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Home > Cats > How to Determine the Gender of a Cat – Vet-Reviewed Guide With Pictures

How to Determine the Gender of a Cat – Vet-Reviewed Guide With Pictures

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Before you adopt or acquire a cat or kitten, do you want to know their gender first and foremost? Some people don’t have a gender preference for their new feline friends, others have their hearts set on tomcats or queens. However, if you have an existing cat, or you’d prefer one over the other, you should know for sure what you have.

The easiest way to determine the gender of a cat is to take a look under the cat’s tail, assessing the distance of the genital opening to the anus and its shape. Female cats have a small opening or vulva very close to their anus, whereas in males, you can sometimes see the tip of the penis and (usually) testicles, depending on their age. Let’s discuss how to know for sure if your fluffy cat is a boy or girl.


Why Is Sexing Your Kitten or Cat Important?

two cats touch each other's noses
Image Credit: Sandeep Gore, Shutterstock

If you don’t care what gender your kitten is, you may find it’s a pretty useful piece of information to have. It doesn’t take a lot of expertise to figure it out either. If you didn’t plan on finding out, here is a list of reasons why it’s a very good thing to know beforehand.

  • Price of Spay or Neuter Surgery – The price of spaying or neutering can be different depending on gender. Because males require less invasive surgery, neutering costs less than spaying. When a female cat is spayed, they have to go inside of the cat’s body to remove the uterus and ovaries. Ultimately, the total cost depends on the vet clinic or facility. Knowing if you have a female or a male also helps to know when is the best time to get them neutered, as female cats may be at risk of unwanted pregnancies from as early as 5 months old, while males may start roaming and looking for females.
  • Hormonal Habits – As your kitten ages, there are certain characteristics and habits that males and females may develop. If you don’t get your cat fixed, males and females are capable of spraying to mark their territory or attract a mate. Also, when a female goes into heat, she can let out extremely loud cries, vocalizations, and be overly affectionate for several days, occurring many times a year.
  • Personality – Personality differences between males and females has been a topic of debate for decades. And the truth is, it very much depends on the individual cat, as both males and females can be quite affectionate and friendly, or sassy and withdrawn. Female cats are believed to be better hunters, but both males and females will hunt when living on their own in the wild, and this just remains an anecdote for now.

Sexing Kittens

person holding black kitten
Image Credit: Piqsels

When the kitten is first born, it is incredibly difficult to sex them unless you’re highly experienced. The sex of newborn kittens is usually not determined until they are a bit more mature, as the genital organs are small and underdeveloped.

So you can usually sex them with more certainty from 8 weeks onward, depending on your level of experience, and it may still be challenging for some, especially if they have long hair that obstructs your view. Get your kitten checked out by the vet during their vaccinations so they can sex your kitten with confidence.

Female kittens have a small opening very close to their anus, whereas males have a lengthier reach. Also, there should be two visible lumps in the male that you can feel or see (which are testicles that descend usually by 2 months of age).

The best way to check is to lift the tail to get a better look. Longer hair can make this a bit challenging, so you might have to feel for testicles manually.

Coat Color

There are certain color varieties in cats (non-breed related) that may determine whether they are most likely to be males or females. Tortoiseshell cats, which usually have orange and black, brown and golden, or gray and cream bi-colored combinations, with very few or no white markings. And calico cats, with the three colors of white, orange, and black, are almost always females. These specific coat patterns require the presence of two X chromosomes, and male calico cats are extremely rare. Also, ginger cats are more likely to be male than female, with only around 20% being female cats

Sexing Adults Cats

Sexing adult cats can be a little bit easier since they are fully developed. That is especially true of intact males, as it’s usually pretty obvious.

Male Cats

Male cats buttanal
Image Credit: Honeybee49, Shutterstock

Deciphering a male cat can be pretty easy, but fur length and neutering can sometimes make it tricky. In any case, male cats will have nearly an inch gap in between the anus and the penis. Females have their genitals less than a fingertip length apart.

  • Tomcats – Unaltered male cats are very easy to tell apart from females. They have a bulbous scrotum that hangs down at the back under the anus. When their tail is erect, you can see it quite obviously if they turn their back to you. Tomcats typically have a broader skull and a slender body.
  • Neutered Cats – Even though a neutered male has an empty scrotum, you should be able to locate this flap of skin where the bulbous testicles would be. Females will not have this feature.
  • Female CatsIf a female cat lifts her tail, you can obviously notice that no testicles are hanging below the bottom. This will be much more visible in short-haired cats. If the female has given birth before, they may have slightly more pronounced nipples from previously nursing her litter, if it was recent.


Why Is It Important to Get Your Cat Fixed?

spaying cat
Image Credit: De Visu, Shutterstock

Getting your cat fixed is of utmost importance when you’re a pet owner. If you already have gotten your cat from the shelter, your cat might have already had this surgery. If not, you will have to make arrangements with your local shelter or veterinarian.

So, what are the perks of spaying or neutering your cat?

  • Prevents roamingCats that are fixed will not be inclined to run away, as they won’t be out seeking a mate. Some cats might still wander off if given the opportunity, but the likelihood of venturing away and getting lost is a lot less.
  • Prevents pregnancy – Once you get your kitty fixed, you don’t have to worry about any unwanted pregnancies. Finding suitable homes for an entire litter of kittens can be quite challenging. Many cats wind up in shelters or on the street due to a lack of care. You wouldn’t want that happening to a litter of your precious kittens. The best preventative is to avoid pregnancy entirely.
  • Prevents spraying and marking – When cats reach sexual maturity, both genders can spray to mark their territory and attract mates. Cat urine can be tough to get out of fabrics and other surfaces. It’s best to avoid the behavior entirely. Spaying and neutering isn’t always a solution to spraying behavior. It’s best to always get your cat fixed when they reach 5 to 6 months of age. Because once they start, it can be extremely challenging to get them to quit, if they quit at all. Not to mention the risk of pregnancy and disease transmission from fighting.
  • Reduces fighting and disease transmission Sometimes when cats reach sexual maturity, they get moody or aggressive toward other cats in their territory and will often get into fights over mating disputes. With sexual maturity comes lots of hormonal changes in their bodies. Spaying or neutering will remove these hormones, making your cat less likely to fight with other cats, roam, and attempt to find a mate, reducing their contact with the neighborhood cats. This helps to protect them against some serious infectious feline diseases, alongside regular vaccination, of course.


Final Thoughts

If for any reason you’re still unsure about the gender, you should always check with a professional. Shelter workers, breeders, and veterinarians should be able to sex your cat successfully. Although mistakes can be made, it’s not typical.

Once you get the hang of it, gendering cats will be a breeze for you. Regardless of gender, it’s best to spay or neuter your cat before the age of sexual maturity to avoid marking and unwanted pregnancy.

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Featured Image Credit: Sergey Neanderthalec, Shutterstock

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