Male Cat Problems

Male Cat Problems

Question: I have a question about my cat. He just turned 6 months old. About a 1 1/2 months ago we purchased another kitten which it took him around a week to adjust to him. He was very upset with us getting a new kitten. We have noticed since we have pruchased this new kitten, that when he uses his litter box at times he comes out with his stomach and inside back legs very wet. He has not be neutered as of he spraying or is this a sign of something serious? I would appreciate any information that you could send me.

Thanks, April

Answer: April-

Most cats that exhibit spraying behavior do not do this in the litterpans. They usually like to find a vertical surface in an area of family traffic, like the edge of a couch or a corner on a wall, or something like that. Cats usually hold their tail high and out of the way and spray with some force, resulting in a urine spray stream, so most people do not notice wetness on the fur associated with this behavior. I think it would be best to have your male cat examined by your vet to see if there is a physical cause for this problem.

Mike Richards, DVM 7/30/2000

What age to neuter cat

Question: Dear Dr. Richards,

I've written to you a few times about various cat illnesses, and you were very helpful. Now, I have two questions, one of which I think will be really simple.

First (the easy one), at what age can I neuter my male cat? He's now almost 5 months old, quite the little rambunctious one, and is behaving aggressively toward my other cat, a neutered 2 1/2 year old female. He bites her (not sure how hard) on the back of the neck, climbs on top of her, and stalks her everywhere. Some of that I understand is age-related energy. The rest, I think, is testosterone (or the kitty equivalent). When is it safe to neuter? I had a male cat who died in November (you gave me tons of information around that time) whom I neutered when he was 5 months (with no problems). My Czech vet seemed to think that it was not safe until 1 year old, and recommends that I wait.

Answer: I think it is safe to neuter male kittens anytime after four months of age.

In the past, there was concern that neutering a male cat prior to physical maturity might increase the probability of feline lower urinary tract disorder (FLUTD, FUS). Studies of the effect of early spay and neuter procedures do not support this conclusion, though. I waited a while, even after these studies, to start to do earlier neuter procedures, so your vet may still be in a cautious mode on this. We have not had any problems that I can recall in the two to three years we have been using four months as the age we will neuter.

Mike Richards DVM 7/17/2000

Male cat spraying

Question: Hi Dr. Richards,

Have a question concerning my parents' 8-year-old cat, Murphy. They adopted him as a kitten, he has been neutered (sometime before his first birthday).

About 6-8 months ago he started spraying regularly around the house. My parents have always had multiple animal households; I think Murphy started his spraying about the time they adopted another cat, Bobbie (female) and their second rescued Greyhound (Rocky). I wonder if the two events could be connected.

Murphy is otherwise a sweetheart. For this recent problem, his vet has prescribed valium twice daily (I was amazed) and a spray called Felaway (cat pheranome). He is certainly much less shy these days, and the spraying has decreased.

But he still sprays occasionally -- hence, my email to you. Maybe there is another solution we do not know about. I would appreciate your sharing whatever thoughts you have re this subject? I have heard of other cats (older) developing this problem later in life and taking hormones for it.

And since I have two boys myself (5 years, both), I'd be interested to learn of anything that should be done to prevent this problem from developing.

Thanks, as always, Beverly

Answer: Beverly-

Sometimes buspirone (Buspar Rx) will work a little better than diazepam (Valium Rx). For really difficult cases of spraying megestrol acetate (Ovaban Rx) will sometimes help but it has serious side effects, such as increasing the risk of diabetes significantly and causing mammary cancer in some cats (including males). So it should be used only as a last resort, when euthanasia seems like the next step.

Feliway will often work better over time than it does initially, so is a good idea to keep using this for at least two months or so. Obviously, if it works it has the least risk of side effects.

Mike Richards, DVM 7/3/2000

Feline tail gland hyperplasia - "stud tail"

Question: Hi -- How long does a cat continue to have "stud tail" after he's neutered? (You probably know, but it's a bare streak on the base of the tail in intact males.) I have a former show cat who was kept for a year as a stud after he made champion. Then he came to me and I had him neutered back in January. The shaved part of his leg where he got the anaesthetic has grown back with hair but the bare streak on his tail has not. Is it caused by hormones? How long until they go away and/or it grows back? While I'm asking, what causes stud tail in the first place?

Thanks! Sephanie

Answer: Stephanie- I do not know if the exact cause of feline tail gland hyperplasia is known. This disorder occurs primarily in male cats (hence the name "stud tail"). So I guess it is reasonable to assume that testosterone may influence the development of the disorder but it does occur in female cats sometimes, too. It is more common in cats kept indoors than in indoor/outdoor or outdoor cats. It is characterized by an oily or scaly matting of the hair over the tail gland, which is located about 1/3rd of the way down the length of the tail. Sometimes there is hair loss and sometimes there are secondary infections which can lead to darkening the pigment of the skin in the region. If treated early and consistently, benzoyl peroxide shampoo applied two or three times a week will often control this problem.

