Determining the gender of your new kitten can be challenging. The difference between female and male kittens can be confusing for even the most experienced cat owners.
We sat down with Stephen Quandt, a fear-free certified feline behavior consultant, to learn how to determine the sex of kittens. He explains how urine flow, coat color, and genital shape can be used to tell if your kitten is a girl or a boy. He also answers questions about feline reproduction, cat birth, and kitten personality.
METHOD 1: URINE FLOW (NEWBORN KITTENS)
Until 3 weeks of age, newborn kittens cannot poop or pee by themselves. Their mother gets them to use the bathroom by licking their genitals.
If you are caring for an abandoned kitten, you can tell its gender by how it urinates. When you stimulate a female kitten with a wet tissue, she will urinate without force. "The pee just kind of spills out," Quandt says. Male kittens will have a pee stream that travels several inches.
METHOD 2: COAT COLOR
Your kitten's coat color may suggest its sex. "Orange tabbies are 90% more likely to be male than female," Quandt says. That means 1 in 10 orange tabby cats are female, so coat color is not a perfect predictor of gender. Calico kittens (black, white, and orange) and tortoiseshell kittens (orange and black) are almost always female. "I have never met anyone in animal welfare who has seen a male Tortie," Quandt says.
About 1 in 3,000 tricolor cats are male. That is because they need three sex chromosomes: two Xs and a Y. This rare genetic condition is called Klinefelter syndrome.
METHOD 3: EXAMINE YOUR KITTEN'S GENITALIA
You should be able to determine your kitten’s gender by 6 weeks of age. To do this, lift your kitten's tail. If you gently scratch its lower back, your kitten may automatically raise its tail while purring.
Female kittens: A female kitten's genitals look like an upside-down exclamation point (¡). The vagina has a straight line and is closer to the butthole. The vagina and anus are usually 1/2 inch apart, but they may be even closer together and look like dots. Female kittens have less fur and skin between their genitals and anus.
Male kittens: A male kitten's genitals resemble a colon (:). There is a greater separation between the penis and the butthole. The penis and anus are about an inch apart. There will also be extra skin and fur between the penis and anus. "You are not going to see testicles because they have not really developed yet," Quandt says. "With your finger, you can sometimes gently feel them developing under the skin."
FAQS ABOUT HOW TO DETERMINE THE SEX OF YOUR KITTEN
1. HOW MANY KITTENS ARE IN A LITTER?
"Cats are an interesting species because they have induced ovulation. When a female cat goes into heat, it signals to the male cat that she is ready to mate. But it is the act of copulation [or sex] that releases the eggs," Quandt says. Most unspayed female cats have an average of 4 kittens.
2. DO PUREBRED CATS OR MIXED-BREED CATS HAVE MORE KITTENS?
According to the Australian Journal of Veterinary Medicine, purebred cats like Persians have the largest litter. In 1970, a Burmese-Siamese mix gave birth to the world's largest litter of kittens in Oxfordshire, UK. The Queen had 19 kittens, including four that were stillborn.
3. ARE THERE MORE MALE OR FEMALE KITTENS IN EACH LITTER?
In any particular litter, you can have almost any combination of sex. Australian researchers found there are 92 female kittens for every 100 male kittens. "The time of the year and the season also influence the number of male and female kittens in each litter," Quandt says. Long-haired cats have more kittens in the spring and autumn. On the other hand, short-haired cats are more likely to reproduce year-round.
4. WHICH IS BETTER, MALE KITTENS OR FEMALE KITTENS?
A comprehensive poll of feline veterinary practitioners rated male kittens as more playful and affectionate than female kittens. "Female cats may be slower to socialize and are harder to lure into traps during TNR [Trap-Neuter-Return]," Quandt says. "They are protective of their young and the hunter for the family. On the other hand, male cats simply hunt for themselves. They are not a part of the family unit."
Whether your cat is curious, affectionate, friendly, fearful, territorial, or neurotic, it is a matter of early socialization and personality. Gender should be the least important factor when adopting a cat. "Otherwise, you might miss out on the most amazing, wonderful cat for you because you are fixated on a stereotype," Quandt says.
5. CAN YOU TELL THE SEX OF A KITTEN BY ITS SIZE?
Intact adult male cats have larger cheeks and whisker pads. Unneutered male kittens might be slightly larger than female kittens. "But that is looking at a group, not individually," Quandt says. "Male kittens take a minimum of a year and possibly up to a couple of years to develop."
6. HOW DO YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FIXED ADULT MALE CAT AND A FEMALE CAT?
Unlike spayed female cats, males have pronounced testicles."Their scrotum is just kind of deflated, but it is not typically removed," Quandt says. "This little skin flap does not look like it is loaded for work."
7. CAN I TELL MY KITTEN'S SEX BY WHICH PAW IT USES?
Researchers discovered that most male kittens prefer to use their left paws when they reach for food, walk downstairs, or step over objects. But most female kittens prefer to use their right paws. Because 42% of cats are ambidextrous, paw preference is not the best way to determine your kitten's sex.
FREE PUBLIC WEBINARS FOR MUNCHIECAT READERS
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Stephen Quandt offers 2 FREE webinars called Decoding the Mysteries of Cats and Why Cats Do What They Do. Sign up below.