Q: I brought in a stray kitten for neutering that my vet thought was female. She made an abdominal incision before realizing it was male and needed its testicles snipped. She felt terrible and didn’t charge me, but my friends say I should find a new vet. What do you think?
A: I, too, once “spayed” a male cat. It was an older, long-haired, feral tomcat with tiny testicles that looked like a mature female in other respects.
The truth is, I didn’t perform a full physical before anesthetizing, and got all the way into its abdomen, looking for the uterus (that’s how we sterilize females), before realizing my mistake.
The same thing has happened to almost every vet I know. Those of us who do lots of work with feral cats don’t usually get the chance to get a good physical exam in ahead of time. And while it’s hard to confuse male and female dogs, it’s surprisingly easy with kittens.
Don’t get me wrong; we’re not pleased to have put our patients through unnecessary procedures. But making a mistake like this makes us more sensitive to how things can go wrong. In the long run I think it makes us better at what we do.
So ignore your friends. Given her humility, honesty and generosity in this matter, I’d say your vet has proven herself a keeper.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.