Is it easier to sex a cat from the front than the back?

Cat's testicles

Sphynx cat Gunner (sorry Gunner). Photo (cropped) copyright Helmi Flick

You can often the tell the sex of a cat from their face. Sometimes, it can more difficult to tell the sex of a cat when you try to check the rear end. For me, this is because the anatomy at the back end of a male cat, after he is neutered, is not hugely different to a female’s when you are only allowed a glimpse. The fur hides stuff too (but see Gunner, Sphynx cat picture). And it is a little tricky to get a cat to keep still long enough to assess the area thoroughly. And why should it be easy? So undignified. Cats don’t like you fiddling around that area and rightly so.

However, neutering not only changes the configuration of the rear end of a cat it can also change the front end (I say). If you see a genuine unneutered, stray, male cat, they have an aura about them that shouts, “male” watch out. They are more jowly around the face (squarer faces with cheeks). And, in any case, you can see his b*lls. Sorry to be rude but they are obvious. The removal of interior of the male cat’s testicles is the sole reason why sexing a cat can be a bit tricky. Sometimes it is obvious, though.

Sexing a cat from their facial appearance

Sexing a cat from their facial appearance. Photo credits: top left: by Jsome1. Top right: by Mendocino Animal Care. Bottom left: by zeevveez. Bottom right: by Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue.

Note: The best book on cat health care says that if neutering a male cat takes place at 6-7 months of age “growth and bone structure are not adversely affected..”. If done at 7 weeks of age the male cat becomes taller and can’t “extrude the penis”. I think it can make the male face look slightly more feminine.  I am referring to the jowly, solid appearance of a unfixed cat. This is not a scientific statement.

The other effect that masks the differences between male and female cat faces is that, as for people, there is a wide range of femininity and masculinity in facial appearance. At the far end of the spectrum a male cat screams, “I am male” and, likewise, for a sweet faced female cat who purrs, “I am a girly girl cat”. There are lots of cats who occupy the middle ground where things get less clear cut.

However, all that said, sexing a cat using facial features combined with a glimpse of the rear end should produce a fairly high success rate. The picture shows four cats, two females and two males, almost selected at random, which demonstrates the clear difference between female and male faces.

Note: Obviously it you are a veterinarian and you have a submissive cat on the table allowing you to make a thorough inspection of a cat’s anatomy, you’ll be able to achieve a 100%  success rate on sexing a cat. What I am writing out is seeing a cat and making a decision from a fairly casual glance.

A couple of stray cats come to my home. I still feed them. The owner says they are both males – brothers. I think they are brother and sister! I am going on gut feel and facial appearance. Also the female cat has a slightly girly voice. Their rear ends don’t help me much although there is not a vestige of testicles on the cat I say is female. Castration leaves small bumps of fur.

Associated pages:

  1. Sexing kittens.
  2. How important to you is the sex of a cat?

Comments

Is it easier to sex a cat from the front than the back? — 22 Comments

  1. Yes you can tell an un-neutered adult tom cat quite easily by his ‘bull terrier’ head and shoulders.
    But sometimes it’s difficult to tell just by looking, neutered males from females, especially when the males have been neutered too young.
    They aren’t likely to want you to upend them and have a close look.
    It worries me that in the USA vets are neutering kittens at a few months old, yes they reckon it’s safe enough but I don’t believe it’s right, thankfully our UK vets still like them to be at least 5 months of age.

    • Unless a kitten is ill the shelter we rescued from would spay/neuter at 2 pounds. Thats very small. This wasn’t an option. It was done or you didn’t get the kitten.

      • That is far too young! Some USA vets love to declaw kittens at that weight too, poor little souls, their kittenhood taken away.

        • Thank God I live in a country where cats well being is taken into consideration and it’s not all about people first last AND in the middle.
          2 lbs is tiny,I don’t see how it can’t affect a kitten’s growth no matter what the so called experts say.

  2. Bigfoot is a girly-man. Very feminine looking. He was probably neutered too young. On his very first vet visit, the vet had to really poke around to tell. His head is a little bigger than Yellow cat (female) but the shape is similar.

    Then there is Marvin. He is a hunka-chunka burnin love. No doubt he is a manly guy. But a cuddler for sure.

    The first year I was feeding Yellow Cat, I was sure she was male. I think I am better equipped to tell by looking now.