My guess is that your cat had a secondary skin infection that has damaged the hair follicles and that there may not ever be hair growth over the area that is hairless at this time. I am hoping I'm wrong but we have had a couple of cats and several dogs with tail gland hyperplasia who never grew hair over the gland after the initial problems of seborrhea and infection were cleared up.

I will try to check out some of the other references at the clinic tomorrow. If I find an explanation for why this occurs, I'll send it on.

Mike Richards, DVM 4/18/2000


Question: I read another submission in which someone asked at what age cats start spraying. It was only mentioned what to do to correct this. I have a seven week old kitten. At what age do cats typically begin to spray? Is it different for house cats as opposed to outside cats? Thanks, Erik.

Answer: Erik-

I think I probably avoided answering that part of the question simply because I can't find much information on this topic that seems reliable. There is a lot of information on spraying frequency, spraying behavior patterns, etc. but not much information on when the behavior first appears.

In our practice we have had clients who I thought could distinguish spraying urinary behaviors from other behaviors who were pretty sure that their cats were spraying as early as 3.5 to 4 months of age. It appears from the literature on this behavior that it usually becomes problematic as cats get closer to two years of age, though.

Your question is a good one and if I find any information that addresses it I will try to remember to post it as I find it.

Mike Richards, DVM

Spraying in new home

Question: I am going to be adopting two cats, a spayed female and a neutered male. The two have lived together all their lives, and so far, the male has had no history of spraying with his present owners. My neighbor has warned me that once I bring the cats into the new house, the male will start spraying to mark the new territory. Others have said that it shouldn't be a problem as long as I don't make the cat feel threatened, and he doesn't have the scent of other male cats to contend with. I like the cats, and want to take them in, but I don't want to make a mess of my house either. Do you have any thoughts on the chances of the male spraying? Thanks, Joe

Answer: Joe- Sometimes when cats are moved they do mark territory when they did not previously do so but I don't think this is a really common problem. If some of their things are moved with them (litterpan, food bowls, etc.) cats tend to adjust to the new home pretty quickly and most do OK even without this. If marking does occur, cleaning the area with an enzymatic cleanser and considering short term use of an anti-anxiety medication like diazepam or buspirone may be helpful.

I hope all is going well with the transition.

Mike Richards, DVM


Question: I have a 5 year old neutered domestic longhair and he has recently taken to acting sexual with the blankets in the house. I had him neutered at 6 months of age, so I can't understand why this behavior would be popping up. No pun intended. He can get rather annoyed when we try to interrupt him, but when observed it must be stopped. I have on occasion turned him over to inspect his penis and just as expected it is erect and there is some discharge. I would love to hear your thoughts on this problem. Sincerely, Kandy

Answer: Kandy- Masturbation is a difficult problem to deal with in cats. It is a normal behavior and it is probably pleasurable. This combination makes it hard to discourage. It is not really unusual for neutered cats to learn to masturbate and it may be possible for them to produce some fluid.

In a few cats, this can become (or possibly starts out as) an obsessive/compulsive disorder. If this is a really persistent problem rather than an occasional one, it would be a good idea to ask your vet if there is a behaviorist in your area who you can work with to help resolve the problem. In this case medications for obsessive/compulsive disorders may be helpful. As far as I know, these are the only cats in which medication is likely to help.

I wish I had some sort of easy advise to follow for this problem, but I don't.

Mike Richards, DVM

Neutering male cats -- is it REALLY necessary?

Question: Can you please give me some info about my male kitty... Will he spray my house? How can I prevent this ? Do I HAVE to fix him? Do all male cats do this? He is about 2 months old now, when will he start this? Please help us .. we found him in a trash can - full of fleas and starving. We have fallen in love with him. We want to keep him as a house cat.Thank you for your help.

Answer: I think it is safe to say that MOST male cats will engage in urine spraying activity if they are not neutered. In addition, their urine seems to have a much more potent odor. I do have several clients who keep intact males (not neutered) in their homes, though. I do not know the exact statistics on the percentage of male cats that spray if they aren't neutered, though. Interestingly, somewhere between 10 and 20% of male cats will spray even if they are neutered, so it isn't a "cure-all" for this condition.

If your cat stays in the house he may not be subject to the other behaviors that people neuter male cats for -- fighting and disappearing for several days at a time seeking romance. These are expensive habits if he gets bitten frequently and develops abscesses or if he gets hit by a car and survives during a trip to the girlfriend's house. If he is an inside/outside cat it is generally much safer for him to be neutered as it cuts down on these episodes.

Neutering is by far the most effective method of preventing spraying behavior. If you elect not to do that and he develops the behavior there are some medications that seem to help limit spraying, such as diazepam and buspirone. Keeping him on medication isn't always a great idea, either, though.

