Objective—To characterize the bacteria of the genital
tract in adult cats; assess the effect of estrus, mating,
and administration of progestins on those microorganisms
in females; and evaluate whether results of
bacteriologic culture of vaginal swabs are affected by
cleansing of the vulva prior to sampling or by repeated
Animals—66 female and 29 male cats undergoing
routine ovariohysterectomy or castration.
Procedure—Specimens were obtained from vaginal
and uterine or preputial mucosae with swabs moistened
with sterile saline (0.9% NaCl) solution. In 9 cats, vaginal
specimens were obtained before and after cleansing of
the vulva with ethanol; in 7 female cats, 2 vaginal specimens
were obtained in immediate succession.
Results—Aerobic bacteria were most commonly isolated
from cats' vaginas and prepuces; anaerobic bacteria
were isolated frequently from males (41%) but
rarely from females (5%). Generally, culture results
were not affected by cleansing of the vulva or repeated
vaginal sampling. The bacterial population of the
vaginas of cats was influenced by stage of the
estrous cycle but not by mating or administration of
progestins. Bacteria were not isolated from the
uterus of any cat.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In cats, bacteria
of the genital tract in females are predominantly
aerobic; in males, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria are
found. The bacterial population of the vagina is affected
by stage of the estrous cycle. Pure growth of bacteria
in culture of genital tract specimens is a normal
finding; antimicrobials should only be administered if
clinical signs of genital infection are present.
(Am J Vet Res 2003;64:963–968)