Penile spines of the domestic cat: Their endocrine-behavior relations


  • Supported in part by grants from the Committee for Research in Problems of Sex, National Research Council, and grant HD-00348, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Students of the Undergraduate Research Participation Program, supported in part by the National Science Foundation, current grant GY-350, assisted in the research. The histological preparations were made by Mrs. A. Marie Tucker. We wish to thank Dr. Ethel Tobach for reading the manuscript and for helpful suggestions.


The post-natal development of penile spines, their appearance in adult males, and the changes that occur in them after castration, after treatment of castrated males with testosterone propionate, and after cessation of hormone treatment were studied using both pre and postpuberal castrates. Most of the observations were made on live animals and the conditions of the spines were correlated with levels of sexual activity using data from mating tests with estrous females. In all the conditions of testing, the spines increased in size as the androgen level increased, and decreased in size as the androgen level fell. These changes correlated positively with the rise and depression of mating activity as the androgen levels increased or decreased. The relationship, however, was not always consistent in that sexual behavior declined rapidly in some castrated males before the spines started to decrease in size, and in other castrated males, sexual behavior persisted long after the spines had disappeared. While our data are not inconsistent with the hypothesis that loss of spines leads to reduced stimulation of the penis during intromission and hence to a decline in sexual arousal, it emphasizes that the great variability in sexual behavior after castration must be due to other causes.