Inappropriate Urination in a Neutered Cat

Carla Barstow, DVM, MS, DACT, Highland Pet Hospital, Lakeland, Florida

ArticleLast Updated September 20214 min readPeer Reviewed
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Bandit, a 3-year-old neutered male cat, was presented for inappropriate urination. He had a history of nonobstructive feline idiopathic cystitis, which had been treated successfully, according to the pet owner, with a course of antibiotics. The last episode was 6 months prior. The owner reported that Bandit sprayed on vertical surfaces (eg, side of the couch) approximately once a week and demonstrated highly energetic and sometimes aggressive behavior (eg, “He just seemed wild”). Bandit had been adopted at one year of age from a local shelter, where he was reported to have been neutered before adoption.

Physical Examination

On examination, Bandit was bright, alert, and responsive. His BCS was 3/5. Vital parameters and thoracic auscultation were within normal limits. The bladder was small and nonpainful on abdominal palpation. No testicles were noted in the scrotum. The penis was extruded and examined, and penile spines were noted (Figure 1). The remainder of the physical examination was within normal limits.

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Penile spines on the patient (A). For comparison, a penis without spines from a neutered male cat (B)


Causes of feline inappropriate urination can be medical (eg, feline lower urinary tract disease, feline idiopathic cystitis, urinary calculi), hormonal (eg, intact status, exogenous hormonal therapy, adrenal tumor), or related to litter box aversion or urine marking.1

Because penile spines, which are testosterone-dependent, were noted on physical examination, this case of inappropriate urination was most likely due to hormonal causes. Differential diagnoses for penile spines in a presumably neutered male cat are retained testicle(s), exogenous testosterone exposure, or a sex hormone-producing adrenal tumor.

Access to topical hormonal creams in the household was ruled out, and, because Bandit was an indoor-only cat, exogenous testosterone exposure was unlikely. Adrenal tumors are rarely reported in cats.2 Retained testicular tissue can be diagnosed via imaging, hormone testing, or exploratory laparotomy (see Diagnosing Retained Testicular Tissue). 

The owner wanted to ensure testicular tissue was present before surgery was performed, so an anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) test was submitted to the laboratory, and results confirmed the presence of testicular tissue.



Treatment & Long-Term Management

Spraying behavior can be controlled via removal of the hormone source. It is highly recommended to neuter patients that exhibit this behavior to help minimize or even eliminate marking behavior. 

Nonsurgical options can be considered. Melatonin implants have been used to nonsurgically temporarily control fertility; although these have been shown to decrease sperm production, they do not affect testosterone levels.3 Because marking behaviors in cats can be associated with elevated testosterone levels due to the patient being intact, this treatment option most likely would not be an effective solution in this patient. Deslorelin, a synthetic GnRH-agonist, can also induce temporary infertility in treated patients. Urine marking disappeared in study cats within 10 weeks of treatment, and the effects lasted ≈20 months.4 Of note, deslorelin is only FDA-approved for use in ferrets in the United States.

Bandit was scheduled for exploratory laparotomy based on the positive AMH results. His inguinal regions were carefully palpated while he was under general anesthesia; inguinal testicular tissue was not palpated. Because the presence of one or both testicles was unconfirmed, anesthetized ultrasonography was used to identify testicular tissue presence andlocation. Both testicles were identified in the caudal abdomen.  

Retained abdominal testicles can be located anywhere from the caudal pole of the kidney to the scrotum. It is important to locate the ductus deferens and trace it until the testicle is located.

A caudal midline abdominal incision was made; the right testicle was easily located next to the bladder. The ductus deferens was identified on the left side and traced caudally. The bladder was then retroflexed to identify the left testicle, which was positioned near the inguinal ring. Both testicles were removed and submitted for histopathology. The abdomen was closed using a routine 3-layer closure. 

Recovery from anesthesia was uneventful, and histopathology confirmed complete removal of both retained testicles.

Prognosis & Outcome

Bandit was presented for examination 6-weeks postoperatively, and penile spines were no longer present. In general, regression of penile spines can take up to 6 weeks after removal of the testosterone source. The owner reported a decrease in urine marking, and Bandit’s demeanor was much calmer than previously noted.

Urine spraying is typical in sexually intact cats, which are often hormonally driven to  spray. Neutering reduces the influence of hormones on this behavior; however, 10% of neutered cats may still continue urine marking and spraying.5