I'm a Mr. Meow Meow now!
July 22, 2009 8:03 AM   Subscribe

We found out yesterday my kitten is, in fact, a boy. Now what?

After having him for two months, during which we thought we had a lady kitty, we discovered she was a he.

In addition to being an interesting social experiment, it's raised some questions about our now-male kitty.

1) Do male cats suffer from certain health problems more than females?

2) How will neutering change his behavior? He doesn't spray, so I'm thinking of other things here.

3) Will this make it more difficult to get another kitten? I'm thinking he might be more territorial than the girl we thought we had.

posted by elder18 to Pets & Animals (34 answers total)
My cat was full-grown when I got him, but unneutered. I had him for a few months before he got snipped, and I noticed vanishingly little difference in his behavior (except for the fact that he was no longer trying to hump my wrists).

If that tells you anything, there it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

My experience with male kittens is that you definitely want to get him neutered BEFORE he sprays, as he won't give up on the habit after he learns it. I have found neutered male cats to be wonderfully laid back, and non territorial, but that may just have been my particular experience. I don't know much about the health problems though.
posted by midwestguy at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Health -
Bladder stones and other bladder problems I believe. I think that's about it..

Neuter -
It mellows them out and basically makes them bearable as well as fixing the spraying issue. Hugely important

Depends on the disposition. We've got 1 who's a jackass, and 2 that are pleasant as all hell. Acclimation simply takes more time. The earlier in their life you get them a friend, the better

I much prefer male cats to female. We've had 5, 3 current. I find male cats to be more friendly and overall more fun. They seem to remain playful and exhibit the catty behaviours that I find pleasant.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:08 AM on July 22, 2009

Oh - a blogger somewhere once observed anecdotally that "boy cats sometimes have a deeper streak of 'weird' than girl cats." I wasn't sure what she was getting at at first, but after watching my own boy for 17 years I'm coming to think she's right; fortunately, though, "weird" doesn't seem to translate into obviously destructive behavior, it's more the kind of thing where you walk into the room, find your cat doing something odd, and blink a few times wondering, "do all cats do that?"

(In Zach's case, it was stuff like -- there was one summer when whenever he wanted a nap, he would go out of his way to find one of my shoes, bury his face deep inside of it, and fall asleep. I have no idea what precipiated that.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I suppose one interesting aspect of it is that he now seems more boyish than previously, which must be a total projection on my parts, because obviously his behavior hasn't changed since we though he was a she.
posted by elder18 at 8:17 AM on July 22, 2009

Neutering will make him not-noisy, not-pissing-everywhere, not-clawing-through-metal-screen-doors-to-get-outside. Intact male cats are a drag. (Intact female cats are a drag too, but in different ways.)

I've had a lot of cats in my life (I have five right now, two male, three female) and I've never noticed any huge behavioral differences between neutered males and neutered females. I strongly suspect that based on behavior alone, no-one could distinguish between them, post neutering, and that people who claim they can are projecting (as you suspect yourself of doing.)
posted by buxtonbluecat at 8:20 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've found male cats to be more affectionate, more interested in what I'm doing, more mellow, etc. My male cat sleeps on my bed most of the night and sits on the sofa and watches TV with me when I get home from work, whereas I'm lucky if I even see my female cat. She spends most of her time in the spare bedroom alone.

Perhaps she's plotting something...
posted by elsietheeel at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2009

Male cats are at greater risk for urinary tract blockage (due to their narrow ureetys), so make sure he's always got plenty of water and keep an eye out to see if he's straining when he goes to the litter box. To my knowledge that's the only appreciable difference.

Behaviorally, if they're neutered before sexual maturity, males and females act pretty much the same. The cats I've known have had varying personalities but I haven't noticed any gender-related differences.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:29 AM on July 22, 2009

In my experience, male cats are MUCH bigger assholes than female cats. They like to show off their disconnected scrotums real closeuptoyourfacelike. Certain 14 pound boy cats will stand on your head while you're sleeping. They will lick every inch of available leg and then bathtub after a shower. They will also steal straws from your iced coffee. Even when you're looking. They will take your socks and build a mystical pyramid in the corner.

