Do cats like opposite gender?
Can Cats Tell The Difference Between Male And Female Humans?
Cats have lived alongside humans for thousands of years before becoming domesticated pets. As descendants of the African wildcat, cats have since evolved to rely on humans for survival. We’ve always been fascinated by whether cats can tell men and women apart and if they prefer a certain gender.
It’s unlikely that cats can tell the difference between men and women. Cats don’t see us as humans, just large and clumsy cats. Most cats adopt us as mothers, regardless of gender, and display the same behaviors around us as they do around other cats. Cats can sense human hormones, including pregnancy hormones and pheromones, but they use them to determine information about our mood, not our sex.
While more studies are needed to provide a concrete answer, it’s clear that cats form strong bonds with both men and women. Cats respond to positive behaviors, and any human that shows generosity and kindness is likely to receive the same positive reaction from cats.
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Can Cats Tell Human Gender?
Studies suggest that cats can’t tell human faces apart from vision alone.
As reported by the Journal of Vision, 12 domestic cats were assigned a human handler, who worked with the animal for 2 hours a day for 6 months. As part of their training, the cats had to choose between 2 images to earn a reward.
While cats didn’t have any difficulty recognizing animals they lived with, they only recognized humans 54.5% of the time. This suggests that cats can’t tell gender by just looking at faces.
Instead, they require other stimuli to tell men and women apart, such as sounds and smells.
Can Cats Smell Human Scents and Hormones?
A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than that of humans. Cats have 200 million odor senses in their nose, allowing them to sense a range of human hormones and pheromones, including pregnancy chemicals and menstruation.
Understanding whether cats can smell human pheromones and hormones is crucial to ascertaining whether cats can recognize human gender. Cats can smell the following:
Pregnancy is a process that only women go through. Can cats sense that a woman is pregnant? Cats are highly intuitive, and some experts believe that cats can sense pregnancy before an expectant mother knows.
However, it’s more likely that a cat’s powerful sense of smell can sense the progesterone, human chorionic gonadotrophin hormones, and estrogen that a woman’s body produces. These hormone changes can also affect the way you smell, which cats can detect almost immediately.
Of course, it’s not just hormones that cats can sense. A woman’s body heats up during pregnancy, so a cat may rub up against her to get warm and cozy. Cats will often become affectionate towards pregnant women. This may be because they can detect the child’s faint heartbeat, but it’s usually because they want somewhere warm and comfortable to rest.
Some cats pick up on behavior or mood changes. As pregnant women sleep more often, a cat will often curl up with them during pregnancy naps; an effective bonding tool for cats and humans. Cats will become wary of a women’s sad or unhappy moods during pregnancy and give their owners a wide berth.
While it’s not entirely clear whether a cat can tell the difference between a man and woman because of these pregnancy hormones, it’s clear they do recognize what makes a pregnant woman unique.
Pheromones are natural chemicals that secrete from the body. They have no smell, but they act like hormones to provoke a social response from animals of the same species.
While some cats can sniff out human pheromones, they can’t always tell what to do with the information. Human pheromones have little effect on felines, but intelligent cats can use the signals that humans are giving off to determine what a human might be feeling – whether that’s happy, sad, or fearful.
It’s widely thought that pheromones aren’t particularly useful for cats when recognizing a human’s gender, although they are useful in determining their mood. Cats use pheromones to sense fear or adrenaline in humans. This allows cats to tread with caution around their owners if they’re in a bad mood or go ahead and ask for attention.
Some cats are prone to sniffing a human’s crotch area. While this is relatively uncommon, they’re sniffing out the apocrine glands. These glands are located in the crotch area and armpits and release information about age, sex, and mood in humans.
Women who are menstruating or have recently given birth will emit distinctive pheromones that attract cats. So, when your cat sniffs your crotch, it doesn’t mean any disrespect. It is merely trying to examine your scent messages to find out more about you.
