The analysis of semen is a laboratory test performed on a semen sample to evaluate a breeding cat’s fertility potential. It is not as easy to collect semen from cats as it is in other species, therefore it is generally not part of a routine examination of a stud cat. It is usually reserved for cases where fertility problems are suspected. You will learn more about spermogram and electroejaculation in this article.
Semen Collection and Analysis in Cats
The analysis of semen is a laboratory test performed on a semen sample to evaluate a breeding cat’s fertility potential. It is not as easy to collect semen from cats as it is in other species, therefore it is generally not part of a routine examination of a stud cat. It is usually reserved for cases where fertility problems are suspected.
The two main methods of semen collection in cats are by electroejaculation, or by the use of an artificial vagina.
This is usually performed by a veterinarian with the cat under general anaesthesia to prevent discomfort. A rectal probe with an electric stimulator is used and by way of low intensity electrical impulses, the ejaculation nervous pathway is stimulated. This causes the cat to ejaculate and a semen sample is collected. This technique usually takes no more than fifteen minutes to perform. Although not technically difficult, an electroejaculator device is a piece of equipment not commonly found in veterinary hospitals.
An artificial vagina is made from a rubber bulb and a small test tube. The male cat is allowed to mount a queen in heat (also known as a ‘teaser’), and the artificial vagina is held in place to facilitate intromission by the tom cat. The semen sample is collected directly into the artificial vagina. This technique requires the male cat to become accustomed to the procedure and a 2-3 week training period is usually required.
Evaluation of the Semen
Once the sample is collected, it is evaluated in the laboratory. The criteria assessed include:
- Colour - normal semen should be white
- Volume - average volumes in cats are 0.01-0.7ml, where larger volumes are expected with electroejaculation
- Motility of the sperm - sperm movement is rated on a scale of zero to five, where five relates to sperm with rapid, forward progression
- Sperm appearance - evaluation of the sperm heads and tails
- Sperm concentration - the proportion of sperm in the ejaculate
- Evaluation of other cells in the ejaculate.
The relationship between semen quality and its impact on fertility has not been established in cats, but analysis of the semen would be a good initial diagnostic step when evaluating infertility in male cats.