Long ago, I was single and I liked to attend cocktail parties. I quickly learned that my testicle stories nearly always could get tipsy female partygoers giggling. To be clear, my testicle stories were not stories about my testicles. I may have been young and dumb, but I was not as clueless as Anthony Weiner. The testicles I was referring to were cat balls.
How long ago was this? Well, let’s see. I was single, and I regularly performed feline neuters. The last time those conditions were met was well over a decade ago. Many of the stories were not actually mine. I have always taken my job very seriously, so I have never disrespected a patient by, say, playing a practical joke with his testicles. But I confess to having a few acquaintances who have crossed that line. Some of my stories were actually theirs — however, I did always provide proper attribution when chatting up young ladies.
So, practical jokes and all, here are the facts on cat testicles.
Here is how a cat is neutered: The cat should be properly prepared for anesthesia by running appropriate pre-anesthetic testing. IV fluids should be administered. Pain killers should be administered. The cat is then anesthetized. Appropriate anesthetic monitoring should take place. So far, so good.
Some people, however, turn various shades of green when they hear what comes next. The scrotum is shaved and prepared in a sterile fashion. A syringe may be used to inject a local anesthetic (numbing agent) directly through the scrotum and into the testicle. A scalpel blade is used to incise the scrotum directly over the testicle. Digital pressure is used to express the testicle and its surrounding connective tissue through the scrotum. Traction is used to break down the connective tissue affixing the testicle to the body. The blood supply to the testicle is ligated using a special technique in which it is tied in a knot. The testicle is then cut from the connective tissue and blood supply and is subsequently disposed of.
Back in the day, many people asked me how I could perform such a procedure without cringing and doubling over. The answer was simple: They weren’t my testicles. Removing a cat testicles was never a problem for me. However…
After the cat testicles are removed, where do they go? In a healthy cat there is no need to submit them to a laboratory. And they are not biohazards. They are disposed of in a more simple manner — the garbage can.
Let’s go back to the proper, humane feline neutering technique. Specifically, the part where the testicle is cut from the connective tissue and blood supply and subsequently disposed of. That sounds simple, but it actually is a bit more difficult than one would expect. After the testicle is excised, the veterinarian will be left with a testicle in one hand and a surgical instrument in the other. The veterinarian must not let go of the surgical instrument; the next step is to complete the ligation of the blood supply, which requires the surgical instrument and both hands. Therefore the cat testicle must be removed from the hand that holds it. Easier said than done.
Cat balls are sticky. They stick to surgical gloves much like boogers stick to kids’ fingers. And many vets with testicles in their hands resort to the same tactic as nose-picking children: They flick. When they flick, the results can be unpredictable. Testicles can take errant flight patterns and end up sticking to walls or windows. I once saw a cat testicle strike — and stick to — a co-worker’s face.
I haven’t done it, but I have heard stories. If several cat testicles are placed around the feet of an unsuspecting person, that person will end up with testicles stuck in his or her shoe treads. I am told that they’re very difficult to remove. Cat testicles bear an uncanny resemblance to cocktail onions. I have heard of vet clinics where people must be very careful before sipping on beverages.
It turns out that cat feces is not the only feline product that dogs will consume. I once heard of an incident involving a feline neuter (remember, testicles go in the trash) , a resident hospital dog and a door to the surgical suite left open after the procedure. Your imagination can do the rest.
Rarely, people ask the vet to return their cat’s testicles after a neuter. Many vets oblige, usually returning them suspended in an alcohol preservative.
I want to be clear about something: Veterinary medicine has always been a serious business for me. People may love to joke about cat testicles, but neutering a cat is a true surgical procedure and any good vet will take the procedure seriously. And, although neutering of cats has been widely adopted, it is becoming more controversial. Testicles serve a biological purpose beyond reproduction in cats. When and even whether they should be removed are now topics of debate among experts. At this time, the benefits of neutering still decisively appear to outweigh the drawbacks. Nonetheless, responsible vets are closely monitoring the situation in order to ensure that we always to do right by our patients.
Thumbnail: Photography by JZHunt/Thinkstock.
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