Should You Get a Male or Female Cat?
UPDATED AUGUST 10, 2023 | CAT LOVE
Picture this: you’re visiting your local shelter, and two pairs of baby blue eyes gaze back at you. One belongs to a chubby boy kitten, and the other to a plump girl kitten. How do you decide which one is the best match for you? Is a male or female cat better? The answer, as with so many cat inquiries, is it depends.
“Cat personality is determined by so much more than gender,” says Joey Lusvardi, a certified cat behaviour consultant and owner of . Class Act CatsInstead of thinking about males versus females, asking questions about the cat’s history, temperament, and socialisation is better. Unless you don’t plan to spay or neuter your cat(experts say you should), gender may play a lesser role than you might expect.
Let’s look at what makes male and female cats so different—or perhaps not so different. Does your cat fit the bill of these six common kitty stereotypes?
Male vs. Female Cats: Behaviour & Personality Traits
From lap cats who love to snuggle to active kitties ready for a leash and harness, if you’re adopting a cat, you likely have a wish list of ideal personality traits in mind. But are cat gender stereotypes the key to adopting the best cat for you? Lusvardi and a handful of scientists help us break it down.
1. Male cats want to go outside more
Yes, but only if your male cat is entire. If a male cat isn’t neutered and senses a female cat nearby, he’s more likely to wander out the door. Moreover, once he’s out the door, he may walk for miles looking for food or a female. Male cats have outdoor territories almost three times larger than female cats.
While this is all helpful information if your cat is missing, it might not be the information you’re looking for to determine if a male or female cat is better as your travelling companion. When reproduction is taken out of the equation, the desire to be outdoors is more based on life history and experiences than gender.
2. Female cats are more aggressive
Unneutered female cats can be more aggressive than spayed females and neutered males. However, a study of 60 households comprising two males, two females, or a male and female cat—all neutered—determined no differences in aggressive behaviours between genders.
“It’s not nearly as simple as saying that female cats are more aggressive toward humans,” Lusvardi says. Instead, the lengthy list of factors influencing cat aggression includes:
- whether the cat is spayed or neutered
- whether the cat lives in a single or multi-cat household
- medical conditions
- if the cat has been declawed (illegal in the UK)
- environmental enrichment
3. Male cats are cuddlier
A telephone-based interview with 80 feline veterinary practitioners found this to be true. They also concluded that Ragdolls are the most affectionate and least aggressive cat breed, regardless of gender. Lastly, the survey found that cats from single-cat homes are more aggressive and less loving than cats in multi-cat homes, and kittens are the most affectionate age group.
However, Lusvardi says not so fast!
“As someone who works with many different cats, I can tell you there are plenty of very sweet female cats and very spicy male cats out there,” he shares. He’s also helped Ragdoll cats with aggression issues.
4. Male cats are more playful
Some cat parents report their male cats being more active than their female counterparts. However, Lusvardi says high energy needs are not exclusive to male cats. “Most cats need more stimulation than what they seem to be getting,” he says. “This isn’t exclusive to one gender.” If you want a relaxed kitty, consider adopting a senior cat rather than a kitten.
5. Male cats are more territorial
“While often associated with intact male cats, intact female cats in heat may spray as well,” Lusvardi says. Additionally, he explains that female cats in heat mark territory by rubbing against inanimate objects and people to leave pheromones for male cats. However, he adds, intact males are much more likely to spray than intact female cats.
6. Female cats are more independent
It depends on your definition of independent since this study found that spayed females are more demanding than male cats. According to the study, demandingness equates to “persistent, demanding, needy, persevering, and loud.”
If you’re wondering whether male or female cats are more likely to bond with their pet parents, the same study found no differences between genders. Instead, it concludes that “amiability” increases with age and in multi-cat homes.
The bottom line
For pet parents, Lusvardi says that while gender might be part of the equation, cats are complex individuals. Multiple factors influence a cat’s behaviour, and when cats are spayed or neutered, other factors become more influential in shaping their personalities. “If you focus solely on the gender of a cat, you’re likely to miss out on some wonderful cats that may be a great fit for your family,” he adds.
