By Dr. Heather Kovac

The Patient:

Sassy, a 5 year old female spayed Ragdoll cat, came to see me for her regular annual check up. Her owner had purchased her from a breeder about 3 months previously. She was doing well in her new home and the owner had no concerns about her health. Sassy had been a breeding cat and had given birth to at least 2 litters of kittens prior to being spayed and sold as a pet.

The Case:

On physical examination, she was in good health overall but a firm mass was palpable (felt) in her abdomen (belly). The mass was about the size of a lime and was not painful when palpated. The mass did not seem to be associated with her liver or stomach but it was unclear where it was coming from. I recommended that we take an x-ray of her abdomen to determine what was going on. The x-ray showed that a fetal kitten with a developed skeleton was present in her abdomen. I further questioned the owner about the timing of the spay and previous pregnancies. She had been told by the breeder from whom she purchased the cat that she had been spayed prior to purchase but she did not have the actual records of the surgery nor did she know that actual date. She knew Sassy had had previous litters but that was all she had been told. Since she had owned Sassy for 3 months, we knew that the kitten could not be alive since cats are only pregnant for 2 months (58-67 days). If she had in fact been spayed, Sassy would no longer have a uterus so how could this kitten still be inside her? I recommended that we take Sassy to surgery to explore her abdomen and remove the non-viable fetus.

side view of patient

The Treatment Plan:

A few days later, Sassy was prepped for surgery and placed under general anesthesia. Her abdomen was opened in a sterile fashion and explored. Sassy did not have a uterus or ovaries (she had been spayed) but I found a mummified fetus floating freely in her abdomen connected to some fatty tissue. The fetus was removed without complication. No other abnormalities were found in Sassy's abdomen.

The Takeaway:

It is still somewhat of a mystery as to how this very rare event occurred.  My best explanation is that she had an ectopic pregnancy which occurs when a fertilized egg escapes from the oviduct and settles loose in the abdomen getting blood supply from surrounding fatty tissues.  Another hypothesis is that she either had a previous C-section where the surgeon had inadvertently lost a fetus into the abdomen when the uterus was open OR her uterus ruptured during labor expelling a kitten into the abdomen where it became mummified. We do know that whoever performed her spay did not discover the fetus at the time of surgery.  In any scenario, Sassy is lucky she did not have complications from the fetus in her abdomen.  Sassy recovered uneventfully from surgery and was discharged later that day.

Annual exams for your pets are crucial to catching potential health issues that may otherwise go unnoticed, especially in catching strange cases such as what occurred with this patient. If you need to schedule your pet’s next exam, contact us here.

The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is an AAHA-accredited animal hospital located in Encinitas, CA. The Drake Center loves being a source of information for all pet owners across the country however if you have any questions regarding pet care and do not live in Encinitas, CA or surrounding cities, we encourage you to contact your local veterinarian.