How to Tell if a Cat is Male or Female
Telling Cat Gender by Observing their Reproductive Organs
Genitalia is the biggest difference between male and female cats. The problem is that testicles don't show up on male kittens until they reach 6 to 10 weeks of age.
The good news is that you don't need to wait 6 or 10 weeks to know if a kitten is a male or a female cat. In male cats, it can be observed excess fur and tissue between the anus and the penis where the testes will form.
There are mainly two ways to identify kittens' gender:
- Observation: At two weeks of age, genitalia starts being visible. By observation, the appearance of the genitalia can be compared to punctuation marks. A female kitten's genitals will resemble an upside-down exclamation point (!) the dot being the anus and the vertical bar being the vagina, sitting just below the anus, while a male kitten's organ looks more like a colon (;), with the penis residing slightly further from the anus giving space to accommodate the testicles.
- Touch: An easier way to tell if a kitten is male or female is by palpating between the anus and the genitalia. Try to identify two hard and very small, oval-shaped objects underneath the skin. Those are the testicles and if present they are indications that the kitten is male.
Telling Cat Gender by Coat Colors and Patterns
There is a simple (not super reliable) way to identify a cat's gender. Some coats are unique or almost unique to males or females.
The colors that are mostly exclusive to a certain gender are:
- Tortoiseshell, Calicos, or tri-colored cats are almost always female. To have this coloration, you need X and Y chromosomes, which are characteristic of Female cats. Male cats are generally XX and don't have a Y chromosome. However, there are some rare cases of male cats displaying XXY chromosomes, usually, these cats have genetic difficulties.
- Orange or ginger-colored cats, on the other hand, are mostly male cats. This trait is not as reliable as the tri-colored trait, but it can give you a good approximation as three-quarters of ginger-colored cats are male.
Physical Differences of Male vs. Female Cats
While female cats have vaginas, male cats have testicles and a penis.
The main difference besides the genitalia itself is the distance between the genitalia and the anus: There's a short distance between the anus and the reproductive organs of the female cats, their vulva (which appears as a slit). In the case of male cats, the distance between the anus and their reproductive organs, the penis, is longer, with the testicles between them
Distinguishing males from females as kittens is difficult and the distance between the anus and genitals is the easiest way to distinguish their gender when testicles have not developed yet.
The growth curves of male and female cats are very different. A recent study found that male cats have higher energy requirements for growth than females and they also get bigger.
Because male cats are generally bigger than female cats, they will likely get heavier. There are other important factors affecting the weight of a cat:
- Do they live outdoors or indoors?
- Are they spayed or not?
- Do they receive enough playtime?
- Do they eat kibble, wet or dry food?
- Do they have kibble always available (Freefeeding)?
If you want to keep a cat's weight under control, take a look at this article about keeping your cat healthy and at its ideal weight.
Said this, some averages stay fairly consistent in healthy cats:
- Female Cats typically weigh 8 to 12 pounds (3.5 to 5.5Kg)
- Male Cats can weigh a little more, between 11 to 15 pounds (5 to 7Kg)
Tomcats have large cheeks due to testosterone. It is a sign of a strong cat adversary and they come in very handy when fighting other cats as it protects the face and upper neck.
These swollen cheeks receive the name "Tomcat Cheeks".
Testosterone is the main cause of chubby cheeks in Tom cats, that's why it's most common to find in unneutered cats, while not all unneutered cats display them. The chubby part of the cheeks it's not fat, it's mostly thickened skin as a result of high testosterone. Indoor Tom cats won't have these swollen cheeks. Higher testosterone will make outdoor Tom cats fight more often and the swollen cheeks are the result of scar tissue forming around the face and neck from fights with other cats. Think of them like "Alfa cat calluses".
While most of the difference comes from the cheeks, in general, male cats will end up having larger heads than female cats.
Do Male or Female Cats Produce More Allergies?
Cat allergies are mostly produced by the allergen Fel d1 and Fel d4.
Do hypoallergenic cats exist?
A recent study studied Fel d1 and Fel d4 levels in fur, urine, and saliva in a cohort of domestic cats to understand if there´s a correlation between phenotypes and levers of the allergen.
Allergens in the Cat Fur
In fur Fel, the d1 level exceeded Fel d4 levels, and there were no differences based on sex or neutering.
Allergens in Cat's Saliva
In saliva Fel d4 levels exceeded Fel d1 levels, and there appeared to be a reciprocal relation between Fel d1 and Fel d4 levels based on neutering, which was significant only for neutered versus non-neutered female cats. So neutered female cats had more Fel d4 than the rest.
In the case of male cats, there was more level of Fel d1 in intact males vs. neutered, but it is not statistically significant.
Older studies reported that Fel d 1 is produced in sebaceous and salivary glands and can be extracted from fur, skin, and saliva.