Human ovulation and pregnancy are effective ways for cats to distinguish a woman from a man. However, once again, cats can’t necessarily understand the difference between them.
Cats can detect when a woman is menstruating by sniffing for odor and hormone levels. Many cats will sniff a woman’s crotch area when she is on her period, but cats are more likely to respect a human’s personal space than other animals.
Cats can also pick up on a woman’s mood changes when she is in her menstruation cycle. Some cats will react positively to these changes, while others may seek some space from their owner.
However, menstruation isn’t a big deal to cats, and they don’t understand the concept. Most other mammals do not menstruate, so cats have no experience of this process. What cats do understand is that something is going on inside the uterus that they can’t see.
As curious creatures, they will use their advanced sense of smell to investigate further. Cats cannot use menstruation to tell women apart from men.
Men have 7-8 times more testosterone in their bodies than women do. While studies have shown that cats can smell when women are menstruating, there’s virtually no evidence suggesting they can smell male testosterone.
Therefore, we have to assume that testosterone doesn’t help a cat distinguish between men and women. Even though cats can recognize hormones exclusive to a specific gender, cats can’t tell the difference between a male and a female human. It means absolutely nothing to them.
While more research needs to be done, cats behave the same way to men and women as they do to other cats, suggesting that cats see humans as their own kin.
Can Cats Tell Men and Women Apart Through Sound?
Cats struggle to differentiate between humans by sight but can use sound to tell men and women apart.
A study conducted by Japanese researchers found that cats reacted strongly to their owners’ voices after being played recordings of their owners and strangers calling their names. While this highlights cats’ intelligence, it doesn’t imply that cats tell the difference between men and women.
What is known is that cats prefer higher-pitched sounds. Children respond to the soothing sound of a woman’s voice, and the same applies to cats. High-pitched sounds provide a cat with comfort and affection, whereas a man’s deep voice is often mistaken for anger or displeasure.
Women use more sounds to interact with their cats and do so more frequently than men. This is mainly because women have strong motherly instincts to care and nurture and are more likely to soothe their cats with sounds. Therefore, cats that enjoy affection and attention are drawn to women, creating the illusion that cats recognize their female owners because of their gender.
Some cats are afraid of men’s low-pitched voices and will avoid male company as a result. It’s common for humans to say, “my cat doesn’t like men,” but it’s not necessarily the male gender that cats don’t like. It’s the familiar sound or behavioral trait that reminds the affected cat of its traumatic past, particularly if a male mistreated the cat.
Humans love to categorize, but cats are simpler and use their instincts to protect themselves from sounds that signify danger. Cats want to survive while ensuring they receive food and affection when they need it.
Do Cats Prefer Men or Women?
Cats attach to humans as social partners, not just owners, and are looking to connect emotionally with their owners. According to a recent study, cats build closer bonds with women. This is mostly because women interact with their cats more frequently than men do. They also vocalize more often than men.
Researchers videotaped 41 cats and their owners during the study, monitoring their interactions and personalities during four different periods. What they found was that cats and owners influenced each other’s behaviors. Extroverted women were more likely to respond to subtle cues made by their cats to get attention, including small tail movements.
In turn, cats remembered the kindness given to them by their female owners and returned the favor with warmth and loyalty. As a result of the fondness shown, the cats studied approached women more often than men and initiated contact with them more frequently.
That’s not to say that cats don’t love their male owners. Your cat’s preference will come down to its personality – some animals will only respond to men. Cats that have been handled from a young age are more likely to develop close bonds with humans. Cats that haven’t are warier about the company that they keep.
Do Cats See All Humans As Mothers?
Cats view us as giant cats, not humans. Cats don’t adjust their behavior when they are around us. They purr, rub against our legs, and groom us with their tongues. This is what cats do to each other, and these behaviors suggest that cats don’t even see us as human, let alone male or female.
There are certain behaviors cats use towards humans that they would towards their mothers. The most notable is when a cat kneads your body with its paws. Study.com explains that kittens knead their mother’s breast tissue to release milk. This behavior carries over into adulthood because cats associate kneading with something good. They also view both male and female humans as their surrogate mothers.
