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Feline Fertility: Understanding Spermatozoal Abnormalities in Cats

Spermatozoal Abnormalities in Cats

Cats are wonderful animals that provide companionship and joy to their owners. However, like any other living creature, cats can suffer from several health issues that compromise their wellness.

One of these problems is spermatozoal abnormalities, which can affect a cat’s fertility and cause other reproductive issues. In this article, we will discuss the different types of spermatozoal abnormalities in cats, their causes, and available treatments.

Definition and Diagnosis

To start our discussion, let us first define what spermatozoal abnormalities are. Spermatozoal abnormalities refer to various defects in the structure and form of sperm cells.

The abnormalities can affect the cat’s ability to fertilize the female’s egg, thus leading to male infertility. Spermatozoal abnormalities can present themselves in different ways, including the size and shape of the sperm cells, the motility, and the concentration of the sperm cells.

It is impossible to determine spermatozoal abnormalities visually without a trained eye. A veterinarian can examine a cat’s sperm cells under a microscope to check for abnormalities.

Diagnosing the problem involves collecting a sample of the ejaculate. The cat should be prevented from mating or masturbating for at least seven days to obtain a good sample.

Ejaculate collection can be tricky and requires a skilled practitioner.


Several factors can cause spermatozoal abnormalities in cats. Let us explore these factors.

Ciliary Dyskinesia

Ciliary dyskinesia, also known as Kartagener syndrome, is a genetic disorder that affects both humans and cats. The disorder affects the cilia, which are small hair-like structures that line the respiratory tract.

In cats, ciliary dyskinesia can reduce sperm cell mobility, hindering their ability to fertilize the female’s egg.


Inbreeding refers to the mating of closely related cats. Cats that are inbred exhibit more severe symptoms and disorders, including spermatozoal abnormalities, because of their limited genetic diversity.


Infections, such as feline infectious peritonitis virus, can harm sperm cells and lead to abnormal sperm. Other infections include cryptosporidiosis, chlamydiosis, and Toxoplasma gondii.


Certain drugs can cause spermatozoal abnormalities in cats. For instance, chemotherapy drugs can affect the production of sperm cells, leading to defects in sperm production.


Cats with testicular tumors commonly present spermatozoal abnormalities. The tumor’s presence in the testes hinders the production of healthy sperm cells.

Treatment and Prevention

There are different methods of treating and preventing spermatozoal abnormalities in cats:


Antibiotics can treat infections that affect sperm production.


Surgery can remove testicular tumors that affect sperm cell production.

Climate Control

A temperature-controlled environment can help reduce the production of abnormal sperm cells. An increase in body temperature, caused by environmental factors such as stress, can affect sperm cells’ quality.


Adequate exercise can improve a cat’s health and reduce stress levels, which are known to affect sperm quality.

Effects of Spermatozoal Abnormalities on Fertility

Cats with spermatozoal abnormalities will have a hard time reproducing. The optimal sperm morphology for fertility is morphologically normal spermatozoa that can swim and fertilize the female’s egg.

When the sperm cells have structural defects or low motility, fertilization is difficult to achieve. It requires a higher number of sperm cells to achieve the desired fertilization rates, which means that the cat must ejaculate more often to achieve the desired result.

The effects of specific abnormalities on fertility are unknown. Therefore, a veterinarian must examine the semen sample and determine its quality to know the severity of the problem.


In conclusion, spermatozoal abnormalities are common in cats and can affect their fertility and general health. Ciliary dyskinesia, infections, drugs, cancer, and inbreeding are some of the factors that can cause these abnormalities.

However, there are several ways to treat and prevent these abnormalities, including antibiotics, surgery, and exercise. As a cat owner, it is vital to keep your cat in good health by seeking veterinary attention whenever necessary.

Spermatozoal abnormalities are defects that can arise during the development or transport of sperm cells. These abnormalities affect the structure and behavior of the sperm cells, making it challenging for them to fertilize the female’s egg.

In this article, we will explore the different types of spermatozoal abnormalities in cats. We will discuss primary and secondary defects, their physical symptoms, and their causes.

Types of Spermatozoal Abnormalities

Spermatozoal abnormalities can be classified into primary and secondary defects.

