Gender of cat
February 10, 2005 10:40 AM   Subscribe

At what age should a cat's gender be obvious to a vet? {mi}

A friend has just learned that her 6 months old male cat is in fact a female. The thing is, they only found this out after switching vets. The previous vet had examined the cat several times during Oct-Jan, and always identified it as male. But the recent vet switch happened because this person had already been showing a lot of unprofessionalism in other respects. Finding out there was a mistake is just the icing on the cake. My friend spent a lot of money on this vet, and frankly I know she doesn't have it to spare. The animal has an ongoing respiratory problem that never even got diagnosed and has been ineffectively treated with a series of random (seemingly, anyway) drugs. I'm wondering if the gender identification errors gives any cause for concern that the vet is incompetent. (And if so, what should she do?)
posted by nakedcodemonkey to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
She should write to her local Better Business Bureau and send the vet a copy of the letter.
posted by gokart4xmas at 10:54 AM on February 10, 2005

It should be apparent immediately, but even if not, 6 months is wayyy too long. I know at 8 weeks my girls were pretty definitively girls. All you have to do is lift the tail and look.

It's possible that there were some confusing marking back there, but it seems to stretch credulity.
posted by ad hoc at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Your state probably has some kind of veterinary association. Might want to drop them a line as well if your concerns about the vet's competency are that serious.
posted by Cyrano at 10:59 AM on February 10, 2005

ongoing respiratory problem that never even got diagnosed

To be clear, the vet has been aware of it and attempting to treat it but has never been able to provide a specific diagnosis. A lot of the expense has been for blood tests, etc.

gender identification errors

Whoops, typo. That should be just "error".
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2005

As far as I've seen, the cat is all white. Though I haven't spent enough time around him/her to be certain that there's no stray markings. Okay, good to know that's a theory. Maybe the new vet can tell her whether it'd be a fair explanation here.

Cyrano, right now I'm trying to determine whether there's any basis for concern. Could it be an honest mistake?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:17 AM on February 10, 2005

You can sex cats from the time they're weaned, often before. It might take a little close investigation, but it's pretty obvious. Two openings under the tail, it's a girl. One opening and a bump with no hole, it's got the developings of a scrotal sac and it's male. Deformed genitalia might throw you off, but the new vet would mention that. Sounds like the old vet just didn't look carefully because he's lazy/inattentive. Good thing the new vet found it before the tom marked the sofa with his pungent urine.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:24 AM on February 10, 2005

We have a boy and a girl, and it was very obvious which was which the moment we got them, when they were about 2.5-3 months old. Of course, Eddie's junk was huge, so that helped a lot (even after neutering he looks like he has a basically full scrotum).

On the other hand, I've heard at least one (possibly apocryphal) horror story about a male cat being "spayed", though it wasn't clear what that massively incompetent vet took out instead of ovaries.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:35 AM on February 10, 2005

nakedcodemonkey, your comment about other unprofessional behaviors is what I was basing my comment on. I would say your friends has definitely done the right thing for herself by switching.

It could be an honest mistake (maybe the vet made the gender call when the cat was very young and hasn't really had a need to check it again [although considering how you take a cat's tempreture, that still seems unlikely]) but it could also be just another sign pointing to a bigger problem. It really depends on what those other behaviors were.
posted by Cyrano at 11:35 AM on February 10, 2005

Good thing the new vet found it before the tom marked the sofa with his pungent urine.

Funnily enough, it was the reverse. I'd been urging her to get this "male" fixed soon before the marking starts. She'd been holding off until she could find a new vet to do it (good thing, I guess!). The new vet's first sight of the cat was today, when it was brought in for the neuter spay.

maybe the vet made the gender call when the cat was very young

First inspection was at ~3 months old (it's a stray, so age is approximate, but both set it's age at 6 mos now).
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2005

I've cared for a two-day-old kitten. It was obviously a boy. I've cared for dozens of 6-8-week-old kittens. Again, no trouble sexing them.
posted by waldo at 5:51 PM on February 10, 2005

I know this sounds crazy, but you can usually tell by this rule, and it worked for me with 6 out of 6 kittens at 2 or 3 months old.

Males look like they have a colon -> :
Females, a semicolon -> ;

The top dot is the anus, and the bottom the opening for the genitalia. Seriously :)
posted by adzm at 1:18 AM on February 11, 2005

Well, the consensus is clear! Thanks, everyone. Your suggestions were much appreciated.

After talking it over, it looks like she's leaning toward having the new vet review the treatment record to verify that none of the more important details have been overlooked. Meanwhile she's decided to send a note to the licensing agency about the separate issue of professionalism.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:11 AM on February 11, 2005

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