Girls v boys – feline myths and misconceptions

Do male and female cats act differently because of their gender? Are generalisations about laid back, lap-loving boys and aloof, independent girls simply myths – or is there any truth to them? Feline experts at veterinary charity PDSA have taken closer look at some of the most common perceptions, comparing myth with reality… Bossy girls vs laid-back boys Myth: Female cats are bossier
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29th April 2020

Do male and female cats act differently because of their gender? Are generalisations about laid back, lap-loving boys and aloof, independent girls simply myths – or is there any truth to them?

Feline experts at veterinary charity PDSA have taken closer look at some of the most common perceptions, comparing myth with reality...

Bossy girls vs laid-back boys

Myth: Female cats are bossier and more demanding, craving attention loud meows. Male cats are more laid-back and relaxed about life.

Reality: This may be true for some, but it really depends on your cat’s personality and life experiences. Certain breeds are naturally noisier than others so will meow for a whole host of reasons, not just when they want attention. And there’s the hormone factor – male cats who haven’t been neutered can sometimes be aggressive to pets and people. Female cats who haven’t been neutered might seek out your attention when they come into heat but may act more independent at other times.

As well as the effect of neutering, Dr Lauren Finka, Research Fellow at University of Lincoln and Feline Welfare Specialist for Battersea, makes another key point – that the way a cat’s personality develops (whether male or female) is down to a complex interaction between the genetics and temperament of the cat’s parents, their own DNA and their experiences during development and in adulthood. 

  • Find out more about different cat personalities here >>

Home girl vs gentleman adventurer

Myth: Male cats wander far and wide but female cats will always stay close to home.

Reality: This really comes down to whether or not your cat’s been neutered. Both male and female cats will roam in search of a mate. If you get your boy neutered, he’ll lose the urge to roam and will be as much of a homebody as any of the girls.

PDSA states: “As well as having loads of health benefits, neutering can help to make your cat calmer and happier. It can help to tackle some bad behaviours that might be linked to your cat’s hormones, like spraying, fighting and roaming far from home.” 

  • Find out more about the benefits of neutering your cat here >>

Wild Toms vs mild moggies

Myth: Boys are fighters and will often get into a tussle with other tomcats. Girls will avoid confrontation where they can.

Reality: Unneutered male cats are much more territorial and will defend their patch if another cat wanders in. This can end up with them getting hurt in fights. However, any cat can get aggressive if they meet a stranger in their territory or are scared. Female cats will stand up for themselves just as much as males and neutered male cats can still get into the occasional scrap

  • Find out more about why territory is so important to cats here >>

Mummy's boy vs ice queens

Myth: Male cats are more affectionate towards humans and bond really well with their owners. Female cats are aloof and, because of their mothering instincts, prefer other cats to humans.

Reality: This usually comes down to your cat’s individual personality. Some are very independent while others are happiest with their humans. Most cats, male and female, prefer to live alone with just their owners for company. Their upbringing plays a massive part in how affectionate they are towards you. If they’ve been socialised since they were a young kitten, they’re more likely to happy and confident with you. Cats that haven’t been handled from a young age can be more cautious around their human housemates.

However, there’s a debate going on here, with some experts believing that there is some truth in the idea that boy cats can be more affectionate than girls. Susan Saffron, author and founder of the National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals, says, in her view: “Male cats are often more friendly than female cats.” While stressing that cat personalities vary widely, she adds: “Many male cats have a cuddly ‘lap cat’ personality. Female cats are often more cautious and may take longer to trust you.”

Rita Reimers, founding owner of a feline health and wellness company, argues that this could be because female cats are hardwired to focus on protecting their young, making them wary of strange people and animals. She notes that female cats remain very territorial and are not likely to share certain spots with others, especially with other females, are often more self-reliant than male cats and are more solitary. If they do have a cat friend, it will usually be a male cat and not a female.

According to Reimers, neutered male cats, on the other hand, 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 and become deeply bonded to a special cat friend who is usually, but not always, another male.

So, what’s the verdict?

It’s likely that every cat guardian will have their own opinion. However, one thing the experts agree on is that the biggest difference is really between neutered and unneutered cats, rather than what sex they are. As to which sex makes the better pet, gender certainly isn’t the most important factor. “There is no ultimate answer to the question of whether male cats are better pets than female ones and vice versa,” says Emily Parker, writing for Catalogical. “Each feline furball is one of a kind. Whether your cat is affectionate, loyal, aggressive, territorial, playful or cooped up, it’s a matter of personality and not gender,” she says.

Veterinary journalist and cat expert Ingrid King agrees. “I personally believe that gender, other than as a personal preference of the guardian, is the least important consideration when it comes to choosing a good match for your resident cat.”

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