Primary Defects

Primary defects occur during spermatogenesis, the process of sperm cell production. This process has three steps- the spermatocytogenesis, meiosis, and spermiogenesis phases.

Any malfunction during these stages can result in primary spermatozoal abnormalities. Primary defects are present in the ejaculate and often account for lower fertilization rates.

Primary defects include abnormal sperm morphologies, complete absence of sperm, or too few numbers to achieve fertilization. Spermatozoa with abnormal morphology feature defects to the tail, head, or mid-piece of the cell.

Abnormal tails result in less motility, while defects in the head lead to less efficient binding to the female gamete. Mid-piece defects interfere with the passage of nutrients through the cell.

Complete absence of sperm in ejaculate is called Azoospermia. Azoospermia happens when the sperm cells do not complete their progression through the transport system.

On the other hand, Oligozoospermia is the existence of fewer sperm cells than usual in an ejaculate. In cats, oligozoospermia is diagnosed when there is a reduced number of sperm cells (<10 million/ml).

Although oligozoospermia does not prevent pregnancy, higher numbers of sperm cells will improve the chance of successful fertilization.

Secondary Defects

Secondary defects occur after sperm cell production and develop during the transport and storage of the cell in the epididymis. They are usually present in the ejaculate and often account for reduced sperm motility, making them less effective at fertilizing the egg.

Secondary defects include Reduced sperm motility and low sperm cell counts.

Outward Symptoms of the Disorder

There may be no symptoms present with the disease, and the only noticeable issue is failure to impregnate their mates. Cats with sperm defects may also have a weak desire to mate, low sperm count and quality, and poor sperm motility.

Causes of Spermatozoal Abnormalities

Spermatozoal abnormalities are caused by genetic or environmental factors. In cats, understanding the cause of the problem helps to diagnose the issue and address it.



Poor Sperm Morphology

Poor sperm morphology is a congenital problem that results from defective sperm development in the testes. Testicular abnormalities may decrease the number and quality of viable sperm cells, reducing fertility.

Testicular Underdevelopment

Testicular underdevelopment is another congenital defect that may lead to smaller testicles. Smaller testicles affect sperm cell production, leading to reduced fertility in cats.


Inbreeding is mating between closely related cats, leading to reduced gene diversity. This decrease in genetic diversity increases the chances of inheriting deleterious genes.

The genetic defects passed on to the offspring may lead to spermatozoal abnormalities. For instance, hereditary disorders like polycystic kidney disease and spinal bifida can affect sperm production.



Testicular Trauma

Testicular trauma refers to physical or chemical injury to the testes. Trauma to the testicles can damage the cells responsible for sperm production, leading to spermatozoal abnormalities.


Infections affect the proper functioning of the testes and epididymis, leading to abnormal sperm production. For instance, feline panleukopenia virus can cause severe damage to the sperm cells, leading to low sperm count and motility.


Chemotherapy drugs and other medications can affect sperm cells’ production and cause spermatozoal abnormalities. Chemotherapy drugs can reduce the number of sperm cells produced or cause mutations in the developing sperm cells.


Cancer is another factor that can lead to spermatozoal abnormalities. Testicular cancers or tumors in the reproductive system can result in a decline in sperm count and motility.

Treatment of cancer can also lead to permanent sperm defects.


Spermatozoal abnormalities in cats can result from various genetic or environmental conditions. The primary and secondary defects can affect the quantity and quality of sperm cells produced, leading to reduced fertilization rates.

The outward symptoms of the disorder may not be visible, but failure to impregnate their mates is a sign of a potential problem. Veterinarians can diagnose spermatozoal abnormalities and recommend proper treatments.

As a cat owner, ensuring proper nutrition and environmental conditions and choosing breeding partners wisely can reduce the chances of genetic problems in offspring.

Diagnosis of Spermatozoal Abnormalities

Spermatozoal abnormalities can occur due to various factors that affect sperm production, maturation, or transport. When these abnormalities happen, it becomes difficult or impossible for male cats to fertilize the female’s eggs.

In this article, we will explore the different methods veterinarians can use to diagnose spermatozoal abnormalities in cats.

