The 'Sex Change' Operation For Cats : The Protojournalist While it's not a true sex reassignment, the operation does involve the removal of a tom's cathood.
NPR logo The 'Sex Change' Operation For Cats

The 'Sex Change' Operation For Cats

Like a circus parade, the cutting-edge pet stories just keep coming.

Plastic surgery for dogs. Designer kitties — poodle cats and jungle hybrids. Medicinal marijuana for ailing pets.

Can gender reassignment for pets be far behind? Actually, some veterinarians, like Christie Cornelius of Houston, do talk about "sex change" operations for cats.

The surgery, says Cornelius, of Last Wishes, is not a true "sex reassignment" because "it is not performed for the purpose of changing a cat's sex."

Ann Staub, a former vet and now keeper of the Pawsitively Pets blog, explains: The procedure — conducted on a male cat suffering from persistent urinary problems — is technically called a "perineal urethrostomy," but in her office and in other veterinary clinics, it's often referred to as a "sex change."

Because, Staub says, "it's easier to say and remember. Sometimes we have to humor ourselves at work, too."

Without getting too graphic, the operation involves removal of a tom's cathood, a shortening of the urethra and the creation of a new opening that is similar to a female cat's. "I don't know for sure," Staub says, "but this doesn't seem to have any effect on a cat's personality, as most of them are already neutered anyways."

Do owners ever decide to change their pets' gender for other reasons? Staub says she "can't imagine a veterinarian actually doing a 'sex change' surgery to an animal for cosmetic purposes, but I'm sure there's someone out there who's willing to make a buck."

After all, she adds, she has heard about people "using Botox on wrinkly dogs like Shar-Peis for medical reasons. I don't have any experience with that personally, though."