Is My Cat (or Dog) Spayed?

Jennifer Coates, DVM
By Jennifer Coates, DVM on Dec. 7, 2015

I have a new cat and a dilemma. Minerva had been hanging out around a friend’s house for several weeks and, to make a long story short, it eventually became clear that she needed a family. She’s been with us for a little more than a month now and we are all totally smitten.

Like most strays adopted off of the streets, Minerva came to us with no medical history. To be on the safe side, I have to assume that she’s never had any vaccines. She will be a 100% indoor kitty, so I’ve given her only rabies and the combo shot (FVRCP) that protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis (herpes virus), calicivirus, and panleukopenia. These are the “core” vaccines that virtually every cat should get.

I’ve gone against what I usually recommend to my clients in that I’ve elected not to test her for feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus (FELV/FIV). We have no other cats in the house and she won’t be going outdoors where she could potentially infect other animals. Since a positive test result wouldn’t change the way I take care of her (there’s no treatment until secondary problems arise), I’ve decided I can do without that information.

Now on to my predicament. I have checked a few times and I am happy to report that Minerva is NOT pregnant (much to my daughter’s chagrin). However, I can’t tell whether or not she’s been spayed. I shaved a small spot on her belly and didn’t see a scar in the area where vets usually make the incision, but that certainly isn’t a definitive finding.

Sometimes a scar is not obvious even if a cat has been spayed, particularly if the surgery occurs when the cat is very young. Spays can also be done in several different ways. I’m not willing to shave Minerva’s whole belly looking for unusually placed scars, the presence or absence of which would only provide tentative evidence for or against her being spayed.

So here’s the plan. I am going to take a small blood sample from Minerva and send it to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University for an anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) test. According to their website:

The ovaries are the sole source of AMH, and a negative test indicates that the ovaries have been removed. A positive test indicates that the animal is intact, or possibly that an ovarian remnant remains in an animal that was previously spayed.

The big benefit to the AMH test is that it can be run at any time. Female dogs and cats do not have to be in heat or receive hormone injections for the test to be accurate. I suppose I could simply take Minerva to surgery and see whether or not she still has her ovaries, but I’d feel awfully bad putting her through the associated stress, risk, and pain if it isn’t truly necessary.

Talk to your veterinarian about the AMH test if, like me, you ever adopt a female dog or cat with a questionable spay status.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Jennifer Coates, DVM


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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