Gender Bender

By: Helen Ravenel Hammond

It’s a girl. It’s a boy. It’s both?!

That’s what Kelly and Zach Hoelz were told when they adopted “Luna” at Charleston Animal Society in August. Yep, Luna (originally named “Sally”) was a hermaphrodite, meaning he/she had both male and female reproductive organs.

Dr. Lucy Fuller oversees Charleston Animal Society’s Spay-Neuter Clinic that performs 12,000 spay-neuter surgeries each year. But few are like Luna’s.

Dr. Fuller explained that Luna was externally most like a boy, but there were no obvious testicles. And it was only during this cat’s spay-neuter operation that the truth came out—literally.
“Often, there is a small or abnormally shaped penis. Inside, she/he had a small uterus and ovaries or testicles, but it’s hard to say which,” Dr. Fuller noted.

“We didn’t know Luna was a hermaphrodite until we were filling out the paperwork for the adoption,” said Kelly Hoelz But such details didn’t matter. She and Zach were already smitten by the kitten who was sweet, calm and already bonding with her husband.

“We knew she was the one,” Hoelz said, adding that Luna is so petite, they think of her as a girl.

The couple wanted to adopt another adult cat to be a buddy for Salem, the male cat they already had at home. They were looking for a litter-trained and independent feline—and at one-year-old, Luna fit the bill.
When the couple found out that Luna was a hermaphrodite, they were certainly surprised, and Hoelz started her research on what exactly that meant. Luckily, she understands science, working as an organ recovery coordinator. “The human body is fascinating to me,” she said. And so is their new kitten’s.

Dr. Fuller said this is not the first hermaphroditic animal she has seen in her 10 years of dealing with tens of thousands of animals. She has seen three dogs and maybe three or four cats. “It’s fairly rare, but most practitioners will see one or two in their careers,” she said.

These days Luna and Salem spend their time chasing each other around the couple’s home, playing with their four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Luna and Salem are indoor cats who enjoy a screened-in porch to observe their outside surroundings. “She is super sweet, but she has a lot of kitten in her,” Hoelz said

This story about a unique kitty who won the hearts of a family, brings to mind a quote from Shakespeare, “When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.”