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How Do You Determine a Cat’s Sex?

It can be hard to tell who's a boy and who's a girl; here's a guide for kittens as well as adult feral cats who you can't get near.

JaneA Kelley  |  Aug 31st 2016


So, you’re looking down at a litter of sweet, teeny little foster kittens (because fostering is the only way you’d have kittens that young in your home, right?) and you’re thinking you might want to figure out who’s a boy and who’s a girl. After all, how are you going to come up with awesome names for them otherwise?

You pick up one of the kittens and gingerly raise its tail, at which point you see two tiny dots. Then you pick up the next one: two tiny dots. And the next one? Also two tiny dots. Now what are you going to do?

Fear not: We at Catster have got you covered! Here’s a quick tutorial on how to tell baby boy kittens from baby girl kittens.

Males can be difficult to spot because their testicles haven’t descended into the scrotum yet. Thus, the telltale markers of kitty manhood, are missing when they’re that young.

The only real way to tell males and females apart is with a relatively careful examination. To do that, you’ll need to have good light and be willing to hold the kitten with tail up for a few seconds. Here’s a brief visual of what you might see and how to interpret it:

A graphic showing how to determine the sex of kittens.

In females, the two dots are closer together than they are in males, because males need some extra real estate between their anus and their penile opening for that future day when their testicles do descend. Females will have two dots when they’re very young — like, less than a couple of weeks — but as they mature you begin to see the telltale vaginal slit.

600-calico-kitten

If you have a calico or tortie kitten, it’s almost a certainty that she is female. Photo CC-BY-ND stereotyp-0815

If you have a calico or tortie cat, it’s almost certain that they’re female. A solid orange cat, or a solid orange cat with white spots, is almost certainly male. Orange tabbies, however, could be of either sex.

Once you figure out the sexes of your foster kittens, you can go back to petting the cuter end. They’ll certainly appreciate it!

But what if you’re trying to tell the sexes of the local feral colony cats from a distance? Well, that’s a little bit (or a lot) more difficult because you can’t get near them. But maybe you can borrow some binoculars and get a closer look.

The good news? If you see a bunch of cats with ears that look like this …

… then there’s no need to worry about who’s a male and who’s a female, because those cats have been spayed or neutered and returned to the area where they were found. Let’s hear it for those awesome TNR volunteers!

If you don’t see the tip of an ear missing, you might be able to at least figure out who’s a male by studying some of the secondary sex characteristics.

Intact male cats have very big, round faces. The reason for this is that as males become sexually mature, they develop fat pads around their cheeks. This serves to protect them from bites from other males during fights over females in heat.

A black male cat.

Intact male cats, or cats that reached sexual maturity before they were neutered, have large fat pads on the sides of their faces.

Males tend to be larger and more muscular than females as well. They’ll also be a bit more battle-scarred from all the fights they’ve engaged in. Females don’t tend to get in the same kinds of knock-down, drag-out fights that males do, although females certainly can put up a good battle if their kittens are threatened!

Unless the cat in question has long hair, you should be able to see intact male cats’ testicles pretty clearly, too.

Hopefully this brief tutorial will assist you in assessing the sexes of the cats in your care or in your neighborhood.