Meet Marbles the hermaphrodite cat who is both male AND female

UK: Meet Marbles the cat, who has both male and female genitalia.

Owners Tom Minns and Claire Gidley were shocked to discover Marbles is a rare hermaphrodite.

Now genetic tests are needed to decide if the kitty is mainly he or she.

Then – because staying as it is can lead to health risks – it will have an operation to become a boy or girl.

Tom, 25, said: “The one good thing is we called it Marbles. At least we won’t need to change the name.”

He and Claire, 46, got Marbles as a kitten two years ago, having been told it was a girl.

They discovered the secret only a year later when they welcomed a white female called Bella to keep their first cat company – and Marbles suddenly became very amorous.

Tom told the Sunday People: “Bella was getting a lot of romantic attention from Marbles.

“We took them to the vet to get both cats spayed and were stunned to be told the reason Marbles was so frisky was that SHE was half-male.

“The vet who examined Marbles said she had both male and female genitalia, which explained why she – or he – was so attracted to Bella.”

Because of her condition, Marbles, who is otherwise healthy, is sterile so cannot father kittens.

Tom, a cleaning supervisor, said: “The vet explained there are certain health risks leaving Marbles as she is.

“Compared with Bella, Marbles is definitely mostly male. She is much more of a tom cat so I would like her to keep her male parts.

"However, the vet has explained that it might be that tests show Marbles is mostly female, in which case she will continue to be brought up as a she.”

Vet Steve O’Shea, of The Veterinary Hospital near Tom and Claire’s home in Plymouth, said: “A hermaphrodite cat is seen only a handful of times, if that, within the average vet’s working life.”

All embryos develop with gonads that become ovaries or testes.

Hermaphrodites occur when there is a chromosomal abnormality and testes and ovaries do not form as they should.

However, the animal usually remains healthy and loving and its day-to-day life is not affected.

Tom said: “Whatever happens, we’ll always love Marbles. He or a she – it doesn’t matter to us. Marbles is a lovely cat with a loving personality.”