By Deb Haines
Many cat owners find it very difficult to determine the sex of kittens, particularly newborn kittens, and often need their veterinarian to sex their kittens for them.
It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female kittens, especially when they are just a few days old. The most reliable way is to look at the shape of the genital opening and the distance to the anus. When you have a litter of kittens, it can be particularly helpful to compare littermates.
Lift the kitten’s tail. The opening just under the tail is the anus. Below the anus is the genital opening which is round in males and is a vertical slit in females. In kittens of similar size, the distance between the anus and the genital opening is greater in the male than the female.
Learning how to sex your kittens
- Handle your kittens gently.
- Rest your kittens on a clean towel on their bellies and lift their tails gently to examine their genitals.
- Where possible, wait to sex kittens until they are over 3-4 weeks of age.
- Make sure that your cat (the mother cat) is comfortable with you handling her kittens before proceeding to touch them.
- Put kittens back with their mother immediately if they become distressed from handling.
- Handle young kittens in a warm area and for no more than 5-10 minutes at a time so that they do not get cold.
- Handle kittens roughly.
- Pick kittens up by their tails or hang them by their tails (they are not mice!)
- Let kittens spin or twist around on their tails while you are holding their tails (this can result in tail fractures).
- Handle newborn kittens (kittens under 3 weeks of age) if you can avoid it. Mother cats (especially new mothers) can become uncertain of their new kittens if you handle them too much and get your human smell all over them. This can potentially lead to the mother cat rejecting her kittens.
- Handle kittens if they are still suckling (not yet weaned) and their mother is clearly distressed by you handling them.
- Handle newborn kittens (<3 weeks old) for long periods of time. They can become cold away from the nest.
- Attempt to expose or pull out the penis of prepubescent male cats (cats under 6 months of age). Such animals are not capable of exposing their penis and attempting to do so forcibly can damage the penis.
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