Male vs Female Cats: 4 Key Differences Explained

Maddest Angriest Cats - Egyptian Mau
© Sarah Fields Photography/

Written by Hannah Ward

Updated: October 7, 2023

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When it comes to our feline friends, cats have been beside us for centuries.  They make great companions and there is a vast array of different breeds and different colors available.  But what about gender?  Do male cats make better pets than females or vice versa?  What are the differences between them?

Quite often it can be a tough choice to decide between a male cat vs female cat, and it’s a really important choice as your new friend will be with you for years to come. We’ve all heard the myth that females are aloof and standoffish while males are entirely driven by testosterone, but is it true?  Join us as we discover all of the key differences between male and female cats!

Comparing Male Cat vs Female Cats

Male cats and female cats can be differentiated from their genitalia, personality, and appearance.

Although both make good pets, there are some major differences between male and female cats, and even then there is a big difference between the behavior of unneutered and neutered or spayed cats.  But that’s not all so check out the chart below to learn a few more of the main differences.

Female CatsMale Cats
GenitaliaShort distance between the anus and the vulva (which appears as a slit)Longer distance between the anus and the penis, with the testicles between them
Sexual Maturity7 to 12 months9 to 12 months
Urine MarkingRarelyOften
AppearanceSmaller and lighterLarger and heavier with wide, round cheeks
BehaviorAloof, stand-offish, territorial, prefer to be alone, less likely to play with othersPlayful, sociable, affectionate, forms strong bonds

The 4 Key Differences Between Male Cat vs Female Cats

The key differences between male and female cats are in their genitalia, appearance, territory marking, and behavior. Male cats have a penis while female cats have a vulva. Besides, male cats have larger physical features, especially larger cheeks than their female counterparts. And to mark their territory, urine marking is a common attribute associated with male cats.

Now, let us examine the 4 key differences between male and female cats in detail.

Male Cat vs Female Cat: Genitalia

cute kittens sitting side by side
Male cats have a penis while female cats have a vulva.

© Kumar

The main difference between male and female cats is their genitals.  If you’ve ever brought a kitten home and wondered whether it’s a boy or a girl then there are a couple of things to look for, although it’s definitely more difficult to tell in small kittens than in adult cats.  With females, the main thing to look out for is the vulva which looks like a slit, while the anus is above it.  The easiest way to tell that a cat is a girl is to look for the upside-down exclamation mark, or “i” shape.

Male cats look quite different and the anus and penis are much further apart – usually more than half an inch in adult cats – while the testicles are between them.  The shape to look for in males is two dots, or a colon shape (:).

Male Cat vs Female Cat: Appearance

One of the most noticeable differences between male cat vs female cat is size.  Male cats are usually larger and heavier than female cats.  This is particularly obvious if the male was not neutered until after sexual maturity was reached.  

Additionally, male cats tend to have large, wide cheeks and a more rounded face than females.  This is because of the testosterone in males.  Large cheeks are used to signal physical fitness and strength to other cats – both male and female.  This can signal readiness for a fight with other males as well as to attract females.  Males often retain these large cheeks even after they are neutered.

Heaviest and Fattest Cats - Domestic Shorthair
Female cats tend to be smaller and lighter in weight than males.


Male Cat vs Female Cat: Urine Marking

Although not every male cat does it (and some females do), urine marking outside of the litter box is a notable difference between males and females.  Quite simply, this is because males have much more reason to do it than females.  Urine (or spray) marking is when a cat sprays a small amount of urine onto a surface.  Just like big cats in the wild do, domestic cats spray urine to mark their territory and state their presence in the area.  

However, cats also use it to send other messages, such as to advertise that they are looking for a mate. Therefore, unneutered males are far more likely to urine mark as they are driven by their testosterone. But even neutered males can still do it too.  Even some females urine mark but they are far less likely to do so than males.

Male Cat vs Female Cat: Behavior & Personality

Quite possibly the biggest difference between male and female cats is their personality.  However, whether or not they have been neutered or spayed actually plays a major role in their behavior. Unneutered males are more likely to be aggressive towards other males, mark their territory, and to actively seek out females in heat.  However, when they are neutered they generally become much more laid back and are extremely sociable, playful, and affectionate.  They also form close bonds, both with their owners and with other cats.

On the other hand, females are stereotyped as being aloof and standoffish.  However, that’s not strictly true.  Females that have not been spayed spend much of the time that they are in heat searching for a mate.  During this time they yowl a lot and can actually be pretty loving and attention-seeking.  

Females that are spayed no longer go into heat, so they don’t perform that behavior anymore and are generally more relaxed.  However, they don’t lose their nurturing instinct and can often “adopt” other kittens that are in the household.  Despite this, females are still less likely to be playful and will often dominate other cats, particularly if they try to invade her favorite spot!

However, although the behavior of a cat can be influenced by its gender, the way that it is raised can also have a major impact.  Cats that are raised with others or in a busy household are often naturally more playful and sociable than one raised on its own.  Similarly, cats which are around dogs from a young age are less likely to be frightened of them.

Ruddy and Blue Somali cats sitting on a sideboard.
Male and female cats often behave differently depending on whether they have been neutered or not.


Male Cat vs Female Cat: Lifespan

The longest that any domestic cat can hope to live is to the age of 30, though this is not the norm. Most cats don’t live beyond 15 years. And regardless of being male or female, cats that are neutered or spayed typically live longer than those that are not. Indoor cats also tend to outlive their outdoor counterparts. Crossbreed cats live longer than pure breeds. But when comparing the sexes, female cats tend to outlive males by an average of two years.

Is It Better to Have Two Cats of the Same Gender?

Two happy, friendly cats.

If you’re thinking of having two pet cats, it’s best to choose a male and female rather than two of the same sex.


The answer is no, it’s not better to have two cats of the same gender. If your cat seems to be experiencing single-cat syndrome, and you’ve decided to find it a mate, it’s best to choose a cat of the opposite sex. Cats can be territorial and have disputes for dominance. This is especially true of cats that are the same sex. They don’t always like the idea of sharing space, and two of the same sex can make territorial issues worse.

While a lot depends on the individual cats’ temperaments, as well as age and how they were raised, a male and female tend to assimilate together better than two of the same sex. There’s not much difference between trying to pair up two females or two males–either scenario will play out with territorial battles. While it’s true that a male cat can even get aggressive with a female roommate, seeking to assert his dominance, they typically get along better, and can even be quite affectionate with one another.

What Health Issues Do Male and Female Cats Face?

Veterinarian examining an orange cat

Male and female cats usually suffer from health issues unique to their sex as well as whether or not they’ve been spayed or neutered.


Male and female cats differ in some health conditions that beset them as they age. Their overall health is also affected by whether or not the cat has been spayed or neutered, or not. 

Health issues among neutered male cats include joint or mobility issues, constipation, obesity, cardiac dysrhythmia, and periodontal disease. Intact male cats, on the other hand, are prone to UTIs or cystitis, heart murmur, weight problems that can also include anorexia, and injuries from cat fights. The latter are also susceptible to periodontal disease.

Female spayed cats can suffer from sensitivity to fleas, hyperthyroidism, overgrown nails, overgrooming, or post-operative complications from being spayed. On the other hand, female cats that are not spayed can contract reproductive disorders like endometriosis or mammary tumors, or suffer from anemia, anorexia, or UTIs.

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About the Author

Hannah is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, marine life, mammals, and geography. Hannah has been writing and researching animals for four years alongside running her family farm. A resident of the UK, Hannah loves riding horses and creating short stories.

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