The best and often easiest way to check if a cat is neutered is to bring him to the veterinarian. If that isn’t an option for you, there are a few signs you can look for. Before you begin, you should assess whether the cat will tolerate you handling them. If you can’t pick him up and place him on a table or your lap, you shouldn’t proceed.
The cat needs to sit still long enough for you to examine them. This whole process will be more manageable if you have a friend to help you. Wash your hands before holding the cat, and if possible, wear gloves.
Physical Signs to Look For
1. Check for ear-tipping
If you’ve picked up a stray or feral cat, you should start by looking at his ears. Feral cats that are trapped, neutered, and released (TNR) will have the top of one ear missing. “Ear-tipping” is the universal sign to inform the community and animal welfare organizations that this is a feral cat that has been neutered.
Some tom cats will have ear injuries due to catfights, but ear-tipping is distinct because it is a straight line across the very top of the ear. The cat’s ear is clipped while under anesthesia during the surgery.
An ear-tipped cat is part of a local feral colony. Some of these cats are cared for and monitored by someone in the community, but they generally roam free.
2. Look for a ‘neuter tattoo’
Some veterinarians will tattoo cats when they’re neutered, and the tattoos are strategically placed for quick visual confirmation. The tattoo is a straight, green line approximately 1.5 centimeters long, and you’ll find the marking on either side of the cat’s scrotum or his lower belly.
You may have to clip or shave the cat’s fur to see the tattoo, which is a process in itself. Unfortunately, not all clinics tattoo neutered cats. One study showed that almost 20% of fixed male cats did not have a neuter tattoo.
3. Feel for testicles
When you lift a male cat’s tail, you will see his anus, scrotum, and penis. A cat’s scrotum looks like two cotton balls. This cat is intact if you can feel either or both testicles inside the scrotum. If the scrotum feels empty, he is most likely neutered.
This method isn’t 100% effective because some cats have cryptorchidism, also known as retained testicles. A cat with this condition has internal testicles that never descended into the scrotum.
Less Reliable Signs That a Cat Is Neutered
Intact male cats share other physical and behavioral traits. While none of these signs can confirm that a cat is neutered, they can help you make an educated guess.
4. Chubby cheeks
Intact male cats have chubbier cheeks, called “stud jowls,” than their neutered counterparts. Elevated testosterone levels can cause the tissue in the cheeks to grow rapidly. Stud jowls can be harder to detect if a cat is furry or chubby.
5. Spraying urine
Unneutered cats will spray to mark their territory. Their urine is quite potent and can destroy your furniture and carpet. However, peeing outside the litterbox can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is not a reliable trait as neutered cats may spray too.
Cats vocalize for many reasons, but intact males have a distinct yowl called “caterwauling.” They make this noise to attract female cats and let other males know that this is their territory. You may notice that caterwauling occurs more often at night and is accompanied by restlessness and pacing.
Each year in the U.S., over 3 million cats end up in shelters. Neutering is crucial for reducing the size of feral colonies, preventing house-cats from escaping, and decreasing the chances of contracting certain contagious illnesses.
The easiest way to tell if a cat is neutered is to bring him to a vet, but if that’s not possible or you need quick confirmation, there are physical signs you can look for. A neutered cat may have a clipped ear, neuter tattoo, or empty scrotum. Other signs that a cat is intact include stud jowls, spraying urine, and caterwauling.
- Related Read: Is Cat Ear Tipping Cruel? Why Is It Done?
Featured Image Credit: Simon Kadula, Shutterstock