  3. Red never really grew up into being a man but I got him operated on after 8 months I think. I wish I didn’t have to but it is the way of the world and the right thing to do. He was certainly very male in his behaviour and when Lilly came along you could see the striking difference between the two. Red was an absolute boy in the way he interacted with Lilly and in the way he went around marking his territory outside every day. He has all his spots where he would stop and pee or poop or just spray I guess. In the snow video some of you have seen, he stops at his first marking spot in the middle of the little field before running straight for the tree. Why this spot – well under the snow its just a big lawn or grassy area but for some reason there was a bit of a small bare patch of earth there and Red turned it into his little first stop toilet/marking point before continuing on. After sleeping he’d always go outside and head there and thats exactly where he was going in the snow video having just gone outside. I find this to be very male. Lilly and Red went for evening walks together and Lilly came home after about an hour and half and Red not for hours unless it was a quick drop – in since he was passing by. They were like the stereotypical boy and girl.

  4. Yes we can usually tell by appearence male from female cats.
    I think it’s horrible neutering tiny kittens,yes there are too many unwanted kittens being born but every kitten has the right to a happy carefree kittenhood before being surgically altered for convenience sake.
    It must stunt their development surely.

  5. Hi Michael,

    Do you remember the conversation we had long ago about recognizing male vs. females by appearance? I referenced it in a post on tka. I said that I could guess the sex of Maine coon kittens (the breed I am most familiar with) by their look- not necessarily 100%, but close to.

    http://teh-kitteh-antidote-anecdote.pictures-of-cats.org/2009/05/maine-coon-kitties-from-italy-awesome.html

    You might enjoy this- the youtube (which I think is still available) and the comments from the Trilloteam cattery in Italy.

  6. You’d never get it right on Furby or Lucky. They both look like females. Lucky was neutered at 4 months and Furby at 5 months of age. I read somewhere that neutering a Maine Coon mix young will prevent the thick neck. Thats what happened to Furby. I guess Sealy looks like a girl too.

    • I’m pleased you said that Elisa. The boundary between looking male and female is blurred by neutering and natural variations. The differences should be more apparent (as for people). Neutering is a factor no doubt in my mind although the vets say it doesn’t change things that much.

  7. Funny, my sister just miss-identifies cats all the time. I always go on face and body shape. Although I can’t rule out countenance. I’m not always correct, but I’m probably batting 67% or so. I honestly think there are several factors that make it easier or harder for me to judge. Breeds I know real well seem easier to judge from the front. If they are older, the belly/rear may be a better place on smaller cats. I honestly have no real training in this nor have I read up on it, so this is out of my venue of expertise. Great article. I’d love to see a test for us all to see if we could pick out cats sex from both angles.

    • Same for me. It is just experience that gives me about a 70% success rate. I might do a little competition or something on this. I think it is quite important because I like male cats to look male and neutering makes them look more female in my opinion. It makes me wonder how significant and effect neutering has. Although I am not saying it shouldn’t be done. It is important but…how much of the masculinity (appearance and personality) does it take out of a male cat? Spaying of female cats doesn’t have the same effect on personality and appearance, it seems.

  8. Neutering does seem harder on male cats and we would say given the choice they would rather not worry about wandering and fighting over female cats and getting wounded and fathering kittens. But would they really?
    It’s natural to the animal kingdom male to seek a mate and fight for her, so do we take too much from their lives by stopping them?
    Yet we have no choice as entire male cats are not nice to live with and they cost a fortune in vets fees and are a nuiscance to people ‘yowling their courting songs’ and get all cats a bad name with cat haters.
    It’s the way of our world, not theirs, but since we domesticated them it has to be their world too as we have the power to choose on their behalf.

    • I tend to agree with you Ruth. I know we have to neuter and spay cats but I find it a shame that we have to take the masculinity from the male cat. The whole male cat is so impressive. We lose that. That is life. The ultimate reason why we have to neuter cats is because there are too many people and therefore too many cats.

    • Our Jasper was the only male who seemed to be in pain after his surgery. We have him a dose of pain medicine from the vet for 2 nights then he was fine. He’s turned into a more loving cat towards us but he’s much more a bully to the other cats. Unfortunately so is Sammy.

  9. Yes that’s the root of the problem,too many people,I know some people who should have been neutered to stop them breeding,cats are much more intelligent than those peoples offspring.

    • I know it is very politically incorrect but there is definitely a strong argument for neutering a lot of people. People are a plague on the planet as Sir David Attenborough says. That is a strong statement but it is made with consideration, common sense and thought. Many people would agree.

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