Hermaphrodite Cat

Hermaphrodite cats are very rare. A British vet in Plymouth says that such a condition is only seen, a maximum of, a handful of times during the working life of the average veterinarian. An alternative and probably preferred word for hermaphrodite is ‘intersex’.

Marbles Hermaphrodite Cat
Marbles Hermaphrodite Cat and Tom on the right. From featureworld.co.uk via mirror.co.uk.
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‘Marbles’ is a black-and-white random bred cat, and one such cat. I’ll call Marbles ‘she’ in this article because she was adopted as a female. The couple who adopted her, Claire Gibley, 46, and Tom Minns, 25, noticed that she was amorous towards their other cat Bella. As that behavior did not add up, they asked a vet’s opinion.

The vet diagnosed her as an hermaphrodite cat. This means she has both male and female reproductive organs due to a chromosomal abnormality.

The question the couple have is what to do next. It seems that the vet has advised them the Marbles will have to be one sex or the other by removing one set of reproductive organs.

The choice is made on analysing the predominant sex of the cat and then removing the ‘secondary’ reproductive organs. A genetic test is carried out to see if Marbles is essentially a ‘she’ or a ‘he’. Marbles is infertile. Fortunately, the name is neutral so it will not need to be changed.

As mentioned, hermaphrodite cats are rare. Another example, from 2005, is a ginger cat owned by Carol Gravley. She emailed Sarah Hartwell (a cat geneticist) about her cat. Carol explained that he developed testicles and was neutered. Then a few weeks later he was spayed because she showed signs of being in heat (estrus).

In this example, the cat was judged to be a ‘functional female’ with the physical reproductive attributes of a male. She is now described as having the physical appearance of an ‘abnormal female’.

Sarah writes that there is a range of reasons why a female cat has testicles. Tissue testing is required to decide whether it is ‘chimerism’ or a chromosomal abnormality. Chimerism is rare in which the chromosomal population of a single organism is mixed.

This is a complex subject and there are wide range of sex abnormalities once of which is described as XX Hermaphrodite (sex reversal). This is inherited and can be due to a Y-chromosome gene being on an autosome instead of on the Y-chromosome. The cat is female genetically and appears ‘intersex’. There is some testicular tissue ‘in one of both gonads’. The amount of masculine appearance depends on the amount of testicular tissue.

Some groups of animals such as some species of snails are normally hermaphrodites. Either party can play the role of male or female.

Sources: Mirror online newspaper – Featureworld website – Wikipedia – Messybeast.com

4 thoughts on “Hermaphrodite Cat”

  1. I have a beautiful fluffy coat black male cat we had neutered several yeas ago. The problem is male cats become enraged if he’s close to them, my cat must run quickly away from these raging cats. However my two female cats get along very well with him, they play and chase, they’re very fond of each other. The male cats I have, all neutered, can’t stand him and either try to pin him to the ground to beat him or hiss and spit at him if he comes close. I don’t understand, could he be a neutered male yet have hidden female parts still producing hormones causing very unusual and confusing scents for my other neutered male cats?

    • This sounds like a male dominance and territorial issue. Male domestic cats are more territorial than females. They patrol their home ranges. If they are put together there may be a dispute. Females are more accepting. They have smaller home ranges. I suspect that this is more about defending home range and dominance than the reason that you describe in your, for which I thank you.

      If these cats are living in a multi-cat household it is not uncommon for there to be fights between the cats. We can never presume that they will get along. Sometimes they do. They may tolerate each other. But often there is some stress and tensions. You should provide a place for cats to hide in order to relieve stress. You may consider rehoming. However, I do not know whether this is a multi-cat household.

  2. Thanks for this excellent article on “HERMOPHRODITE CATS”. I suspect my 6 year old Traditional Persian tomcat “Matata” of some sexual deficiency as he simply doesn’t know how to mate.He is a absolute handsome male cat with normal male organs but just doesn’t know to mate. I tried crossing him with his now 8 year old “dam’ for the last 4 years and its unsuccessful. While writing this article she is now in “Heat” and being very receptive to him but he just stands alongside totally confused. I have made a video recording of the same which i will post some day for the benefit of cat fanciers.Sometimes tomcat “Matata” keeps on yowling in the night for days together ruining my sleep and he is lucky to be owned by me otherwise a breeder or some other pet owner would have got rid of him.The positive side of his personality is that he is a very affectionate and loving cat, akin to a dog in behaviour. He was born in my house and was one of the 6 kittens in the litter and strangely the only “Orange colour ” kitten in the entire litter of white kittens. I was trying to develop a new breed of Traditional Persian cats accustomed to the harsh humid weather of Mumbai in India.Tomcat “Matata” has been a spectacular failure as a “Stud Cat” and now reading this article on hermophrodite cat “Marbles” i definitely feel there is something wrong in his reproductive organs or psychology.


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