I HAVE a confession: I own a female cat called Michael. From a distance she looked like she had a pair of testicles, but on closer inspection she had a very fluffy bum. But the name stuck, and it suits her.
Determining the sex of dogs and cats is relatively easy, although it can be tricky in very young kittens and puppies when male and female genitalia can be hard to visually distinguish.
This is why, now and then, an owner brings a “female” cat in to desex and we have to break the news that Dolores or Daphne is actually a bloke.
Young guinea pigs and rabbits can be notoriously challenging to sex.
Sexing reptiles depends on the species: some exhibit sexual dimorphism where males look very different to females.
Cloacal probing (not for the inexperienced) can be used to sex many snakes and lizards, though with some lizards such as blue tongues, X-rays or surgical sexing is required.
Failing to sex your animals can lead to problems, the most obvious of which is unexpected offspring.
An unplanned litter of puppies or kittens sounds sweet but it can be a burden both financially and emotionally.
With dogs and cats on heat, you can find a surprising number of males taking an interest which can become bothersome, especially when this leads to fights or just plain annoyance from unwanted visitors hanging around.
Uterine infections also increase in non-desexed females and the incidence can increase with age. Desexing your female can also reduce the incidence of breast cancer — specially if the desexing happens before puberty — about six months.
Unexpected offspring is more likely with in early breeders, like rabbits, guinea pigs and cats. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian. We won’t judge you!
Dr Anne Fawcett is a lecturer in veterinary science at the University of Sydney and a vet with Sydney Animal Hospitals Inner West. Read her blog smallanimaltalk.com