Determining the Sex of Kittens

Pete Wedderburn
9th March 2020 - 3 min read

Like many cats, Jed had a rough start in life. Sue was out walking in the countryside when she found Jed hiding in the bushes, his frightened face staring out at her. She reached in and picked him up. He was only around seven weeks of age – barely old enough to look after himself. There was no sign of any other cats or kittens in the area. She knocked on a few doors of nearby houses, but nobody had seen the kitten before. Could he have been dumped by somebody whose cat had produced unwanted kittens? Sue had been looking for a cat anyway, so she decided that she might keep Jed.

white and ginger kitten face

Vet Check

She took him straight down to the vet for a check over. He was healthy enough, although his coat was grubby as if he had been living rough for a few days, hiding under cars and in ditches. He was too young for his first vaccine, so Sue took him home to get him settled into his new life. Jed was shy at first, running away from Sue, and hiding under furniture. After a few days, he began to be more comfortable with humans, and soon he was sitting in Sue’s lap, purring loudly and enjoying being the centre of attention.

Kittens First Vaccination

Two weeks later, it was time for another visit to the vet, for his first vaccination. I was the vet on duty this time, and I checked him over thoroughly again. As I was taking his temperature, I noticed something surprising. “What made you think he was a male cat?” I asked Sue. She explained that on the previous visit, the vet had said that it was difficult to be sure, but Jed seemed to be male. Sue had then chosen the name “Jed”, and from that moment on, he had been a boy kitten.

It’s A Girl

I examined the kitten carefully under his tail. It is usually very easy to tell whether a kitten is male or female, from only a few days of age onwards. But Jed fitted into an unusual category – he looked both like a male and a female kitten. At first glance, he was “definitely male”, but on closer checking, he looked “more like a female”. Kittens like Jed present a big challenge, but the older they get, the easier it is to reach the correct decision. I asked Sue to help me hold him firmly, and after a few more minutes of careful checking, I came to my conclusion: Jed was female.

It is always useful to have an extra opinion when dealing with life-changing decisions like sexing kittens. I asked one of my colleagues to give me her opinion on the situation. After a similar period of humming and hawing, she agreed with me: Jed was definitely a girl kitten. It is very common for kittens to start off in life with a mistaken gender.

Honey The Tomcat

My own first kitten (when I was five years old) was called Honey. It was only when we took her to the vet to get her spayed at six months of age that we discovered that “she” was a “he”. By that stage, it was too late to change his name. So poor Honey lived his life as a neutered tomcat with an effeminate name.

As for Jed – well, he has only been “Jed” for two weeks, so it is not too late. Sue has gone home to think, and when I see him/her again, I am sure that Jed will have been renamed with something more suited to the pretty female kitten that (we think) she is.

Tips

  • It can be difficult to identify the gender of some kittens
  • It gets easier as the kittens grow older
  • Care needs to be taken choosing a cat’s name if you are not sure!