What Happens When Your Cat Has Only One Ovary?
I’m willing to pay anything to help my pets, but this problem isn’t fixable
My kitten Astrid was about six months old when I took her to the vets to be spayed. As I write this, however, she’s yowling right in my ear because she’s in heat, which may give you a clue as to how the surgery turned out.
On the day of the operation, I was a nervous wreck waiting for the phone call to tell me the procedure had gone OK.
She’s a nervous, persnickety sort of cat by disposition — the kind that will be rubbing up against your hand one second, then biting it the next. I’ve coddled her during the entirety of her short cat life, so she has no real reason to be. She just is, and I accept her like that.
But I was expecting trouble. Astrid’s the kind of cat who never lets anything be easy, from her eating habits to her petting preferences, and I anticipated her surgery to be no different.
Finally, the phone rang. The vet had news I couldn’t actually comprehend: it turned out Astrid had just a single ovary.
The vet had made two incisions into her furry kitten belly looking for the rogue, lost, second ovary, but with no luck. She was calling to tell me they were stitching her back up and to expect a harder recovery than normal due to the second cut.
“Yep, we had three vets poking around in there, no luck,” she told me, not unkindly. I fought off a vivid mental image of my poor baby cat, out cold on the operating table, as three vets peered at her looking for what was supposed to be there but wasn’t.
What do you do with information like that?
Her missing ovary has caused trouble
Astrid wore her stupid-looking pet shirt for nine days while she recovered from her difficult operation. She was ornery the whole time, but I was patient with her.
Now, unpredictably and erratically, Astrid goes into heat. She can’t have kittens, but there’s enough ovarian tissue in her body to send hormones thrilling through her system every so often. On any day, she might start doing extremely deep, resonant meows as she looks for love — in closets, out windows, and (her favorite) in empty, echoing hallways. No boy cats ever come out to grant her wish, but she never stops trying.
She’s like a cat possessed when the mood is upon her. She barely eats, she keeps the whole house up, she pesters her brother and even the dog. She even butts up against walls, rather hopefully.
Every time she goes into heat, I do the mental math in my head. When I spoke to the vet about her options, I learned she could go to a cat reproductive specialist who would root around her body a bit more for the ovarian tissue — it might have gotten attached to her intestines, or be so small and underdeveloped that it was missed the first two times.
“Ultimately,” the vet told me, “it’s your choice. You know her best. They might not find anything, and it’s not hurting her now. But it could cause greater risk for disease later in her life.”
It was such a hard recovery for her the first time, and there would be no guarantee that any ovary or ovarian tissue would even be found. It was possible I would put her through this trauma for nothing.
Any pet parent will understand the pain of doing good things that hurt your animals in a way you can’t explain to them. Anything from getting shots, to taking pills, to getting surgery is painful for them and you can’t tell them why they have to do it.
Could I justify doing it to her again, with no guarantee that things would help her at all?
Millennials pay more for their pets than any previous generation
Here’s the thing. If it were a question of money, it’d be done in an instant. No matter if it took out all my savings, if I could help my cat, I’d do it in a heartbeat. They’re my dependents and my responsibility. That’s something I accepted the second I brought them into my home. And I’m not alone.
In 2018, millennial pet owners spent $67 billion on their dogs and $33.5 billion on their pet cats. Millennial dog owners expect to spend more on their dogs throughout their dogs’ lifetimes than on their own personal medical costs. Pet spending is higher than it’s ever been. I've spent hundreds of dollars on them - not even for health or food, but just for things they might like, such as a pet carrier or a cat tree.
As a millennial, I’m used to paying for other people to tell me the answers. I pay for a cleaning service when I don’t have time, I pay for food delivery when I don’t want to cook, and I pay for Spotify to recommend new music to me.
I don’t have kids and I may not for another 10 years, but in the meantime, I have cats. And it kills me when there’s a problem I can’t fix, either with love or money.
The hardest thing is knowing there’s no answer
I could take her in again to get looked at by specialists. I could leave her to yowl every few weeks. I don’t know which is best or worst. Is the process worse than the condition? Are her long-term risks enough to justify a short-term hardship? I don’t know, and nobody but me can make the call.
This is the curse of modern-day pet owners who pour all their love into their animals. I want to do anything I can to fix the problem, but it’s one I might make worse instead of better. There’s nobody who can tell me the right answer.
When we don’t know the answers for matters that affect only us, we only let ourselves down. But it’s the worst feeling in the world when you don’t know what the best thing is for our pets, and you can’t throw money at the problem to go away. I obviously can’t ask Astrid for her opinion on the matter, much as I’d like to, and so I exist in a kind of odd limbo. Every few months, the same cycle of thoughts goes through my head.
Pet ownership is one of the most cherished responsibilities of my life. I gladly and happily spend my money and time putting together their breakfasts and dinners. I research whether taking them for little strolls on leashes is a viable exercise option. I solicitously take them to the vets if they so much as stub a furry toe.
But for the question of what you do with a cat that only has one ovary, I have to accept I don’t have the answer, and that I’ll never know. The best I can do is the same as any other pet owner: to keep loving my girl as much as I can.