For Cats Protection, a British association that helps cats, the young Hope (“hope”, in English) is a miracle. The animal has absolutely no sexual organ, enough to confuse many veterinarians during an auscultation.
“It’s so rare that there isn’t really a commonly used term”
Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat protection charity. In nearly 100 years, it has housed more than 2 million cats and kittens, she explains on her website. Suffice to say that her experience normally protects her from surprises. And yet, she still manages to be amazed by her little proteges.
At first glance, Hope is a perfectly ordinary 15-week-old cat. The keepers thought it was a female…until her amazing veterinary examination. “While hermaphroditic cats – which are also extremely rare – have both male and female sex organs, Hope has neither externally nor internally.“, explains the association in a press release issued on November 7, 2022. The animal is neither male nor female.
Ovarian tissue may be hiding in his body, but this possibility remains unlikely. “It’s so rare that there isn’t really a commonly used term for this condition, but it’s actually ‘agenesis of the sex organs’ – where agenesis is the lack or failure of development of certain organs of the body, explains Fiona Brockbank, the association’s veterinary manager.
The organization has therefore never encountered such a case, which means that veterinarians do not yet know if this particularity will have consequences on Hope’s life. They did, however, ensure that the animal is able to urinate and defecate properly, provided sine qua non upon its adoption. And good news: Hope can be adopted without any problem.
Disorders of sexual development are rarely reported in cats, but they can nevertheless have serious consequences. Of course, they can limit the animal’s reproductive abilities, but they can also lead to more subtle health problems.
“Disorders of sexual development are important factors affecting reproduction due to the deleterious effect on fertility, increased risk of gonadal carcinogenesis and associated behavioral problems“, explains in a study published in 2020 in the journal Animal Breeding ScienceProfessor Izabela Szczerbal.
Affected animals are normally identified because their external genetic organs show peculiarities. But sometimes, problematic behaviors, such as aggressiveness, are noticed by the owners, underlines the Polish researcher. This is not the case with Hope, a kitten “very playful” and “who endeared himself to the staff“, relates Cats Protection.