Defining Cryptorchidism in Cats
Cryptorchidism is a condition where one or both testes fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotal sacs. Usually, only one testis is un-descended in cryptorchid cats, and the animal remains fertile. The testes are in the abdomen during fetal development. They normally descend through the inguinal canal into the scrotum by the time a kitten is 6 weeks old, although sometimes this takes longer. Certainly by 6 months of age, both testicles should be fully dropped into the male’s scrotal sacs. Most breeders check males for this condition before placing them in their forever homes. Retained testicles can occur in any breed. There is a strong genetic component to this condition. Other causes of cryptorchidism remain a mystery.
Causes of Cryptorchidism in Cats
The testes of male cats are in the abdomen during fetal development. They normally descend through the inguinal canal into the cat’s scrotal sacs by the time the kitten is somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks of age, although sometimes this can take a bit longer. Certainly by 6 months of age, both of a male kitten’s testicles should be out of the abdomen and fully dropped into the scrotum. Occasionally, one or both testicles are retained in the abdomen and don’t descend properly as the kitten matures. This condition is called “chryptorchidism”. Most breeders check male kittens for this condition before selling or placing them in their forever homes. Retained testicles can occur in any male cat of any breed or mixed breed. The only known cause for cryptorchidism is genetics. There seems to be a strong hereditary component to this condition; it is thought to be inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. There are no other scientifically established causes of cryptorchidism in cats. In most cases, cryptorchid cats have only one undescended testicle; the other one typically descends normally, and the cat remains fertile. However, because this is a genetic abnormality, cryptorchid cats should not be used in a responsible breeding program.
Preventing Cryptorchidism in Cats
Most authorities agree that cats that have one or both of their testicles retained in their abdomen should be neutered early in life and not used for breeding, because there is such a strong hereditary component to this condition. Any cats sired by cryptorchid cats probably should also be taken out of the breeding population, to prevent the continued propagation of this disorder. Cryptorchidism increases the chances of testicular infection, torsion and cancer, which is another reason to neuter affected animals.
In some cases, one or both of a male cat’s testicles will descend into the scrotal sacs but then later temporarily retract back up into the inguinal canal, which is the passageway between the abdominal cavity and the exterior part of the cat’s reproductive tract. This tends to happen when a young cat is very excited, very active or very cold. This condition is not considered to be cryptorchidism, because it is a physiological response to external environmental conditions. Owners that acquire a male kitten should be sure to ask the breeder whether both of the cat’s testicles are descended. If they aren’t, there is no medical reason not to take the kitten home; he should just be neutered within the first 6 months or so of his life. Owners should also always check with their veterinarian to be sure that both of their cat’s testicles were successfully removed.