By comparison, the female cats I've had were completely chill and snuggly lap-curlers.
My boys are assholes.

*pushes asshole boy-cats ass out of my face and off the keyboard for the hundreth time today*
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:29 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

yes, get him snipped before he contemplates spraying.

male cats are more susceptible to bladder stones, because of the smaller urethra. If you cat seems to have this problem, your vet can prescribe a food that is low in magnesium to prevent the urine calcification.


You do have a vet, don't you? They should have told you the sex of the cat...

if you have a vet and they told you your boy cat was a girl, maybe it's time for a new vet. If you don't have a vet, it'd be a good idea to get one, as there are a few vaccines your cat should have.
posted by jrishel at 8:31 AM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, he's been to the vet. I don't think they ever checked for sex as we told them (as we'd been told) that he was a girl. I guess these things can be easy to miss until a certain age, and they never looked that closely.

We're getting him neutered in a couple of weeks (around 18 weeks) so hopefully we beat the spraying train, as that would be a huge drag.
posted by elder18 at 8:36 AM on July 22, 2009

Please get him neutered soon. I was given a one-year-old male cat 10 years ago that was not neutered. He had a habit of spraying. Even after I got him neutered, he still sprayed and defecated outside of the litterbox. It might have been because he was neutered too late.

After 10 years of this behavior (with no medical cause and no success in treating it) I had to have him put to sleep. It was heartbreaking.
posted by Ostara at 8:36 AM on July 22, 2009

You will want to have him neutered because a) you don't want him to start spraying and b) his urine will start to stink. I mean stink in the "oh dear God what is that burn it with fire" sense.

The bladder stones are nothing to sneeze at, and it's not uncommon. I have seven and my youngest male has them and needs to be fed a special diet to prevent them.
posted by crankylex at 8:37 AM on July 22, 2009

This is so common. Happened to me, too - in fact I named then-her Lady Memphis. But then her became he upon a few weeks of observation, and so was renamed Mr. Memphis. There's just difficulty in determining kitty gender in their first few weeks. As much hilarity on Yahoo! Answers attests.

Anyway, I think most of this has been pretty well said, but a neutered boy kitty generally ends up as a very laid back kitty, so usually doesn't create issues with introducing other kitties. But, like said above, do get the neutering done before he sprays, but after he's pretty firmly established his male identity, if that makes any sense.
posted by kingbenny at 8:40 AM on July 22, 2009

I have a boy cat and a girl cat, siblings from the same litter.

girl is mellow, nervous at times, and very shy with affection. She will sleep on my chest at night, but only if there is blanket on said chest, and then only if she gets encouragement and head scritches. She is definitely the more passive one of the pair, though I believe that is sort of unusual. She slinks along quietly and jumps gracefully around the apartment. She is a great cat toy hunter.

boy is another story. he is loud, demanding, kind of a dick at times, and the totally dominant one of the pair. He is the one who makes sure they both get the lazy human to feed them. He will enforce lap time by simply plunking himself on my keyboard as I'm gaming or working. He knocks things down to get my attention. He also is super affectionate and enjoys being spooned at night with copious amounts of belly rubs. He struts around the apartment with his butt up in the air like he owns the place (which, I guess, he does). He also occasionaly does back flips off the wall, just because.

I enjoy them both. Their different personalities go good together.

One of the plus sides is that getting your boy fixed is a much easier procedure than it would be for a girl. I feed mine wet food because of the whole UTI risk. Otherwise they're basically the same, care wise.

Enjoy your boy kitty and I hope he grows up into a nice man cat. Also, pics now.
posted by utsutsu at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you had your kitten spayed already, see your vet. Either a civil suit or an explanation of some really unique anatomy is in order. Seriously though- it might take months or years for spraying to start, but it will. And you don't want it inside your house (obviously) so be meticulous about training him in acceptable behaviours around your house. Can't stress that enough as un-training can be difficult or impossible if you've been lenient in the past.

Please update on the social experiment aspect of his upbringing, I'm interested to see how that'll play out...
posted by variella at 8:53 AM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: It was just interesting to see how I perceived him differently after we discovered he was a boy. He seems more boyish to me now, whereas before I saw him as a lady kitten with a bit of an attitude.

