Getting a new kitten is incredibly exciting. There is so much to think about. You need to decide whether you want a pedigree kitten or a moggie, and if a pedigree kitten, what breed you would like to own. Then you may have views on the kitten's colour, and on whether you want a long haired kitten or a short haired one. All these factors may influence where you plan to get your kitten from, ie from a breeder, a rescue organisation, or elsewhere. Of course, the gender of the kitten often plays an important part in this decision making process. So when it comes to kittens, what are the differences between the genders, and how much difference does it actually make?
Many people feel that male kittens are more friendly and affectionate. There is no real evidence for this, but they may be basing it on kittens they have had in the past, or sometimes on what they have heard. So they decide that they really want a male kitten.
However, the term 'male' includes both entire kittens and neutered ones, and there are big differences between the two. When a male kitten reaches puberty at about six months, his hormones kick in, and his behaviour changes in a number of ways. Entire males are more likely to fight with other male cats, and they often become injured in such fights. They tend to have large territories, and may wander a lot, both defending their territory and looking for females to mate with. They will also spray incredibly smelly urine, both to attract potential mates and warn off potential rivals, which is not very nice for owners if they do it in or near the house. They are also likely to be aggressive generally, and not so affectionate towards their owners.
All this means that if you do not neuter your male kitten he may not make an especially good pet. But once you neuter him, then all these unsatisfactory behaviours disappear. He will most likely remain at home, be much more friendly, and also a far happier cat. Neutered males do spray occasionally, but it is usually in response to stress, and it is not very common.
Female kittens are often perceived as being more independent and aloof than the males. Tortie kittens have the added complication of often being thought to be feisty and badly behaved – the 'naughty torties' we hear about. But just as with male kittens, there is a world of difference between entire kittens and those which have been spayed – the term used for neutering female kittens. Female kittens can reach sexual maturity very young, at round four months sometimes. At this time your kitten's behaviour will not change as dramatically as that of the males, but she will start to 'call' when she comes into season. This means she will yowl loudly, a sound which can be quite worrying for an owner if they do not know what is happening. She may also start wandering off looking for a mate. She will be very restless, and is highly likely to get pregnant, and maybe have kittens when she is still only about six months old, and often too young to be able to care for them properly.
Therefore, just as for male kittens, it is a good idea to have your female kitten spayed before she reaches this point. When you do this, she will calm down and become a much more friendly and affectionate pet, probably as affectionate as any of the males.
So when you have had your kitten neutered, which makes the best pet? Actually, most authorities agree that there is little or no difference. It is purely anecdotal that male kittens are more friendly; it is not likely to be the case in reality. Of course cats vary, and all individuals are different. But you are just as likely to see an affectionate female as a male. So unless you are planning to breed from your kitten, it should not make any difference when you are choosing which one to get.
Gender is just one thing which can affect a cart's personality, and as explained, it will do so far less than you might expect, if at all. But there are many other things which will make quite a large difference. Some breeds are known for being more laid back and affectionate than others, for example the British Shorthair, Ragdoll, and Maine Coon. So if you are buying a pedigree kitten, do your research carefully to find one which has a personality which suits you. The kitten's background can make a great difference too. Early socialisation is very important if you want to have a friendly kitten. Feral kittens will need careful handling, and although you may be able to socialise some of them, this is not always possible, and some may remain aloof and rather wild into adulthood. The environment you provide for your kitten may make a difference – if an indoor kitten does not get enough stimulation, he may become restless, while some outdoor kittens enjoy the outdoors so much that they are reluctant to come home. But near in mind that all these behaviours will change as the kitten matures. Many cats calm down with age, and older cats may become much better pets than they were in their youth.
So it really does not matter much whether you get a male or a female kitten. Once it has been neutered, it will with luck be a friendly and calm cat, whichever gender it is. And other factors play a much bigger part in the kitten's eventual personality. Most owners who have both male and female cats find that there is no real difference, although obviously individual cats may vary quite a lot. So the best thing is to find a kitten which you like, bring it home, and don't worry too much about its gender. And enjoy your new addition to the family!