Female Cat vs. Male Cat Personality
In the book "Your Ideal Cat" they analyze 12 different traits of male and female cats to understand the differences:
- Affection Toward Family
- Aggression Toward Family
- Aggression Toward Other Cats
- Activity Level
- Friendliness Towards Visitors
- Fearfulness of Strangers
- Litterbox Use
- Urine Marking in The Home
- Furniture Scratching
Some of the main learnings are around affection towards family, friendliness/fearfulness towards visitors, and urine marking:
Are Female or Male Cats More Affectionate?
Males outrank females in being more social, affectionate, and playful. They also require more interaction and are higher energy.
If you are looking for a cat that curls on your lap and requests your attention, probably you will find a better partner in a male cat, while if you are looking for a cat that is independent and does not require your attention that much, a female cat can be just what you are looking for.
Are Male Cats More Independent than Female Cats?
Contrary to popular belief, male cats are more affectionate than females and female cats are more independent.
There are exceptions to every rule and behavior studies reiterate that cat socialization and circumstances have a great effect on cats' personalities.
Which Female or Male Cats do Better Behave?
The #1 misbehavior that veterinarians and cat behaviorists are visited for is urine marking. Male cats are more prone to do this than females, particularly in multi-cat households.
Even neutered male cats mark their territory in 1 out of 10 cases.
When it comes to scratching and damaging furniture, there are no statistical differences between male and female cats.
Spraying in Male Cats vs. Female Cats
I often got asked, if female cats spay and the answer is yes. However, female cats spay less often than males.
A study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reviewed spaying behaviors in both male cats and female cats and learned that female cats spray less often than male cats. After spaying and neutering, about 10% of the 134 male and 5% of the 152 female cats studied engaged in spraying frequently later in adult life.
After castration female cats spay 50% less often than male cats that displayed spraying behavior before neutering.
The age at which cats were castrated (when happening before maturity, around 6 to 10 months of age), did not influence spraying or fighting later in life.
It was found that male cats are more likely to spray and fight if they are in households with female cats than with other male cats. For female cats, spraying or fighting was less than that of male cats.
Health Concerns Typical of Male vs. Female Cats
Male cats aren’t inherently healthy or unhealthy compared to female cats, provided they’re neutered.
Nonetheless, there are a few health concerns that are different between male cats and female cats:
Health issues typical of Female Cats
Cancer is one of the most common health issues. Mammary tumors are among the most common tumors in the cat; Most affected cats are intact females; however, the disease is occasionally seen in spayed females and, rarely, in male cats.
Getting your cat neutered prevents many reproductive problems, including certain cancers, and helps stop the overpopulation of cats if it gets out of the house.
Health Issues Typical of Male Cats
Some estimates say as many as 3% of cats seen by vets have feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which is a group of feline diseases with multiple causes.
This disease often occurs in cats that are overweight or unfit or who eat dry food.
Because male cats have smaller urethras, they are more prone to urinary obstructions and urinary tract infections. This is curable and usually, the cat can be helped with a special urinary diet to reduce crystals. In the worst cases, the cat may need surgery to correct an obstruction.
Should I Get a Male or a Female Cat?
This is the million-dollar question. The answer is... it depends.
Both female cats and male cats are amazing companions. Female cats will be a little more independent while male cats will be more playful and affectionate. On the other hand, male cats will spray twice as much as female cats and are bigger.
Every household is different and there's a cat for everyone. One thing I learned from this study is that individual personalities (forged by genetics and socialization) will play a bigger role in determining the behavior of the cat, so try to get to know the cat in person before committing to adopting. Most centers allow you to meet your future pet upfront, so you can see if your personalities match.
Finally, coexistence with other pets is something you might want to consider as well.
Coexistence With Other Cats
In a recent study, a group of researchers found that there were no significant differences in affiliative or aggressive behavior based on cat gender.
They did find out, though, that in households with two female cats allorubbing happened less often females were never observed to also rub other females. Male cats spend more time near other cats.
How much time cats had lived together was negatively correlated with the amount of aggression observed, meaning that cats that lived together often, displayed less aggression. Factors such as the size of the house and weight difference between the cats did not correlate with the aggression rate.
What I found more interesting about this article is that there were big differences (Large standard deviations) in the observed behaviors, meaning that the individual personalities of the cats greatly influence how they behave with other cats, rather than size, gender, or household characteristics.
Here's a summary of what we've seen:
|Female Cats||Male Cats|
|Identification||There's a shorter distance between the anus and the vulva.||Because male cats have testicles, there's a long distance between the anus and the penis.
Ginger cats are Males in 75% of the cases.
|Reach Maturity||Between 7 to 12 months||Between 9 to 12 months|
|Urine Marking||Rarely, mostly when intact||Both Neutered and Intact|
|Size and Weight||Smaller and lighter, between 8 -10lbs||Larger and heavier between 11-15lbs|
|Behavior||Aloof, Independent, territorial, less likely to play with others||Affectionate, Playful, Territorial, form strong bonds|
I have a question for you... Do you have a female or a male cat?
Stay Wild, Stay Safe, See You Outdoors!
Albert & Mia