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Determining the Sex of a Kitten

kitten-genderIf you don’t know what to look for, it’s not obvious whether a kitten is male or female. In fact, occasionally, it isn’t even obvious if you do know what to look for; even professionals have been known to make the wrong call. You’ll want to know the sex of kittens when picking their names, of course.

Differences between Male and Female Cats

Before bringing home a new feline companion, it’s also likely you’ve thought about whether you want a male or female cat. There are a number of differences between the feline sexes. Before they’re fixed, male cats tend to be more aggressive; while female cats go into heat and yowl incessantly. After spaying, female cats are usually more independent and aloof than their male counterparts. Neutered males are generally more affectionate, but about 10 percent of them engage in spraying.

If you intend to eventually have kittens around, you’ll probably do better with a female cat. Males can be rough or aggressive with kittens, while females are typically more patient and nurturing toward them. There are also various sex-specific health concerns.

How to Tell Whether a Cat is Male or Female

To determine a kitten’s sex, examine the distance between the anus and the sex gland opening. Lift the kitten’s tail. The hole immediately beneath the tail is the animal’s anus. Below that, there’s a second hole. This is the kitten’s genital opening. It is farther from the anus in male cats than in female cats of about the same size.

Of course, this is a relative measure. It’s much easier to use if you have multiple kittens with which to make the comparison. Litters almost always contain kittens of both sexes, so if your cat gives birth, this shouldn’t be a problem. Request to see a few kittens at a shelter so you can make comparisons.

The genital opening on males is round, while the genital opening on females is a vertical slit. This also indicates the sex of a kitten, but sometimes the openings are too small to make a clear determination about their shape. Eventually, the testicles become visible on male kittens, but they aren’t there at first.

Two colorations provide clues to a kitten’s sex, but they aren’t definitive standards. In the vast majority of cases, calico or tortoiseshell coloration indicate a female cat. Calico is a mixture of black, white, and orange; tortoiseshell is a mixture of black and orange. Every once in a while, though, male cats are born with these color patterns. Also, more orange cats are male than female. However, this is not nearly as strong a correlation as calico and tortoiseshell colorations are to the female sex.


Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

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