When Spay/Neuter Surgeries Get Botched

Everybody loved Bubba, a friendly lap cat. But then, Bubba started picking fights and acting aloof. The reason behind the changes came as a huge shock.

Bubba was neutered a second time. By: Laura and Gary Dumm
Bubba was neutered a second time.

Everybody loved Bubba, especially artists Laura and Gary Dumm.

The big orange-and-white cat made a nightly ritual of hanging out with Laura. In turn, she and Gary gave him his own Facebook page and designed a comic book about him. Laura even did a Bubba-inspired art show named BubbaPalooza.

What more could any cat ask for? Then, in June 2013, Bubba began acting oddly. The onetime lap cat became oddly aloof.

A Turn for the Worse

Come January, Bubba began picking fights with one of the male cats, Bogart. He would also spray the walls and try to mate with Luna, their spayed female.

“His behavior started getting worse, and his temper got shorter,” recalls Laura. “He also looked as though he was bulking up, although at the time I didn’t give that much thought.”

By April, the situation had deteriorated to the point where she and Gary had to monitor his interactions with the rest of the family felines. “As long as we were watching him it would be OK, but if we left the room there could be a fight.”

Laura tried to break up one really bad fight and ended up at an urgent care clinic with a bite. The bite had to be reported, and Bubba was quarantined for 10 days. Laura and Gary also had to send proof of the cat’s rabies vaccination to the city warden.

Their vet had no answers and suggested bringing Bubba to a cat behavior specialist.

Was your cat really fixed? By: lovecats
Ever heard of “fixed” pets who were acting anything but fixed? By: lovecats

Trial and Error

During this time, the couple bought a calming collar, calming spray and some Feliway diffusers.

Laura had all their rugs professionally cleaned, thinking that “neutralizing the house might help. We cleaned the house from top to bottom with lavender cleaner to help relax the house. Nothing worked.”

Finally, she and Gary brought their problem kitty to a behavior clinic. “The doctor suggested clicker training,” Laura says. “We went home with all kinds of stuff and drugs for both Bubba and Bogart.”

They also followed the doctor’s advice and kept the 2 males separate. The Prozac turned out to be a disaster. Then they tried Gabapentin, which they said turned Bubba into “a bigger monster than before.”

A Shocking Discovery

Finally, Laura and Gary found a third vet. Dr. Bob looked at Bubba and noted his broad chest and jowls. Only unneutered male cats have jowls.

“If you didn’t tell me that Bubba was fixed,” remarked the doctor, “I would say he was an intact male. Can I do a testosterone test on him?”

Sure enough, the test revealed a testosterone level of 7.6. A neutered male cat’s testosterone level should be 0.5.

So Dr. Bob went ahead with exploratory surgery. The real problem turned out to be a “botched neuter.” Part of a testicle — “smaller than your fingernail but enough to produce all that testosterone” — was removed.

Pyometritis (inflammation of the uterus) can also happen. According to The Cornell Book of Cats, “Pyometritis is a frequent consequence if the drug megestrol acetate or other progestins (progesterone) or estrogens are administered to a female cat that still retains a portion of the uterus.”

Not Just a Tom Cat Thing

Actually, there’s a female version of this story. Years ago, when our Tikvah was spayed, a particle of an ovary was left behind.

She kept cycling in and out of heat because of it and had to be re-spayed. And yes, that piece of ovary was roughly the size of my little fingernail.

It’s rare, but it does happen. Some females even lactate.

A Serious Issue

I was surprised by the number of stories I came across online about “fixed” cats who were acting anything but fixed.

Bubba’s story is important on a number of levels. The cause wasn’t behavioral — it was medical — and his people kept persevering until they found the real answer.

Today, Laura says he is “100% back to his sweet self. He sits on my lap, purrs, chatters and is a joy to be around.”

T.J. Banks

View posts by T.J. Banks
T.J. Banks is the author of several books, including Catsong, a collection of her best cat stories, which was the winner of a Merial Human–Animal Bond Award. A contributing editor to laJoie, T.J. has received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), ByLine and The Writing Self. Her writing has been widely anthologized.

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