Admit it—we’ve all been confused when trying to correctly determine a cat’s gender, especially in a tiny kitten or neutered male. Even veterinary professionals admit to making this mistake. But how can you prevent renaming your Jack to Jill down the road? Simply follow our tips to determine your cat’s gender.
How To Tell Your Cat’s Gender
First we’ll discuss kittens and then we’ll move on to a full adult cat. Here’s a summary of our full post:
- Calm your cat and lift his or her tail
- Look for “punctuation marks”. Girls will have an upside down exclamation mark (¡). Guys will have a colon (:)
- Remember that calico cats are almost always female; orange cats are almost always male
- Look for signs of female cats in heat; they will be crying for attention, have erratic behavior, and will often make more noise than normal
How To Determine A Kitten’s Gender
With a newborn kitten, it’s almost impossible to identify gender differences in such tiny private parts. To prevent future name changes to the opposite gender, wait until your kitten is at least three or four weeks old before peeking under the tail. Six to eight weeks is ideal for gender identification.
Avoid stressing your kitten unnecessarily by acclimatizing him or her to handling from an early age. Holding kittens on their backs and stroking their tails and backs will create a calmer, more comfortable cat when being handled.
Follow These Steps To Determine The Gender Of Your Kitten:
- Begin by stroking along your kitten’s back—the tail should naturally lift, allowing a closer look.
- If your kitten doesn’t raise his or her tail, gently lift the tail close to the base, providing distraction with a treat or petting on the other end.
- Look directly under the tail for two specific “punctuation marks”.
- Female cats display an inverted exclamation mark. Looking closely at a female cat’s genital area, you’ll notice the small hole of the anus directly under the tail, creating the “point” of the upside down exclamation mark (¡). Forming the “line” is the long slit of a female kitten’s genital opening, or vulva. Typically, the distance between the two is about half an inch, but that may be shorter in young kittens.
- Male cats have more of a colon (:) appearance than lines, with the two circles represented by the anus and the genital opening of the penis. The distance between the two is longer than in females—about an inch—which leaves room for the testicles to grow.
Keep in mind that the lack of visible testicles or a penis does not automatically mean your kitten is a female. The testicles of tiny male kittens are almost impossible to feel until about six to eight weeks of age, while the penis is rarely visible.
When in doubt, simply wait until your kitten is a little older and more developed. Or, check out this helpful YouTube video uploaded by the Kitten Lady for a video tutorial:
How To Determine An Adult Cat’s Gender
Adopting an adult cat from a shelter almost guarantees he or she is altered, but you may welcome a stray into your home who is still intact. Use the same sexing strategies to determine your adult cat’s gender as the ones used for kittens, though altered adult cats require more finesse.
- Spayed female cats have the same genital appearance as an intact female cat, so it’s difficult to tell if she had been spayed. A good way to check—even though she may not appreciate it—is to shave a small strip of hair from her belly to check for a spay incision scar. Your veterinarian will be able to do this (both to receive your cat’s wrath and to check the correct location), allowing you to avoid unplanned litters.
- Neutered male cats may be mistaken for females, but the gap between the anus and genital opening will be longer than the gap in female cats and may have a small scrotal remnant.
Feline Gender Differences Based On Behavior And Color
While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you may be able to judge a cat by the color. Behavior and body shape can also help identify your cat’s gender.
- Color — The tricolored calico and the orange and black of a tortoiseshell coat often indicate a female cat is wearing such markings, while orange cats are mostly males.
- Head size — Tomcats develop a blocky head with large jowls to complement their thick, muscular bodies. If neutered young, male cats won’t mature into these large, thick features, rendering their body structure similar to females.
- Behavioral changes — Have you ever met a female cat in heat? Then you know exactly what we’re talking about. The incessant yowling, desperate pleas for attention, and erratic behavior are hallmark signs of a female cat seeking a mate. An intact male will be equally desperate to claim her as his own, fighting any cat in his path and marking his territory with strong-smelling urine.
Follow these guidelines and gender indicators to prevent a naming mishap. But, regardless of your cat’s gender, each feline companion will have a distinct personality and character traits for you to love.