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Home > Cats > What Is a Female Cat Called? Vet-Reviewed Terminology & Facts

What Is a Female Cat Called? Vet-Reviewed Terminology & Facts

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

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Most animals have different names for males and females of their species. A female deer is a doe, a female chicken is a hen, and a female horse is a mare. Most people know that an unneutered male cat is a tom, but what about the females? A female cat can be referred to as a molly, queen, or dam. Each of these terms means something different, so let’s look at when each one is used.


Terms for Female Cats

The official terms for female cats are mollies, queens, or dams.


“Molly” is a term that’s appropriate for any female cat of any age. This term can be used from kittenhood to the end of a cat’s lifespan. However, in adulthood, molly only refers to female cats that have been spayed and are unable to give birth.

It’s unclear where the term comes from, but it may be derived from the Latin word, “mollita,” meaning softness or gentleness.

a calico cat with a pet id tag lying on a table
Image By: Andy Gin, Shutterstock


Female cats that are not spayed can be referred to as queens once they have reached sexual maturity. They are also queens during pregnancy and the nursing period.

The term queen actually comes from the word, “queening,” a term that defines a female cat giving birth. Given that many domestic cats form a loose hierarchical structure dominated by a female cat, the term seems appropriate.


Dam isn’t a commonly used term, as it’s a technical one. Purebred cats used for breeding purposes are called dams. Typically, this term is only important with regard to a cat’s registration paperwork, but it is sometimes used by cat breeders. It refers to the parentage of a kitten.  The registered dam is the mother and the sire is the father.

The term is thought to originate from the word, “dame,” which refers to an older woman or a woman of high class.


Male Cat Names vs. Female Cat Names

Male cats are known as toms, tomcats, or neutered males are gibs.

The names for female cats primarily center around their ability to reproduce. If a female can’t give birth, they are a molly. This applied to female kittens up to the age of sexual maturity and spayed females thereafter. If they can give birth, they are a queen, and if they are a purebred female that has birthed kittens, they are both a queen and adam.

Male cats, on the other hand, can either reproduce or not, but a gib cannot. The term tom has been applied since the 1700s. Prior to that time, males were called “boars” or “rams.”



The term used to refer to a female cat depends on its age and reproductive status. Molly can describe any female, whereas dam and queen only refer to females that can give birth. The term dam is usually reserved for breeding records only to denote a female parent. Male cats only have two names. However, they are only considered toms if they are unneutered.

Featured Image Credit: Carolyn R, Shutterstock

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