Comparative evaluation of seminal, vaginal, and rectal bacterial flora in the cheetah and domestic cat

Jo Gayle Howard, Linda Munson, Denise McAloose, Martin Kriete, Mitchell Bush, David E. Wildt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


To determine the status and potential impact of microorganisms on reproductive health, bacterial cultures were evaluated from cheetah seminal, vaginal, and rectal swabs and the results compared to those from clinically healthy, domestic cats. Aerobic bacteria were isolated in the semen from 26 of the 40 (65.0%) cheetahs and 25 of the 27 (92.6%) domestic cats. Gram‐negative organisms predominated in the electroejaculates of both species, accounting for >70% of the total bacterial isolates. The most common seminal organism in both species was hemolytic Escherichia coli. Bacteria were isolated from vaginal samples obtained from 49 of the 67 (73.1%) cheetahs and 46 of the 49 (93.9%) domestic cats. Gram‐negative organisms dominated, representing >63% of the vaginal bacteria, and again hemolytic E. coli was the most prevalent isolate in both species. None of the cheetah or domestic cat vaginal cultures contained Mycoplasma spp. or Ureaplasma spp. Numerous gram‐negative and gram‐positive bacteria were identified in rectal cultures of 73 cheetahs and 60 domestic cats, but hemolytic E. coli clearly was the most common isolate. Within each species, a comparison between electroejaculates that were positive vs. negative for hemolytic E. coli growth revealed no differences in sperm concentration, sperm motility ratings, or the proportion of structurally abnormal spermatozoa. Neutrophils were not detected in any of the 67 felid ejaculates, and the presence of seminal hemolytic E. coli was unrelated to fertility, on the basis of past ability to sire young or fertilize oocytes in vitro. Vaginal cytologic evaluations in both the cheetah and domestic cat indicated that hemolytic E. coli was not associated with a pathologic inflammatory response. Overall fecundity and proven ability to produce young were similar between females producing positive or negative vaginal cultures for E. coli. These findings indicate that commensal bacteria exist in the reproductive tract of the cheetah and domestic cat, and these organisms constitute normal, apparently innocuous bacterial microflora in the semen and vagina. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-96
Number of pages16
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • ejaculates
  • Escherichia coli
  • felids
  • microflora
  • reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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