How to Tell the Sex of a Kitten: Complete Guide
Most cat people find it very difficult to tell the sex of their kittens, particularly when it comes to newborn kittens. They often resort to asking their local vet to help sexing a kitten for them.
But, thanks to Kitten Lady, aka Hannah Shaw, you can work out how to tell the sex of a kitten all by yourself!
In the video below, Hannah will show you in a quick and easy video everything you need to know about how to tell if a kitten is male or female, so that you can tell the the sex of your kittens. All done with the help of super cute rescued kittens Velouria, Margot, Phillip, Winston, and Barnaby!
If you want more detail we’ve set out the complete guide for how to tell kitten gender under the video and in our illustrations below.
How to Tell the Gender of a Kitten
So, if your momma cat just gave birth to some adorable bundles of fur, or you’re taking in a stray from the great outdoors, how do you identify its gender?
While it might not matter much to you right now whether you have a Miss Snowflake or Mr Snuffles on your hands, knowing how to tell kitten gender is going to be helpful pretty soon! It allows you to watch out for potential health problems and prepare for any gender-based issues that may occur.
Unfortunately, since your kittens are probably pretty small right now, it can be exceedingly difficult to identify their genitalia. Kitten genitals aren’t as developed as those of adult cats, making gender determination a tricky concept for even the more knowledgeable breeder.
The good news? There are a few reliable ways to determine gender so that you’ll know how to tell a male kitten from a female kitten.
How to Tell the Sex of Kittens: The Basics
The first thing you need to know about how to tell the sex of kittens is that when you go about identifying their gender, you need to be gentle.
Don’t disrupt the important bonding moments between your Momma cat and her babies during the first few weeks of life. Generally, you’ll want to stay mostly out of the way of your feline friends during this critical stage.
Remember, if you handle a kitten too much during the early weeks of life, the mother can sometimes abandon it and refuse to nurse it entirely. Although you might be keen to know the sex of your kittens, it’s best to wait until they’re at least 3 to 4 weeks old before you start handling them.
That means you shouldn’t be looking to tell the sex of newborn kittens or even baby kittens.
It’s not fair on them or the momma cat to disrupt them by trying to sex newborn kittens. Ideally you should wait at least 3-4 weeks after birth before you attempt to determine the gender of a kitten. And, at that point, again be sure that the mother cat is clearly comfortable that you are going to handle kittens before you do.
Once you’re at the right time to start assessing your kitten’s gender, make sure that you do everything you can to keep stress levels low. Pick the little creature up, hold them close to your body, and make sure that you provide plenty of love and pets. Sometimes, when you gently scratch a kitty’s back at the base of their tail, they’ll lift their butts automatically, giving you a better look at the parts you need to assess. If not, simply gently lift their tail and it’ll be easier to see if you have a boy or girl kitten.
If you try to interact with a kitten and it seems either incredibly nervous or stand-offish, then it’s best to hold off until a later date. You can always start with a different member of the litter and come back to the one that’s feeling shy.
How to Sex a Kitten - Figuring Out the Gender
Now, we’re not going to beat around the bush; you’re going to need a good look at your kitten’s rear end if you want any chance of identifying gender. At three to four weeks old, most breeders will say that a kitten’s genitals typically look like punctuation marks.
If you’ve got a little lady, then you’ll see an upside-down exclamation point. The vertical vaginal slit is located just below the anus, with not much spacing between when the cat is on her back and facing you.
A male kitten’s genitals look more like a colon, with the penis slightly further below the anus, with a little more spacing to accommodate the testicles. You might be able to see tiny lumps in the testicle area that will grow as your kitten ages.
If you’re feeling confused, try and remember it like this:
In this image you can see how to tell if kittens are male or female,
How to Tell the Sex of a Kitten - Checking Coat Color
Sexing a kitten can be a pretty complicated process.
If you’re a breeder or someone who fosters a lot of kittens in your spare time, then you’ll get used to telling the difference between males and females eventually.
In the meantime, if you want a hint for guessing your kitty’s gender from day one, then you can always check out the color of their coat. Although this isn’t a 100% reliable method for identifying gender, most breeders and veterinarians agree that cats with three colors in their coat (tortoiseshell or calico cats) are almost always female.
The reason that you get more girl calico or tortoiseshell cats is that the chromosomal makeup of female kittens is the stuff that’s responsible for causing this unique coloration. This means that most calico cats are girls.
It has become known as genetics develops that some colors, including those large areas of black, white, and orange that make up the markings of a calico cat and the marbled markings in the same colors that make a tortoiseshell kitty are carried by the X chromosome and a cat must have two X chromosomes to make these colorations appear.
That means because only female cats have two X chromosomes then calico and tortie kitties must be female. Male cats have only one X chromosome and so they cannot carry this mix of colors together unless they have a super rare genetic condition. That's why we say almost always, but it's so rare as not to be likely at all.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a ginger or orange/reddish colored cat, then you can usually assume that it will be a male. Again, this trait isn’t totally reliable for telling gender, and it’s not as accurate as using the tri-color calico trait to tell gender. Only around three-quarters of ginger cats are male, but it’s still a good bet that if you have an orange cat, it will often turn out to be a boy.
Sometimes Behavior Shows Gender Too
If you’re not convinced by the coat color cheat, and you’re not sure about the punctuation marks that you’re seeing on your kitten’s back-end, there is one more way to determine gender. Male cats often behave differently to girls.
Unfortunately, you won’t see the difference in behavior until your cat starts to get a little older, which means you’ll probably already have had the sex determined by a vet. However, if you’ve picked up a kitten off the street, or you’re adopting one, then checking behavioral patterns could help.
Male kittens usually become territorial, which means that they spray to establish their home and ward off anyone who might be a trespasser. Male kittens are also more restless than females.
Female kittens, on the other hand, can go into heat as early as four months old. They vocalize this coming of age experience with lots of attention-seeking behavior and yowling. The earlier you can spay your kitten safely, the less your cats will display these gender nuances.
Some people (like me, for instance) feel that male cats are more confident and outgoing than females, but this comes down to personal experience. The truth is that all cats are unique, and your kitten is bound to have it’s own special personality – male or female.
How to Determine the Sex of a Kitten: The Do's and Don'ts
Hopefully, this guide will have given you some extra help in how to sex a kitten. Although it’s worth noting that you’ll always have an easier time getting an accurate insight if you speak to a vet or professional breeder learning how to tell the sex of a kitten really isn’t that hard.
For now, let me leave you with some basic dos and don'ts to take away when you’re sexing your kittens for the first time.
Good luck finding out if you have a boy or a girl kitten!