Trying to tell the sex of a young kitten takes a little practice, but there are a few subtle signs to look for as you try to determine if they're boys or girls.

If you're caring for a new litter of kittens, one of the first things many people want to do is to figure out if the tiny cats are boy or girl kitties. But with kittens, the answer isn't always obvious. Young males and females look very similar, so here are some tips to help you determine their gender.

woman holding three kittens in her arms; how to determine a kitten's gender
Credit: Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

What To Look for To Determine the Gender of a Kitten

The most obvious first step to find out the gender of a new cat is to look under their tail. This is easier to do with short-haired kittens, so you may have to comb away any extra fur if you are examining a long-haired kitten. Make sure the kitten is lying flat on a towel and lift the tail gently to avoid injuring the animal. Never lift a kitten up by the tail!

How To Tell the Sex of a Female Kitten

For a female kitten, you'll find a small hole (the anus) near the base of the tail with a small slash or line directly underneath it (the vulva). The combination should look a bit like a lowercase "i." There is little fur between the anus and vulva because they are so close together.

illustration showing the anatomical parts to identify a kitten's gender
Credit: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

How To Tell the Sex of a Male Kitten

For a male kitten, you'll find a small hole (the anus) near the base of the tail, but there will be a second rounded shape (the scrotum) a bit further down than with female kittens. Because the anus and scrotum have a bit of space between them, there will be some fur between them. As a male kitten gets a bit older, their testes will grow larger and be easier to distinguish.

The Connection Between Kitten Coat Color and Gender

According to Carlene Strandell, Director and Founder of Smitten with Kittens, a non-profit, foster-based kitten rescue that operates in Tallahassee, Fla., coat color may help you indicate the sex of the kitten. "Three-colored cats such as calicos and tortoiseshells are usually female." 

Fun fact: calico and tortoiseshell cats are almost always females because those color patterns are caused by sex-linked genes. Similarly, about 3 in 4 orange tabby cats are always male.