What is Cryptorchidism?
Cryptorchidism is when the testicles do not descend properly into the scrotum, one or two may or may not properly descend. 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 can be unilateral (only occurring on one side) or bilateral (occurring on both sides). Unilateral cryptorchidism usually involves the right testicle. Bilaterally cryptorchid animals are usually sterile because the higher body temperature inside the abdomen is enough to prevent sperm production. (The animals will, however, still exhibit male behaviors.)
What are the causes?
While the exact reason that some cats fail to have their testicles descend is unknown, it does appear to be inherited, the condition does seem to affect purebred cats exponentially more than mixed-breed house cats. Depending on the breed, instances of cryptorchidism may be as high as 30%. Breeds commonly affected include Persians and Himalayans. This genetic predisposition may be exacerbated by inbreeding and continuing to breed affected males.
What are the treatment options?
Due to the condition the only treatment option is surgical removal of both testes. Even if only one testicle has failed to descend, both should be surgically removed. This will prevent further complications and will ensure that the cat will not pass on this genetic defect to any kittens. The neutering process on cats with cryptorchidism is slightly more complicated than a regular castration. Two separate incisions will need to be made if one testicle is retained in the abdomen or within the inguinal canal. If both testicles are retained in the abdomen, one incision is needed but the surgery is slightly more invasive. Occasionally, a testicle may become trapped in muscular tissue. Maneuvering the area with a blunt instrument can push the testis back up into the abdomen where it can then be removed.
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