While it’s exciting to meet a litter of newborn kittens, it can be tricky to tell which of your fluffy new friends are male or female. Even experts can have trouble distinguishing the gender of a kitten. There are a few tell-tale signs to look for, though, and once you know the difference between the genitals of male and female kittens, it’s much easier to work out which they are.
Leave the Kittens Alone for the First Few Weeks
When kittens are under a month old, it’s best to leave them with their mother. Taking a kitten away for too long can be distressing for the kitten and their mother cat. Some mother cats may abandon their kittens if they’re handled too often.
As kittens get used to your presence, you may be able to start handling them at 2 weeks old, but it’s safer to wait until they’re 4 weeks old, if possible. It’s also extremely difficult to tell the sex of a kitten under 4 weeks old, so you may be putting both the mother cat and the kittens under unnecessary distress.
How to Tell If a Kitten Is a Boy or Girl: Coat Color
While you’re waiting to examine each kitten individually, one clue as to what their sex may be is their coat color. Certain colors are far more common in certain sexes. Almost 90% of calico or tricolor cats (with orange, black, and white coats) are female. So, if your kitten has this color coat, it’s likely that they’re female.
Ginger or orange cats, however, are often male. In fact, three-quarters of ginger cats are male, so while the percentages aren’t as high as for calico cats, there’s still a high chance that your ginger kitten will be male.
With any color, it’s worth confirming with a check of each kitten’s genitals when you can handle them safely.
How to Tell the Sex of a Kitten: Examining the Genitals
Many breeders describe the appearance of male and female kitten’s genitals as punctuation marks. We know this sounds a bit odd, but bear with us!
A male kitten’s genitals look a little like a colon. The round anus sits at the top, with a gap between the anus and another rounded opening for the penis. Between the two sits the scrotal sac. This will be very small in young kittens, but it’s still possible to feel the testicles if you palpate this area gently. You should feel two small oval-shaped testes underneath the skin. As a male kitten develops, it becomes easier to see and feel the testes as they grow in size.
A female kitten’s genitals look more like an upside-down exclamation mark. The round anus sits at the top and is closely followed by the vaginal slit. The gap between the genital opening and the anus is more pronounced in male kittens than females. You may find that as you examine different kittens, it becomes easier to tell the difference between males and females.
Handling Kittens Safely
Kittens are delicate, so make sure you handle them carefully when trying to determine their gender. Place a clean towel near the mother’s nest, and rest each kitten on this as you examine them. If you tickle the kitten at the base of their tail, they’ll often lift their tail, and you can get a good look at their genitals. You can also gently lift their tails for a better look.
Make sure the area that you’re examining the kittens in is warm enough. Young kittens can’t regulate their own temperature, so they may become too cold if they’re away from the warmth of their mother for too long.
If the mother cat or kitten becomes distressed, put the kitten back with their mother immediately. You may decide to try and take a quick photo of each kitten’s bottom, which you can look at in more detail once the kitten is back with their mother.
Ask Your Vet for Advice
If you’ve attempted to determine the sex of your kittens but aren’t 100% sure that you’ve got it right, it’s always a good idea to ask your vet for advice. If you’re rehoming kittens, some families will want a particular gender, so it’s important to know for sure!
Your kittens will need vaccinations when they’re around 8 weeks old, so this is the perfect opportunity to ask your vet to help determine the sex of each kitten. You may also want to speak to your vet about when is a good time to get your kittens spayed or neutered.
It can certainly be difficult to tell the sex of a kitten, especially if you don’t have any previous experience. Hopefully, our article has given you helpful pointers to assist you in determining the gender of your new fluffy friend!
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Featured Image Credit: Tom Pingel, Shutterstock