How to Tell a Male & Female Cat Apart

Written by corey m. mackenzie
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How to Tell a Male & Female Cat Apart
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

It’s not always as easy as it seems it should be to tell male and female cats apart, especially if the cat in question is very young or is a neutered male. Close inspection reveals the truth, in most cases, although sometimes you may have to use your sense of touch to determine if the cat is male or female. As a last resort, you can ask your veterinarian the next time you take the cat in for an examination.

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  1. 1

    Put on rubber gloves, if you have some available. Even if the cat is in great health, you may touch areas that are laden with germs. If you don’t have rubber gloves, just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the cat.

  2. 2

    Approach the cat calmly and lift its tail. Some cats don’t appreciate this kind of touching, however, so be prepared for resistance. You might want someone to help you gently restrain the cat.

  3. 3

    Observe the cat's rear area. If the cat is longhair, you should part the fur to get a good look. The anus is located nearest to the base of the tail. Just slightly below that you’ll either see a cat’s scrotum (if male) or the vulva (if female). If the cat is female, you’ll see a small slit below the anus. If your cat is an un-neutered male, and at least a few months old, you should instead see two fur-covered testicles protruding below the anus. In young kittens this might not be noticeable and instead you will see a round, furless spot. The round spot is probably the kitten’s penis (just the tip, the rest is sheathed). If you still can’t tell visually, use your gloved hands to feel around and you should find a male cat or kitten’s testicles by touch.

Tips and warnings

  • Some male cats have prominent testicles but some do not, especially if the male is still a kitten. In addition, female cats who’ve given birth in the past sometimes have an enlarged vulva which can mimic the appearance of very small testicles. Nevertheless, you should still be able to tell the difference if you look close enough or if you touch the cat. Neutered males still have the scrotal sac. If someone neutered the cat when he was very young this will be very small, but still present.
  • If it appears you have a male cat you know hasn’t been neutered, and you can’t feel testicles in the scrotal sac, it could be the testicles never descended. This may require veterinary care and you should bring him to your veterinarian for an exam.

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