I keep telling him what a big boy he is and things like that, which my wife finds hilarious.
She wanted to keep the name Juliet, to avoid gender constructs (as she put it), but I think Jules is a good name. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned.
posted by elder18 at 9:09 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing, the neutering is preventative regarding behavior. You can say he's fine now and doesn't spray, but if you don't do it, you'll get to learn the hard way.
posted by quarterframer at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2009

As others have mentioned one of the differences with male cats is the whole UTI thing. I didn't know about that until my cat got a really bad one and paid the price in terms of INSANE vet bills. Really, just buy a cat fountain add the extra tank and you don't have to water him for a week. You can be lazy, the cat gets fresh tasty running water - everybody wins!
posted by Craig at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2009

+1 on the urinary tract thing. It probably wouldn't happen until he is older, but a urinary tract blockage is a really serious (imminent death serious) condition for a cat, and will involve catheterization and a vet stay, plus antibiotics for a few weeks and special food forever. So you want to have an idea of what signs to keep an eye out for. Sadly, I know from experience that having a cat fountain doesn't prevent urinary tract blockage, though it is a really good idea anyways, and may make it less likely.
posted by advil at 9:28 AM on July 22, 2009

I find that boy cats who were neutered pre-puberty tend to be lazy, and the fattest cats are usually (but not exclusively) male. Girl cats seem to be more territorial, and I think that they're harder to get to live with each other, but this is really based on a fairly small sample. You should be fine getting another cat.

It's pretty difficult to sex little kittens, especially if they have long hair, so it's probably an innocent mistake. (As you have no doubt noticed, as they get older the difference is unmistakable.)

FWIW, due to circumstances beyond my control, one of my boy cats was neutered at 9 or so months old. He never sprayed, and he has that adult male cat look around his face and neck, so he really did go through puberty. My friend's cat was also neutered late, with the same results. So I wouldn't worry that you're neutering him at 18 weeks old -- that's more than early enough. (Don't take the risk of waiting past about 6 months old.)
posted by jeather at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2009

I submit anecdotally that I've seen and heard of many instances of queens being much worse than toms at accepting a new cat in the household. (You can check some of the many "how do I introduce a new cat?" threads on AskMe.)

You probably won't notice a difference in his behavior by neutering him young. You'd notice a difference if you left him intact.
posted by Zed at 9:38 AM on July 22, 2009

I volunteered at the SPCA for three years. Male cats that are neutered later in life tend to have big ol' heads and jowls -- some of the staff called them "appleheads." This is apparently due to testosterone that settles in their faces, although I'd love to hear independent confirmation of that!

My two male neutered cats are big ol' lazy eunuchs most of the time, but they're 10 and 12 now. They still get the energy to play and tear around, though.

Also, if he's an outdoor kitty at all, you'll be preventing the creation of lots of potentially unwanted kittens.
posted by vickyverky at 10:19 AM on July 22, 2009

And as for the humping: one of my cats still occasionally humps a sheepskin rug we put on his window perch. He goes all cross-eyed and dopey and his little pink lipstick kittycock pokes out alarmingly far. I've never seen him come to fruition on the rug, though.
posted by vickyverky at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Had the same thing happen with my boy kitty Mischa. He spent the first three months of his life as a Molly, then suddenly, um, he developed. He's the first boy cat I've ever had, and yeah, there are health differences.

1) Do male cats suffer from certain health problems more than females?

YES! They get urinary tract blockages more easily than females, and this is painful and can be fatal if untreated. Try to get him to eat canned food from the start, and only feed him that. If he refuses (Mischa won't touch the stuff) feed him high quality kibble from the start - none of that grocery-store stuff.

2) How will neutering change his behavior? He doesn't spray, so I'm thinking of other things here.

From what I've been told, the sooner you neuter him, the smaller the chance that he will spray or hump. Mischa got the snip at 6 months (nowadays they will do it even younger) and has never sprayed or humped in his little kitty life. In fact, I don't think he ever realized that he's a boy :)

3) Will this make it more difficult to get another kitten? I'm thinking he might be more territorial than the girl we thought we had.

