Do cats have vaginas?

Feline reproductive organs are similar to human reproductive organs as both are vertebrate mammals. Just as with a human female, a female cat’s reproductive system consists of the mammary glands, the two ovaries, the Fallopian tubes or oviducts, uterus, the vulva and vagina.

Identifying the sex of very young kittens is quite difficult especially for first time cat owners. The sex organs of male puppies would already be visible and although the testicles have not yet descended, a slight indentation where the scrotum should be will be seen. This is not so with cats. Identifying the sex of the kitten though does not need rocket science. One simply needs to stand the kitten on a table and lift up the tail. A male cat’s uro-genital opening would be a circular dot just below the anus. A female cat’s urogenital opening is almost the same but the vulva would be much closer to the anus and instead of a circular dot, the opening would be elongated vertically. This would be the vulva, the external opening of the vagina.

Cats have vaginas but where is this reproductive organ located? There is a common misconception that the vagina (of humans and of cats) is one and the same as the urogenital opening which is actually the vulva. The word vagina was derived from the Latin word vagiña which literally means scabbard or sheath. Vagina is technically an internal structure. It is an elastic fibromuscular tubular canal that extends from the cervix to the vulva. The vagina is not a hole inside the cat’s body. It is actually a potential space which means that the walls are practically touching each other but would stretch or widen to accept the entrance of the penis or an object that is inserted into it. Vaginal walls are composed of an internal mucous lining, a middle layer of muscular coat and an external coat of connective tissues. The numerous folds of the vaginal mucosa allow this organ to be stretched fully.

What are the biological functions of the vagina? In humans, the vagina serves as the receptacle of the penis when mating, as the outlet of menstrual blood and as a channel or passageway for the baby during childbirth. Feline vagina serves only two functions since cats do not have vaginal bleeding. Feline vagina is where the sperm is deposited when breeding. Cats are induced ovulators. The barbed penis of the male cat would rake against the vaginal walls to induce the female cat’s ovaries to release ripened eggs. Vagina is also known as the birth canal as it is the canal where the fetuses pass from the uterus to be expulsed from the cat’s body during birthing.

Although extremely rare, cats too can suffer from vaginal tumors. Cats normally do not have periods. Vaginal bleeding must not be ignored as it can be a symptom of a medical concern one of which is vaginal tumor. Vaginal tumors are more common in intact cats and in those that have not given birth. Aside from bleeding and other vaginal discharge a cat with this condition would typically suffer from constipation. Upon physical examination, the cat would be discovered to have a firm mass on the vagina. Other diagnostic tests will be conducted. Aside from the blood chemical profiling, the vet would usually do a vaginoscopy where an instrument with a camera is inserted into the vagina to get a thorough examination and to get a tissue sample for biopsy. Vaginal tumors are commonly benign but the vet may recommend surgical removal of the tumor as the mass can make birthing difficult. For malignant tumors a surgical procedure may not be enough as the cat would still need to have post-operative radiotherapy.

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