Why Some Cats Get 'Sex Change' Operations

Why would a cat get a sex change operation?Why would a cat get a sex change operation?In a world where pets get braces, face lifts and fake testicles, feline "sex change" operations may not seem that shocking.

However, veterinarians say such surgery isn't a true sex reassignment because it's not performed for the purpose of changing the cat's sex.

The technical term for the procedure is "perineal urethrostomy," and it's performed on male cats that suffer from frequent urinary problems.

Also see: 5 unusual pet procedures that improve quality of life

For example, last year an 8-year-old Australian cat named Domino had the operation because he had a blocked bladder caused by salt crystals in his blood.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, the surgery "will permanently cure urethral obstruction in 90 percent of male cats."

As Domino's veterinarian Dr. Bob Cavey explains, the procedure involves removing a cat's "male parts" and shortening the urethra's opening to create a new opening similar to a female's.

Although former veterinarian Ann Staub told NPR that such surgery is unlikely to cause a change in a cat's personality, Domino's owner says that since the operation, the cat has been more energetic, affectionate and playful.

With elective pet surgery gaining popularity, is it possible that cat owners might choose to change their pet's sex for nonmedical reasons?

"I 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," Staub said.

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