If you plan to get him neutered it is best to do it before he starts spraying but it will probably work even if you wait until he shows signs of this behavior. You can always wait and see what happens and then decide.

Fortunately, cats don't worry about what they are missing in life if they are neutered -- at least they don't seem to :)

Mike Richards, DVM

Male cat spraying after new kittens arrive

Question: My male cat is 10 years old and has re-developed a spraying problem. When it happened in the past, he was put on an anti-depressant(I think it was prozac) I thought that it was mainly a hormonal problem. Well that had seemed to work but he does it now I think now to show me his displeasure. He likes to go outside, but if the cat door is closed, he will spray on the wall. Either on the cat door or come over to where I can see him and do it right in front of me. My vet has said that it is not only his hormones and that I have to basically "show him who is boss" and to re-train him that this is not acceptable behavior. She suggests I lock him in the bathroom the next time I catch him doing this, and to put his food and water in there and keep him in there for half the day. The problem isn't his litter pan as it is kept tidy. He lives with 3 other cats 1 female who he grew up with, and 2 new male kittens. Now if the problem is the new kittens, as they have yet to be nuetered, could this be territorrial. I would like to solve this problem before the new kittens "learn" this from him. Are there any short-term medical solutions? Thanks in advance for any suggestions

Answer: It would seem very very likely to me that this is territorial behavior and that it may be related to the acquisition of the kittens. Most veterinary behaviorists who write on this subject say that once you have 5 to 6 cats, it is almost certain that one will exhibit territorial behavior, including marking. I am not a behavior expert, but I don't think it is usually possible to alter this behavior using any sort of behavioral modification technique. The most straightforward solution is to decrease the number of cats in the household which reduces the stress level. Most cat owners are unwilling to do this, though. That leaves anti-anxiety medications as the treatment most likely to work. Diazepam (Valium) and buspirone (Buspar) are the medications most commonly used for treatment of marking behavior but I have seen recommendations to try Prozac and anti-depressants if the anti-anxiety medications don't work. In some cases, it is only necessary to use medications for two to three months and then they can be tapered off.

While I tend to agree with you that this doesn't sound like a litterpan training problem, you might ask your vet what she is thinking in this regard. She might have noticed something to suggest that in the history or clinical exam, that I missed or am unaware of.

Your vet may be able to refer you to a veterinary behaviorist if medications won't work again or if she is not comfortable treating behavioral problems.

Mike Richards, DVM

Sexual behavior - urine marking

Question: My cat is sexually aggresive with his spayed sister. has recently started to pee on us and all of the furniture. this is a house cat and does not go outside, but has escaped twice and met a lady cat and now he talks to her thru the screens. my vet has given antibiotics which did not help. is this due to sexual frustration?

Answer: Some male cats will continue to exhibit sexual behaviors, including urine marking, even after neutering. It would help a lot if he wasn't exposed to the other female cat, probably - but it is hard to limit this when you don't own the cat. Medical therapy often works for spraying behaviors. Buspirone (Buspar Rx), diazepam (Valium Rx) and megestrol acetate (Ovaban Rx) are probably the most commonly used medications for this problem. Keep working with your vet to resolve this problem.

Mike Richards, DVM

Cryptorchidism in cats (undescended testicles):

Question: Dear Dr Mike: My seven month old male cat has been diagnosed with cryptorchidism, a failure of the testes to descend. what can happen if I chose to wait and see for a while what happens? My vet has said that he can act like a cat that has not been neutered, i.e. spraying, which can be treated with hormones. another option is exploratory surgery, at a rather substantial cost, to find and remove whatever testes may be in the abdominal area. Obviously, I do not want him to spray. if he does not spray within the next year or so does this mean he will never do it? As far as the surgery goes, my vet told me there is the possibility of cancer. Is the cancer caused by the undescended testicle or from another source?

Answer: Retained testicles are more likely to develop cancer than are descended testicles in almost all species. I have not seen statistics for cats that I can remember but in dogs, the rate of cancer is about 27 times the rate in testes located in the scrotum. This makes the rate of cancer about 3% if I interpret the statistics properly. I would think it is about the same in cats but have no evidence for that. The theory is that the increase in heat inside the body is enough to trigger this effect, possibly due to increased hormonal production. Cats with retained testicles are just as likely, or more likely, to exhibit spraying behavior. I think that more intact male cats spray than don't but there is some chance your cat will not do this. Most of the time, they will spray by the time they are a year or two of age. Some cats do develop this behavior later in life than that, though. It is much harder to find and remove retained testicles than testicles situated in the scrotum, obviously. On one occasion, I could only find one testicle even after extensive exploration of the abdomen. That cat never sprayed or showed other signs of retaining the testicle, like roaming and fighting behaviors, so I assume it just wasn't there. That experience has always made me wary of quoting anyone a firm price for cryptorchid surgery but most of the time we charge about what we would for a cat spay.

Mike Richards, DVM

Last edited 12/05/02


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...