A study published in Current Biology found that cats displayed attachment behaviors towards their owners, similar to those that babies and dogs show. These findings further suggest that humans adopt the mother role – cats can see human gender.
Cats are biologically able to tell the difference between men and women based on their scents, sounds, and visual appearance, to an extent. Cats can’t use this information to tell if they are interacting with a man or woman.
I’m Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I’m experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I’m a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.
The Differences Between Male and Female Cats
What are the differences between male and female cats — and should these differences affect whether you adopt a boy or girl kitty?
- By Rita Reimers
- , February 13, 2019
Over the many years I’ve spent working at various adoption events, I occasionally heard people voice preferences for adopting one sex over another. I never thought too deeply about gender-specific behavior differences among cats until a recent experience with a client. So, what are the differences between male and female cats? Let’s take a closer look.
Why might someone think about the differences between male and female cats?
Since she knows I am connected with many local rescues, one of our clients at Just For Cats told me she was looking for a new kitty to adopt. One of her boy cats had passed away, and she wanted to adopt a new pal for her remaining orange boy. I knew of a young orange female who was available for adoption, but my client said she really wanted another boy. After thinking about my own cat household, her reasoning became clear, as you’ll see.
For me, I always took in the kitties who needed a home fast because they were in dire straits or the ones who chose me at an adoption event and wouldn’t let go of me (I have been chosen plenty of times, lucky for me!). But undeniably, there are some behavior differences between male and female cats in general.
Living in my private 20-cat rescue, coupled with over 15 years’ worth of both rescue experience and working with thousands of kitties in other people’s homes, I have been given some pretty clear insight into the behaviors of many cats, male and female alike.
All about male cats
There are some basic differences between male and female cats that are largely centered around their hormones. For example, an intact male cat has a very strong urge to reproduce. Male cats have been known to literally break screens to get out (or in!) in order to accomplish their mission when there is a female around who is in heat. They are basically slaves to the mating drive.
Some behavior tendencies for unneutered males include:
- Not wanting to stay indoors
- Marking (spraying)
- Fighting with rival males
After a male cat is neutered, his tendency to roam and wander will greatly diminish, as will his need to fight and mark territory. Neutered males may still engage one another in territory matches, but these will usually be disagreements, not actual fights.
Neutered male cats tend to:
- Be more loving and accepting of other cats of both sexes
- Engage in horseplay with their male cat friends and with their people
- Cuddle with both male and female cats
- Mark less, although some will spray when feeling threatened or insecure
- Become deeply bonded to a special cat friend who is usually, but not always, another male. My Boo-Boo and Dash boys are so bonded, they cuddle and “nurse” one another quite often even though they are both fully grown.
All about female cats
Intact females, on the other hand, express their hormones a little differently. They tend to become very affectionate, purr and roll around, exposing their tummies, wanting to be petted and loved. She may even “present” herself to you, as she would to a male suitor.
Female cats in heat also vocalize more, in order to attract a mate. They generally tolerate more handling when they are in heat, but can also become sexually frustrated and somewhat aggressive. I once had a cat who could not be spayed due to a severe heart murmur. Sometimes she would become so agitated when she was in heat that she would attack my head in the middle of the night, one time narrowly missing my eye!
Some behavior tendencies for unneutered females include:
- Loud vocalization
- The desire to be handled and petted more
- Marking their territory with face marking and sometimes spraying
- Running off rival females from their territory
Once the female is spayed, she will no longer go into heat, so the loud caterwauling and hormonal presentations will cease. She may not want to be handled quite as much but will still be affectionate toward other male cats and her chosen people. She may even be somewhat maternal to young kittens, regardless of whether she’s had her own litter or not. That maternal drive seems to stay in place for most females.
