from Modesto, Calif., has Alice, a 2-year-old cat,
sharing her apartment. It seems that Alice has begun a
strange behavior recently. She spends a significant
amount of time rolling around on the carpet and
vocalizing quite loudly.
will also walk around the apartment with her hind end up
in the air, again vocalizing loudly. Cameron admits that
at first, the behavior was somewhat funny but it has now
become annoying. She believes that cat is behaving as if
she is "in heat," but since Alice was spayed
when she was 5 months old, she deems that unlikely.
let’s define "in heat." This term refers to
a time in the reproductive cycle of dogs and cats when
the female is ready to be bred. The technical term used
for this time is estrus. This is the time that their
bodies are ready for pregnancy.
cycling is controlled by hormone production affecting
the ovaries, which produce the eggs that combine with
the sperm to make the embryos that develop into puppies
term "spaying" refers to a surgical procedure
to remove the ovaries and uterus, preventing the cycling
of estrus — and pregnancy as well. We term this
behavior that Cameron describes is consistent with the
behavior displayed by a female cat in estrus. But how
can this be when Alice has already been spayed? One
possible explanation is that within Alice’s body there
is ovarian tissue that is not in its normal location.
her ovaries and uterus were removed, this extra ovarian
tissue, called ectopic ovarian tissue, was left behind.
It could be almost anywhere inside Alice’s abdomen.
ovarian tissue acts just as the ovaries do in secreting
the hormones that bring about the behavior of estrus.
She is not able to become pregnant because there is no
functional egg production and the uterus is gone, but
the behavior remains.
is another possibility that some of the normal ovarian
tissue was left behind from the spay surgery. This is
unlikely, but if a tiny amount of ovary was left, it
could be responsible for hormone production causing the
proposed these possible causes for Alice’s behavior,
how might we figure out what is going on? One method
would be exploratory surgery to examine the area from
where the ovaries were removed in the spay surgery. If
leftover tissue is found, it can be removed, thus
solving the problem.
there is no leftover tissue found, the surgeon can
search the abdomen for any ectopic ovarian tissue. This
search is often fruitless, somewhat similar to the
proverbial needle in the haystack analogy. However, if
successful, the tissue can be removed and thus eliminate
think perhaps a better move before going to surgery
would be to check Alice’s hormone levels during the
time she is exhibiting this behavior. This is a simple
test measuring the estrogen in the cat’s blood.
there is no ovarian tissue within the body, there should
be extremely low levels of estrogen in the blood. This
test would eliminate the need for Alice to endure
further surgery if the level was low.
however, the estrogen level was elevated, ovarian
activity is confirmed. At that point, surgical
intervention is warranted.
a trip to see Alice’s veterinarian is in order. Make
sure this visit coincides with the occurrence of the
strange behavior so the blood testing is relevant.