impact that condition has on their sperm quality and count. Retained testicles have an increased chance of becoming twisted or “torsed,” which can cause tissue death and severe pain if not treated promptly.
Symptoms of Cryptorchidism – What the Cat’s Owner Sees
The primary sign of cryptorchidism is the absence of one or both testicles in the scrotal sacs. The cat’s owner may notice that one side of the scrotum is empty and loose, or he may notice that the entire scrotal sac is droopy. Other evidence of cryptorchidism is the failure of a male cat to produce kittens, despite mating with females. However, most cryptorchid cats that only have one retained testicle can still impregnate females. Cryptorchidism is often asymptomatic and is rarely painful. Many owners don’t even know that their cat has the disorder. However, it is important to diagnose and treat this condition, because cats with retained testicles have an enormously increased risk of developing testicular cancer. Signs of retained testicles include:
- Noticeable absence of one or both testicles in the scrotal sacs, either visibly or upon palpation (the cat’s scrotum looks empty and loose)
- Leg-lifting during urination earlier than expected in a supposedly neutered cat
- Exuberant male breeding behavior (mounting, “humping”) in a supposedly neutered cat
- Intense interested in intact females, particularly when they are in season, in a supposedly neutered cat
- cat-aggression, especially toward intact males, in a supposedly neutered cat
- Successful mating (cryptorchid cats can impregnate female cats, depending upon the location of their retained testicle(s))
- Failure to produce a litter, despite apparently successful mating
- Testicular infection
- Testicular tumors
- Acute onset of extreme abdominal pain (from torsion or twisting of the spermatic cord of the retained testicle)
- Symmetrical hair loss (alopecia) along the trunk and flanks
- Pendulous preputial sheath
- Darkened (hyperpigmented) external genitalia
- Feminization (from estrogen secreted by Sertoli cell tumors in the retained testes)
Retained testicles are predisposed to becoming infected and cancerous. They also are prone to twisting, or torsioning, which causes severe abdominal pain.
Cats at Increased Risk
Retained testicles can occur in cats of any breed. Purebreds seem to be more affected by this disorder – especially Persians.
Normally descended testicles can temporarily retract into the inguinal canal, especially when a young cat is excited, active or cold. The symptoms of cryptorchidism are typically mild to the affected animal, but the condition does carry some risks. Cryptorchidism is considered to be hereditary. Cats with this condition should be neutered. Both testicles- whether descended normally or not - should be surgically removed to prevent future litters of kittens with the disorder.