Medical History and Symptoms

The first step in diagnosing spermatozoal abnormalities is taking the cat’s medical history. This process aims to identify any clinical symptoms that may indicate underlying abnormalities.

Infertility and breeding failure are common symptoms of spermatozoal abnormalities in cats. A veterinarian may ask questions about the cat’s mating history, previous litters, and breeding attempts, checking that there have been no significant changes in the cat’s health or reproductive system.

Physical Examination and Hormonal Profile

A physical exam can provide vital clues to the overall wellness of the cat and its reproductive system. Changes in the size, shape or consistency of the testis may point to underlying medical disorders like tumors, cysts, or injury.

Veterinary specialists may examine the penis, glands, and prepuce areas and evaluate the cat for signs of disease or injury. Hormonal profile testing is another diagnostic tool used to identify hormone-related deficiencies that may affect sperm production.

Lack of testosterone synthesis or secretion may lead to inadequate sperm production in the testes.

Ejaculate Analysis

Following a physical examination, veterinarians will collect semen samples for examination. The samples taken will undergo contaminant identification through bacterial counting in a laboratory setting.

Bacteria from infections like Chlamydia, Streptococcus, and Mycoplasma can cause significant damage to sperm cells.

Visual Tools and Ultrasound

Microscopic observations are essential tools for evaluation of the morphology and motility of sperm. Using these tools, specialists can identify the count and percentages of normal and abnormal sperm cells.

Ultrasonography is also a valuable tool for detecting any abnormalities in the genital area, providing information about the testis size, texture, and any structural changes. Testing for Underlying


Spermatozoal abnormalities can also result from underlying medical or environmental causes unrelated to the reproductive system.

Infections, trauma, or tumors can negatively impact testosterone secretion or sperm production and affect the cat’s fertility. Resolving these issues may entail treating the underlying problem then re-examining the cat’s fertility.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of Underlying


Treatment of underlying medical causes often requires a combination of therapies, including antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents. In cases where tumors or cysts are identified, surgeons may remove one testis- unilateral or the suspicious cysts.

Neutering one testis may still allow the cat to procreate while reducing the influence of spermatozoal abnormalities. Hormonal replacement therapy may also improve the cat’s ability to produce healthy sperm.

Sexual Rest and Semen Collection

Veterinarians may advise cat owners on resting periods for the cat, limiting exposure to heat, and providing a balanced diet to enhance their general reproductive health. Under healthy conditions, semen can be collected from a cat manually or via an electroejaculator.

Experts can then analyze the samples for microscopic abnormalities and evaluate sperm count and motility. The evaluators may suggest breeding with the cat, artificial insemination, or storage.

Prevention of Spermatozoal Abnormalities

Preventing spermatozoal abnormalities in cats often involves removing or reducing environmental factors that negatively impact sperm quality. Temperature control is crucial in ensuring that a cat’s body temperature remains within the standard range.

Exposure to excessive heat or prolonged exercise can reduce sperm quality. Veterinarians may recommend climate control and reduction of exercise to prevent sperm abnormalities.

Underlying health conditions can also affect sperm quality. For instance, vaccinations and antibiotic administration can prevent infections that may negatively affect future reproductive process.

Cats that are malnourished or have nutrient deficiencies can also experience a reduction in sperm quality.


Diagnosing spermatozoal abnormalities in cats involves a thorough physical examination, sample collection, and microscopic observation. Preventing spermatozoal abnormalities in cats requires taking a holistic health approach, including environmental and nutritional management and disease prevention.

A proactive approach towards environmental conditioning and sexual activity management may enhance the quality and quantity of sperm and improve the chances of successful fertilization. Spermatozoal abnormalities can occur due to various genetic or environmental factors that affect sperm production, maturation, or transport.

These abnormalities can lead to infertility and breeding failure, making it challenging or impossible for male cats to fertilize the female’s egg. Diagnosis of spermatozoal abnormalities involves a thorough medical history, physical examination, and sample collection.

Treating underlying medical causes of the abnormalities requires antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, or surgery. Prevention entails taking a holistic health approach, including environmental and nutritional management and disease prevention.

Cat owners may ensure cats receive a balanced diet, limit exposure to heat, and seek veterinary attention promptly to prevent or manage spermatozoal abnormalities.

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