Tabby-and-white Hope was originally thought to be a female cat when it was admitted to Cats Protection’s rescue centre in Warrington in the UK, but vets found no external sex organs.

Vets said they have seen hermaphrodite cats – with male and female sex organs – even though they are very rare, but Hope has no sex organs, externally or internally.

Cats Protection’s senior field veterinary officer Fiona Brockbank said it appears to be a case of agenesis – the failure of an organ to develop – which she and her colleagues have never seen before.

Ms. Brockbank said: “We carried out a procedure to look for sex organs but there’s nothing apparent inside or out.

“There’s an outside possibility of some ectopic ovarian tissue hiding away internally but we think this is extremely unlikely.

“This is so rare that there isn’t really a commonly used term for this condition, but it is effectively sexual organ agenesis – where agenesis is the lack or failure of development in relation to body organs.”

Ms. Brockbank said: “This is not something we’ve come across before at Cats Protection.

“While this means we don’t have any previous cases to base our knowledge of how this will affect Hope in the future, we spent time monitoring this cat to ensure they can urinate and defecate appropriately before they were considered ready for rehoming.”