Veterinary researchers at the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine have announced the first successful feline gender reassignment surgery as part of treatment for gender dysphoria in transgender cats.
Gender dysphoria has only recently begun to be researched in veterinary medicine. It has long been suspected that cats suffer from the condition in the same way that humans do, but it was not until the gene mutation responsible for gender dysphoria was isolated and identified that researchers were able to diagnose the condition definitively.
Transgender cats often suffer from behavioral problems that include inappropriate elimination, aggression, self mutilation and pica. When these problems fail to be corrected through traditional behavioral training techniques, it’s thought that the culprit could be a gender identity disorder.
Once researchers identify cats with the transgender gene mutation, the next step is to complete gender reassignment using a combination of hormone treatments and reconstructive surgery.
A veterinary team led by Dr Budalla Prill completed hormone treatments and surgical genitoplasty on three male and two female cats in June and July 2012. One of the cats was Ginger, a female orange tabby owned by Linda Scovill, a teacher in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Scovill described the problems she had with Ginger. “Ginger was always bullying my other cats, and sprayed every vertical surface in my house,” she said. “My vet pronounced her healthy, but I always knew something was a little ‘off’ with her.” She tried accupuncture and reiki, but nothing worked.
When Scovill heard about the study of Feline Gender Dysphoria being conducted at Ohio State, something “clicked,” she said.
The symptoms described Ginger to a ‘T’. “I knew that neither my family nor Ginger would be happy until we treated the root cause of her problems.”
Now a “he,” Ginger has settled in to a life of contentment. No more spraying, no more bullying. “It’s like we traded her in for a different cat,” said Scovill.
Dr Prill said that similar successes were achieved with the other four test cats. “We were surprised at the efficacy of the procedures,” Prill admitted.
Although the research is still in its infancy, Prill said that it appears that Feline Gender Dysphoria is most common among female orange tabbies, male calicos and male tortoiseshell cats. These genders are uncommon for those coat colors, and Prill believes there’s a link between the transgender gene mutation and the gender/coat-color anomalies. He hopes that being able to better identify and treat cats with Feline Gender Dysphoria will decrease the number of cats who are surrendered to shelters and euthanized.
“Cats have the same rich emotional lives as people,” said Dr Prill, “and they’re just as sensitive to disconnects between their anatomies and sense of gender. They deserve the same opportunities for happiness as transgender people do. It’s my job to provide that.”