Spayed female cats tend to:
- Be a little wary of strange people and animals, which makes sense when you think of her role in the cat family as mom, protector of the young
- Not enjoy rough play, like their male counterparts do; but they do like to play
- Cuddle with a male cat, especially if related, but it is rare to see two female cats cuddling
- Remain very territorial and not likely to share certain spots with others, especially with other females
- Be more self-reliant than male cats, and they don’t always have a special cat buddy; they are more solitary.
- If they do have a cat friend, it will usually be a male cat and not a female (although my Smoochy and Picasso are proving me wrong right this moment, as they are bathing each other — which is a very rare occurrence!)
Some final insights on the differences between male and female cats
As far as bonding well with people, both male and female cats will bond with their humans equally well. I can tell you that firsthand; my girl kitties love me and snuggle with me just as much as my boy cats. My boys will share me and jump on my lap together or play a game with me at the same time. The girls, however, are not into sharing and will get upset if another cat tries to horn in when we’re cuddling or playing.
My tiny cat, Smoochy, has my big male cat, Oliver, scared of her because she would loudly scold him whenever he tried join us on the sofa. So now he won’t come near me if she is on my lap or sitting next to me. She’s never hurt him, but she’s made it quite clear that she is in charge and he is unwelcome. Yes, the female cats most definitely rule the roost.
Did I make your decision harder or easier? Only you can decide if the differences between male and female cats should be a deciding factor when you are adopting a cat or kitten. I guarantee you will fall in love with the right cat, no matter the gender. Either way you choose, you’ll have a wonderful feline friend for life when you add a cat to your family.
Thumbnail: Photography ©insonnia | Getty Images.
About the author
Devoting her entire life to cats, Rita Reimers is founding owner of JFCATS.com, a feline health and wellness company. JFCATS has been providing cat behavior services and cats-only pet-sitting for the last 15 years. Rita and her business partner, Linda Hall, are also starting a line of USA-made cat toys and bedding called Gracie & Esther. You can reach Rita directly on Facebook and Twitter @TheCatAnalyst and on Instagram @RitaReimersTheCatAnalyst.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Read more about cat health on Catster.com:
- Cat Wheezing: What Is It, Why Does It Happen and Should You See a Vet?
- Help! My Cat’s Breath Stinks
- The Causes of Ascites in Cats (A.K.A. Abdominal Fluid Buildup in Cats)
- Tags: Behavior, Catster Magazine, Health & Care
Rita Reimers and Linda Hall are co-founders of The Cat Behavior Alliance, offering a unique Duo-Approach to cat behavior correction. Visit them at CatBehaviorAlliance.com for more information. You can also find Rita and Linda on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok @CatBehaviorAlliance.
How to Tell Cat Gender by Face
It can be tricky to tell the difference between male and female cats without peeking under the hood, as it were. Sometimes you don’t have an opportunity to sex a cat by looking at the genitals.
Although it’s not an exact science, its possible to tell the difference between male and female cats by other means.
Cats exhibit a degree of sexual dimorphism, with this being more or less pronounced in different breeds. Females tend to be smaller than males.
Perhaps most distinctive, though, are the facial differences between male and female cats. With practice, you can often distinguish between the sexes.
How to tell cat gender by face: Male cats tend to have a more rounded, fuller face than females. The cheek pads on a male cat develop more, especially in an entire male, giving these cats a jowly look. Female cats tend to have a few narrower face with a more delicate muzzle.
You’ve landed on this page because you want to learn how to distinguish between male and female cats. Perhaps you can’t get near enough to perform a genital inspection. Maybe the cat is a stray and won’t let you get close, or perhaps you’re curious about a neighbour’s pet.
Maybe you spotted a kitty in the shelter and you’re thinking of adopting. Keep reading to find out all the answers: how to tell a cat’s sex from the face, and from other characteristics. This article has all the information that you’re looking for.
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How to Tell Cat Gender by Face (boy cat vs girl cat)
The only really accurate way to know if you have a male or a female cat is to look at the cat’s genitals and make your deduction based on these. In some cases, however, this isn’t possible. You can make a very good guess at a cat’s sex by studying the animal’s face.