When we got another kitten (a girl), Mischa took to her right away and was the perfect gentleman. They were best buddies from the start.
posted by chez shoes at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2009

This thread just illustrates perfectly how diverse and unpredictable cats can be. While someone upthread said that boy cats are more assholish, that's just not been my experience. All my boy cats (I've had three, now down to two) have been so much nicer and more laid back than all my girl cats (have had six, now down to two). The boys never seem to mind a new addition while the girls definitely don't think much of new members of the kitteh family.

My Mikey is a big boy. Huge. Massive. Lazy. Sweetest cat you'll ever meet. Woody is thin, aloof (unless you've just been in the shower - then it's all lovin' all the time), active and inquisitive. Both were neutered at the same age.
posted by cooker girl at 10:34 AM on July 22, 2009

Boy kitties = <3>
Kestine is a big orange ball of LOVE. I swear he is the most easily-pleased kitty in the world, most of the time he's purring before I even pet him. The shelter got him neutered a few weeks before I got him (he was... 5 months at the time he got snipped?) and I've yet to see him spray or do any of that intact-boy-cat stuff... if anything he likes to rub his face on EVERYTHING.

Including me.

ESPECIALLY me. You should see my shirt after a kitty hug... there's this thick layer of orange fur.

I would also keep watch for anal gland irritation, evidenced by butt-dragging. Seems boys are especially prone to that.
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: We feed him dry and wet food, and he drinks plenty of water, which we make sure is always full.

Do the UTIs come from not getting enough hydration?
posted by elder18 at 11:07 AM on July 22, 2009

Cat UTIs are related to insufficient fresh water, poor quality cat food, being overweight, and stress. Have fresh water out all the time. Change the water regularly. Use good quality cat food.
posted by jeather at 11:53 AM on July 22, 2009

Both genders can get UTIs, but urethral blockage (don't scroll down if you don't want to see cat penis catheterization) is a boy cat thing that also results in death or spectacular vet bills, depending on when it's caught.

It's caused by high magnesium in cat food -- aka, the cheap grocery store stuff. Your vet will likely have a brand suggestion.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:52 PM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: I think we use Scientific Diet or something like that. I'll have to check it out.
posted by elder18 at 1:55 PM on July 22, 2009

Have him neutered as early as your vet considers safe.

I have three male cats, two of which were neutered much later in life (all three were rescued by the SPCA, then brought to a no-kill agency called NASAP that I support, then adopted by me). The two neutered later in life exhibit the 'applehead' characteristics that vickyverky talks about. Even though they are now both neutered, keeping their competitive spraying activities in check has been a major challenge and uses up a lot of enzyme cleaner. (I can't really smell the spray smell, although I can see it sometimes, but I found that enzyme cleaner is the only thing that seems to actually eliminate the smell so that the cats don't smell it anymore and compete.)

The main medical risks to neutered males is urinary tract issues (discussed above) and weight gain/diabetes. This is best mitigated by giving them low-carb food without a lot of minerals (wet food is best although my vet recommends I supplement my wet food with t/d or some other "chewing" food to keep their teeth in shape). If your cat doesn't go outside for exercise, you'll also need to exercise him a lot to keep him from gaining weight and getting depressed. My third cat was neutered nice and early and he doesn't spray at all, even when the others have, but he is quite a bit rounder (especially in the winter, when he isn't interested in going outside) and more inclined to overeat.

Behaviourally, all cats, male and female are different. There have been cats around me as long as I can remember and they were each distinct.
posted by Kurichina at 8:54 AM on July 23, 2009

regarding the magnesium, I believe cats need a higher level of magnesium as kittens, but once they reach maturity, the magnesium should be cut way back to prevent the unine calcification that causes all the problems for male cats.
posted by jrishel at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2009

DON'T feed your boycat Science Diet, even if your vet is shilling for it. Check out the several cat food threads on askmefi and buy your kitty Evo Innova ancestral diet. Less shedding, less noxious catpoos, happy kittyurethras! Also consider one of those kitty water fountains...it seems our cats drink more from the inviting freshness of moving water.
posted by Jezebella at 2:02 PM on July 26, 2009

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