Male vs. Female Cats: Appearance & Size
Wondering if you can spot the difference between male and female cats by appearance? With these quick tips, you just might.
|Genitalia||Testicles and penis. A kitten’s penis appears as a small round dot further from the anus than a vulva, with the testicles in between.||Vulva (a vertical slit) is located directly below the anus.|
|Size & weight||Larger but breed dependent||Smaller but breed dependent|
|Face||Big, chubby cheeks if unneutered or neutered later in life||Female cats often have a narrower, more rounded head and a less prominent jawline|
|Body||Larger and more muscular than female cats, especially in the shoulders and neck area||Smaller and slender|
|Fur Colour||Orange cats are common but not always||Calico or tortoiseshell cats are common but not always|
Health Differences Between Male & Female Cats
1. Female cats are at higher risk of mammary tumours
Approximately 1/3 of malignancies involve the mammary glands, making mammary gland tumours one of cats’ most common tumour types. However, while both female and male cats have nipples, mammary tumours are rare in male cats (about 5% of reported cases). Dr Faye Forsythe, DVM, a veterinary surgeon at Royal Veterinary Care, explains that unspayed female domestic short hairs and Siamese cats between 10 and 12 are the most likely to develop mammary tumours.
2. Male cats are at higher risk of urinary obstructions
Male cats have a longer and narrower urethra than female cats. In other words, the tube connecting to their bladder and carrying urine outside the body is more susceptible to protein, stone, or swelling blockages than in female cats.
Urinary blockages are always a medical emergency. These blockages can lead to kidney failure within two to three days and even death if left untreated.
3. Male cats might be at a higher risk of obesity
Many cat parents wonder about their kitty’s weight. A study shows male cats are more prone to weight gain than female cats. However, Tuft’s University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine says that male and female cats are prone to weight gain after spay and castration surgery. It’s best to chat with your vet about your cat’s ideal weight and calorie intake, regardless of gender.
Can I Live With Male & Female Cats?
Any combination of cats can get along perfectly fine—or not get along at all! Certain genders of cats have reputations for not getting along. However, a peaceful household has more to do with sufficient resources (cat trees, scratchers, toys, and beds) and proper introductions than the gender of the cats.
That being said, most conflicts in multi-cat households are when two non-related males or non-related females live together. If you want to play it safe, Lusvardi says to adopt two cats from the same litter or consider the companionship of a non-related male and female cat living together.
What To Ask When Adopting A Cat Or Kitten: A Complete Checklist
To help you find the right cat (or cats), use this checklist of questions the next time you visit the shelter or a reputable breeder:
- Has this cat been around other cats before?
- What about dogs, kids, or other household members they will live with?
- If they have socialised with any of the above, how do they typically play or interact with other cats, dogs, or people?
- How do they respond to being petted or handled?
- Are they comfortable with a human touch?
- Do they ever hiss, growl, or swat at other animals or people?
- What is their energy level like?
- Are they more active or laid-back?
Bonded pairs (if applicable):
- How do you know the cats are bonded?
- Are they seen spending time with each other when a trusted human is not around or when there isn’t a high-value resource such as food, a cosy resting spot, or something else they may both want to use?
- Are the cats siblings?
- Does the cat have any known behaviour concerns or needs that should be addressed?
- Are they using the litter box without issues?
Early life and history:
- What do you know about the cat’s early life and history?
- Any relevant information about their background or previous experiences?
- What was the cat’s mother’s experience while pregnant?
- Does the cat have any known medical problems or ongoing health issues?
- Is the cat already neutered?
- Will they be before adoption?
Specific traits or preferences:
- If you have any trait you want specifically in a cat, be sure to ask about it!
How to Tell Which Cat Is Right for You
It depends on your preferences and the cat’s history—not so much their gender. “Gender can give you some insight into a cat’s personality, but it’s far from the only determining factor,” Lusvardi says.
If you have specific concerns, such as interactions between your cat and unneutered community cats, the most straightforward and recommended solution is to have your cat spayed or neutered. In addition to preventing unwanted behaviours such as territory marking, yowling, and wandering outdoors, neutering cats reduces aggression, increases affection, and decreases the likelihood of certain diseases.
“If you spay or neuter your cats, either gender can be a delightful companion,” Lusvardi adds. “But ultimately, the best cat for you depends on finding a good personality match, considering factors such as activity level, affection, sociability, and any specific traits or needs you desire.”