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Your Cat Has a Clitoris, and 5 Other Things You Didn’t Know About Feline Genitalia

Cats are mammals, so their plumbing is pretty similar to ours -- aside from the barbs, that is.

 |  Apr 30th 2013  |   17 Contributions

One day I was thinking about the marvel that is the reproductive system and how ours differ from that of others, and the thought occurred to me, “Hmm, I wonder, do cats have a clitoris?” Since I’m a total science nerd, I had to research the answer to this question.

Thomas, a neutered male, shows off what's left of his external genitalia.

Before long, I found myself down a marvelous rabbit hole of strange and awesome facts about feline genitalia -- and because I’m such a nerd, I just had to share this all with you! So here are some of the things I learned.

1. A male cat has barbs on his penis

Intact male cats have rows of tiny, backward-pointing barbs on the head of the penis. When a male cat is neutered, the barbs disappear.

Penis of a domestic cat, glans protuded, (CC-BY-SA) by Uwe Gille via Wikimedia Commons.

2. Yes, cats do have a clitoris

Like most mammals, a female cat’s clitoris is located on the inside. It’s very close to the opening of the vagina, but it’s not quite as exposed as the human clitoris. However, knowing the location of the clitoris, I can’t help but imagine that those penile barbs cause a pain unlike anything I'd ever want to experience.

3. Female cats have a Y-shaped uterus

A cat’s uterus has two “horns” coming off the main body of the organ. The kittens grow inside these uterine horns, and each developing kitten and its placenta is held in its place as it grows by a special sac called the allantois-chorion.

Graphic of female cat reproductive system from a presentation given to a University of Florida animal sciences class.

4. Male cats have a penis bone

Actually, most placental mammals have a penis bone. Known as the baculum (Latin for “stick” or “staff”), this bone helps to keep the penis rigid and inside the female for as long as possible.

5. Cats don’t ovulate until they mate

Although a female cat in heat is ready to mate, she doesn’t actually release eggs from her ovaries until after mating. It’s currently thought that the pain caused by the barbs on the tomcat’s penis when he pulls out causes ovulation.

6. Cats’ penises face backwards

In its regular state, the cat’s penis faces backwards, toward the end of the tail. Even when erect, the penis doesn’t come much farther forward. This, and the fact that a tomcat’s fully erect penis is only about two inches long, is probably why the female cat adopts a sway-backed position during mating: She’s doing the best she can to make it easy for the male cat’s penis to reach her vagina.

Oh, and here's one more odd thing: One litter of kittens can have multiple fathers. If you've ever seen a litter with one or two that don't look like the rest, that's probably why. Cat nursing her kittens by Shutterstock

Do you know any other odd facts about the feline reproductive system? Are you as geekishly fascinated by this subject as I am, or are you just wishing you could unsee what you just read? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing the cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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