How to Tell If a Kitten is a Boy or a Girl

Distinguishing male kittens from females can be tricky

How to Determine Your Kitten's Gender

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

If you're wondering whether you should name your new kitten Max or Luna, you might think the answer is as easy as taking a peek between its legs. But determining kitten gender can be tricky when they are very young. To determine the sex of a kitten look below the tail.

  • If the cat is a female kitten, you'll see what resembles a lowercase letter "i"
  • If the cat is a male kitten, you'll see what resembles the colon punctuation mark (:)

Along with genital shape and spacing, you can use clues such as coat color to determine whether a kitten is male or female, and at times, there are even behavioral clues that will guide you to the answer.

Don't disrupt the mother-kitten flow within the first few weeks of life. If a kitten is handled too much during this time, the mother may abandon it and stop nursing it altogether. So don't get too anxious to determine the sex of your kittens. Instead, wait until at least two weeks—or preferably longer—to start handling your kittens. 

Careful Handling

While assessing your kitten's sex, it is necessary to minimize stress. Start by picking them up, gently petting them, and snuggling them close to your body. Scratching their back right at the base of the tail may cause them to automatically lift it, giving you a bird's eye view of the parts in question. But if a kitten is standoffish or panicky, leave the inspection to a later date.

Identifying the Genitals

At two weeks old, some breeders liken the appearance of kitten genitalia to punctuation marks.

  • A female kitten's genitals will resemble an upside-down exclamation point, with the vertical vaginal slit sitting just below the anus and with very little spacing in between (when the cat is upside down and facing you).
  • A male kitten's organ looks more like a colon, with the penis residing just below the anus and separated by enough space to accommodate his testicles. You may even be able to see small lumps in that space, which will grow as the kitten matures.

If, upon visual observation, every kitten looks the same to you, then pick one and gently place your finger and thumb on either side of the scrotum area (on a suspected boy). You may palpate two small, hard, oval-shaped objects under the skin. These are the testes and they are almost impossible to hold—they slither away underneath your fingers. Obviously, if testes are present, your kitten is male.

Coat Color

Another simpler, but less reliable, way to tell the sex of your kitten is by the color of its coat.

  • Tortoiseshell or tri-colored cats are almost always female. The chromosomal makeup of female cats is solely responsible for this coloration, so you can pretty much guarantee any calico cat is a girl as well.
  • Orange or ginger-colored cats, however, are most often male (think of the iconic male tabby cats). Yet, this trait is not as reliable as the tri-colored trait, as only three-quarters of ginger-colored cats are male.
Eight week old tortoiseshell kitten playing with toilet roll
Tortoiseshell kitten Westend61 / Getty Images

Behavior 

As kittens become bigger, they start to develop their unique personalities.

  • Male "tom kittens" may start to roam as they approach sexual maturity. They may also become territorial, often spraying to establish their home base and ward off trespassers. Males may also be more restless and aggressive.
  • Female kittens (sometimes as young as four months) may go into heat—vocalizing this "coming of age" with loud yowls and attention-seeking behavior. However, the earlier you spay or neuter your kitten (the standard recommendation is five to six months, but pediatric spay and neuter can happen at six to eight weeks) the less your cat will display these gender nuances.

Some people claim male cats are friendlier and more outgoing than females. But this difference is by no means universal and cat personalities are almost as varied as human personalities. So choose your pet by the connection you make upon first interaction, and pay less attention to sex.

Watch Now: Why Do Cats Purr?

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Determining Gender (Sex) of a KittenVetmed,

  2. Spaying in Cats. VCA Hospitals.