Indisputably, few things are more adorable than a tiny kitten, new to the world and huddled against his mother for warmth and security. In the early days of life, there's little apparent difference between male and female kittens. These differences become more noticeable as newborn kittens grow.
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The most notable difference between male and female kittens is genital organs. It is possible to determine the gender of a kitten by proper inspection, but young kittens, those less than 1 week old and in their mother's care, should be handled as little as possible. By week 2, it is safer to handle a small kitten and familiarize him with a human touch. Socialization occurs during weeks 2 and 7, but a gentle approach is best. Newborn kittens can be easily injured by improper handling.
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The appearance of sex organs is the most notable difference in a 5-week-old kitten. To determine sex, lay a kitten on the stomach, preferably on a pad or warm towel. Lift the kitten's tail carefully. The sexual organs and anus of a male cat are further apart, and the appearance of the penis is similar to a small dot. The sexual organs and anus of a female cat are closer together, and the vulva of the female appears as a tiny slit. As a male kitten ages, his testicles will become more visible.
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The coloring of a kitten can assist in determining gender. A tortoiseshell, which is defined as a tri-colored cat of black, white and orange, is almost always female. Due to chromosomal makeup, a male kitten will rarely be tortoiseshell; almost 100 percent of tortoiseshell cats are female. The same percentages apply to calico, which is a tortoiseshell cat with white patches that lack pigment. An orange or ginger cat, will most frequently be male. Three-quarters of all orange kittens are male in gender.
Little difference exists in behavior between male and female kittens in the early weeks of life. As kittens grow, male cats will adopt different behaviors. An older male cat, or "tom," is more likely to roam and seek the affection of unsprayed females. Male cats who are unaltered are likely to spray urine to mark their territory. One similarity in male and female kittens is their need for proper veterinary care. Making the choice to spay or neuter your kitten, once he or she reaches the proper age, is safer for your pet, and will assist in controlling overpopulation.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.