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Note that this only applies to cats that have outgrown the kitten stage and begun to develop their adult characteristics.
When they’re born, male and female kittens are virtually indistinguishable; they can really only be sexed by examining the genitals, and even then this can be tricky for the lay cat owner.
The male cat’s face tends to be heavier and more jowly than the female’s. Overall, he’ll look somewhat less delicate and defined.
Male cats tend to have a larger muzzle, with broader nose wings. Their foreheads tend to be larger and broader, and they often have blockier cheekbones than their sisters.
The whisker pads are usually more pronounced, although this will depend to a large part on whether and when the animal was de-sexed.
A male cat who was neutered at an early stage in his development will have a much less “masculine” look than one who was neutered well into adulthood, or who is still entire.
Female cats don’t undergo such pronounced facial changes during feline puberty. Their faces tend to be more pointed and narrower than the male’s, with a more slender muzzle and smaller whisker-pads.
Their foreheads are less broad and their overall appearance less blocky.
Cats are fairly diverse in terms of their appearance and build, especially between different breeds. For example, a Siamese male who was neutered at a young age might look closer to the stereotypical female cat template than a female British Shorthair.
For this and other reasons, a cat’s facial features should only be used as a guide to the cat’s probable sex rather than a definitive indicator of whether the cat is female or male.
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In the next section, you’ll learn about other physical characteristics that can indicate a cat’s sex.
Other Physical Characteristics
There are some other physical characteristics that can give a good indication of an adult cat’s sex. One of these is colouration. While some colours are found in both males and females in the same percentages, others are not.
Tortoiseshell and calico cats are nearly always female. These cats have fur that’s a mixture of many different colours, either blended together as in the tortoiseshell or in distinct patches (calico).
The mutations that cause this colourations are carried on the X chromosome and require two X chromosomes to manifest. In very rare cases, a cat with XXY chromosomes may be born with tortoiseshell or calico colours.
Such cats are technically intersex, but may present with male anatomy. These special little guys are one in several thousand.
Size is another indicator. In general, male cats are bigger and stockier than females. They tend to have broader shoulders and sturdier limbs. They may also be significantly heavier.
Dimorphism in some breeds is very pronounced; a fully grown male British Shorthair, for example, may end up half-again as big as his sister.
Note that the size difference between breeds is often significant. A male Devon Rex or Balinese cat may be smaller than a female Norwegian Forest Cat.
Gender and Behaviour
A cat’s gender may also influence behaviour. Entire male cats can be more aggressive, with a tendency to spray their surroundings. They are more inclined to escape and roam around, sometimes disappearing for long periods.
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Females who haven’t been spayed will eventually go into heat, which leads them to act out in various ways. They will often try to escape more, especially if there are male cat around.
They will vocalise more, giving wailing and mournful cries. These pained yowls attract toms but can be quite disturbing for humans.
The cat may crouch in a receptive posture and may lift her tail. She may rub up against people and objects more often. Cats in heat can become more destructive and aggressive, as this is a stressful experience for a female.
There may also be a clear discharge from the vulva — but if you’re close enough to observe this, you already know the cat’s sex.
Pregnancy is another giveaway of a cat’s sex. If you see a cat with a low-hanging, distended belly and swollen nipples, it’s very likely that you’re looking at a pregnant female.
Some cats with severe internal parasites can also have distended abdomens, but these will not have the more pronounced nipples of a female cat who’s expecting a litter.
Sexing Cats Based on Genitals
The only really reliable way to determine a cat’s sex is to look at the genitals. This is easier in older cats. In very young kittens, the males and females can be quite hard to distinguish if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
To see the cat’s genitals, you’ll need to gently lift up the tail. If the cat is relaxed and amenable to being handled, this is easy enough. It’s a good idea to sit down with the cat on your lap, so you won’t drop the animal if things don’t go well.