How to tell?

ryseryse_2004December 17, 2013

There is a feral cat hanging around and I want to know if it is a male or female. (If it would just lift its tail, I would know!) I have been watching it with binoculars. It has now found our cat's food so is eating well. It is quite large which makes me think it is a male but maybe there are other ways to tell.

All of our cats are neutered except for one small crippled male who never leaves the premises. (We can't pick him up so never had him spayed.) If this feral cat is a male, I think our little guy could be in danger.

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Any animal that doesn't belong to your household is a danger to your little guy;
you need to make him an 'inside only' pet.

The way I usually make a first-glance opinion (you can't always tell by the 'lifts its tail' rule; it may be a neutered male):

size of head:
if it's a big, chunky, over-sized head with jowly cheeks, I vote 'tomcat'.

if it swaggers, it's likely a male.

if it shakes its tail & sprays urine on a tree, wall, fence, shrub, that's almost certainly a male.

if it has 3 colors, it *should* be a female.
Calico & tortoiseshell cats are always female, but sometimes I think that cinnamon tabbies, being sort of brown & sort of orange & a little bit black or white, don't really fit into the '3 color' rule.

if it 'calls' & offers its hind end to your male...that's a female in heat.

Regardless of the cat's gender, I my own self would try to catch or trap him/her & either get it vaccinated & neutered/spayed & keep the cat myself, or take the cat to the shelter.

Cats that aren't cared for are often hungry, sick, cold, & stressed out, & they have short lives that often end in violence.

I hope you can keep this little orphan, & I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Sylvia has given you the most common indicators. Large, jowly head; spraying; aggressiveness toward other cats; and color can be indicators of an intact tom. As Sylvia said, calico and tortoiseshell colored cats are *almost* always female. About 75% of orange cats, however, are male.

If the newcomer is an intact (or even neutered) tom, he may, indeed, be quite dangerous to your crippled tom. I would bring the crippled cat inside (crippled cats can not safely live outdoors under even the best of circumstances). If you can't pick up the cripple, borrow a live trap and trap him to bring inside.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 8:56PM
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I would worry about your "little guy" as well, not only from the attack point of view, but also from any contagious disease the visitor might be carrying. Are you sure it's feral and not just a neighboring cat? No one wants the expense of caring for feral cats, but it might be wise to trap it and have it's condition checked out just to protect your other kitties.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Our nearest neighbor is several miles away and says he has never had a solid gray cat with white spot under chin. BTW - we have 3 tortoiseshells (F) 2 solid gray (M/F), 2 'tuxedos' (M/F) and little Spookie - solid black, (M).

Spookie would be very unhappy trapped in the house. He comes in for 10 minutes or so every now and then but then cries to get out. Two of the other cats are his guardians as well as the dogs and they snuggle with him. He is never without a 'bodyguard' outdoors. He has been with us for 3 years now and is very shiny and healthy looking except for his bad leg.

If the big gray is a male, I will shoo him away. Can't afford to have a cat neutered that doesn't become part of the family. If a female and it gets tame, we will have it neutered (if preg., will have them all done).

He hasn't seemed to be openly aggressive but two of the cats are very afraid of him and the dogs bark at him.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 10:39AM
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I doubt shooing him away is going to work. It's winter time and if the cat has managed to find shelter or food on your property then he's probably going to hang around. Plus, I would find it difficult to turn my back on an animal this time of year.......especially if I lived in Zone 5.
Neutering shouldn't be that expensive since vets usually give discounts for feral cats. Are you saying that if it's a female, then you're willing to let her have kittens and then have her and the kittens neutered & spayed? I don't understand the economics in that decision since trapping and having the cat neutered/spayed now will save you $$ in the long run.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 12:18PM
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Having him neutered could well be free. There are lots TNR places all over the US.who trap, neuter and release in an effort to reduce and, eventually, eliminate unwanted cat populations. If you google TNR+ your state, you should be able to find some resources. Or you could contact your local Humane Society. With a couple of the strays we rescued, the Humane Society gave us free spay/neuter certificates for a local vet.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 2:10PM
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The last time we went through this it was very difficult to find a low-rate for neutering. We finally found a place in the city of Chicago (2 hour round trip) that charged $35 ea. We took a mother and four kittens there then had to make the trip the next day to retrieve them. The next time, we weren't willing to spend the gas money or time so had to pay $200 for a stray female.

That has been several years ago, so I will check around. When you live in the middle of nowhere, it is hard to find good deals on many things.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 8:17AM
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Oh, I know what you mean! We are in the boonies too, but there are several local animal groups who've made a big positive difference in this area. It's a shame most vets don't offer reduced rates for those who rescue strays.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 4:35PM
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