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Home > Cats > Why Are Male Cats Called Toms? Facts & FAQs

Why Are Male Cats Called Toms? Facts & FAQs

Tuxedo cat purring on the ground

The terms “tom” has become synonymous with a male feline. Stray male cats are also commonly referred to as “tomcats.” But why is the male cat called a “tom” or “tomcat”? The short answer is that a book published in 1760 made the term popular, and the nickname has stuck ever since! Here is what to know about the book, the characteristics of a “tomcat,” and more.


The Book That Started It All

A book called “The Life and Adventures of a Cat” was published in 1760 and featured a cat named Tom that was promiscuous with the female felines in his world. He liked the challenge of “wooing” his female counterparts, the act of which was referred to as “tomcatting” in the book. The nickname “tom” may have been used by people before this book was released, but the book is attributed to making the nickname popular with the general public.

Characters Tom and Jerry in the eponymous cartoons came on the scene in 1940, further cementing the popularity of “tom” as a nickname for male cats. While some people refer to all male cats as “toms,” many people reserve the nickname for male felines that are fully mature and still intact, meaning they haven’t been neutered.

male lilac british shorthair cat outdoor
Image Credit: outdoor_Rutina, Shutterstock

The Characteristics of the “Tomcat”

“Tomcats” are thought of as fully mature males that are still able to reproduce with their female counterparts. Some people can tell that they are looking at a “tom” due to the cat’s full, round cheeks, a feature attributed to the sexual maturity of male felines. Those large cheeks help protect a cat when in a fight with another cat (probably over a female!). Once developed, these large cheeks tend to stay intact for the rest of the cat’s life, even if they are neutered afterward.

“Toms” are known to spend most of their time trying to find a female companion due to their natural instincts. They are also more likely to spray inside the home than female cats in an attempt to mark their territory. A neutered cat doesn’t usually display these issues, which is why many people only refer to unneutered males as “toms” or “tomcats.”

Are “Toms” Good Pets?

A big norwegian forest cat male marking its territory
Image By: Elisa Putti, Shutterstock

“Toms” can make good pets, but their intact status as adults can make it challenging to be a good pet parent. “Tomcats” tend to try to get outside at every opportunity so they can find a female companion. They can also be troublesome sprayers inside the house, which is especially frustrating if you tend to frequently have company. Neutering your “tom” will help curb the troublesome behavior and make for a better pet overall.



Now that you know why male cats are called toms, you can better identify them when you see them on the street or in a friend’s house. You may be able to find a copy of the original book that takes credit for making the nicknames “tom” and “tomcat” popular if you’re interested in learning about the origin of the “tomcat” that we all know and love today.

Featured Image Credit: Rosy_Photo, Pixabay

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