What is a Male Cat Called | A Comprehensive Guide

What is a Male Cat Called - closeup image of the right side of the face of a very light grey cat with green eye

by Dr. WL Wilkins, DVM, PhD

Sometimes the most random questions pop into our heads. Sometimes not so random! But even random questions require an answer. 

If you are a cat parent, one question that may have popped into your head is “what is a male cat called” aside from, well, a ‘male cat’? 

In this article, we will explore the answer to that question as well as a few other facts that you might need to know about male cats.

The Basics: What is a Male Cat Called

A male cat is called a tomcat. They are also called “tom”, a shortened form of the word “tomcat”. A tomcat refers specifically to an unneutered or intact male cat.

If your male cat has been neutered, he is no longer considered a tomcat. Neutered, or castrated, tomcats were historically called  “gib” cats, a term harking back as far as medieval times. 

Nowadays, though, the term “gib” is pretty much never used.  “Neutered” cat is the term that we are most familiar with and which is used almost exclusively in present day. 

Origin of the Name “Tomcat”

The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests that the name “tom cat” began to become popular in the late 1700’s, a change which was “probably influenced by Tom the Cat in the popular children’s book “The Life and Adventures of a Cat” (1760)” in which the cat, the book’s main character, was named Tom. Prior to this, male cats were most commonly referred to as “ram cats”.

The name “tom” has also been applied to male animals of other species over the centuries. Today, we still have “tomcats” and “tom turkeys”. At one point, “tom” was also used to refer to promiscuous men, e.g. “tom catting”, but this has fallen out of favor in the last few decades. 

Male Cats in Multilingual Feline

Beyond the English language, male cats have their distinctive names in different languages. Some examples include: 

  • Spanish: Gato macho
  • French: Chat mâle
  • German: Kater, männlicher Katze
  • Italian: Gatto maschio
  • Portuguese: Gato macho
  • Russian: Кот 
  • Dutch: Mannelijke kat
  • Chinese (Mandarin): 公猫 
  • Japanese: オス猫 
  • Korean: 수컷 고양이 
  • Arabic: قط ذكر 
  • Hindi: नर बिल्ली 
  • Swedish: Hankatt
  • Norwegian: Hankatt
  • Danish: Hankat
  • Finnish: Uroskissa
  • Polish: Kocur 
  • Turkish: Erkek kedi

When Does a Kitten Become a Tomcat: Reaching Maturity

A male kitten typically reaches sexual maturity between 4 to 6 months of age, and it’s not just their physical development that changes. You can often tell a male cat has entered this stage by the most tell-tale of signs—spraying. 

“Spraying” is  when a cat urinates on vertical surfaces, such as walls or furniture. This is their way of marking their territory and showing their dominance. This territorial marking behavior is a surefire sign that your little fluffy friend is all grown up. 

Both male and female cats spray, but an intact, sexually mature male cat is the most likely to do so. Not only that, but intact males also have the strongest-smelling urine, which makes the situation all that much worse if they are doing it indoors. 

This behavior might be perfect for the wild or an outdoor setting, but when your home becomes their territory, indoor living with a tomcat can get a little challenging. 

Identifying Maturity: Other Behaviors Displayed by Male Cats

Aside from spraying, young tomcats begin to show a stronger desire to roam. Their natural instinct to wander can lead them far from home, driven by the search for a mate or new territory. This is part of why neutering is often recommended, as it can reduce their urge to roam and the associated risks.

Another sign to watch for is vocalization. You might notice your male cat becomes more vocal, using louder and more frequent meows to communicate – especially during the night. This increase in vocalization is a courtship behavior intended to attract females and announce their presence to other males.

Aggression can also increase as male cats reach sexual maturity. You may observe more confrontational behavior towards other cats, including more frequent and intense play-fighting, which is part practice and part showing dominance. 

​If males remain un-neutered, their physical appearance will start to change as well. Besides being larger than female cats, they start to develop “tomcat cheeks”. This is a noticeable thicker and broader face than what females have, especially in the cheek area.

What is a Male Cat Called - grey and white tomcat outdoors laying on a wood post looking grumpy

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Male Cat

Deciding to bring a male cat into your life is a choice filled with affectionate head bumps and hearty purrs, but it also comes with unique considerations. 

On the plus side, male cats are often lauded for their laid-back and affectionate nature, sometimes becoming loyal companions. They can be quite playful and engaging, offering endless entertainment and genuine companionship.

On the other hand, un-neutered male cats may exhibit behaviors that can be challenging for some pet parents. As mentioned earlier, behaviors such as spraying, roaming, and increased aggression can be more common in tomcats. 

Growing up on a farm, we always had barn cats around. Occasionally a kitten would make their way into the house to become a housecat. However, male kittens never stayed around long as housecats, because once they hit puberty their territorial marking behavior became a problem and mom would promptly kick them back out to the barn. 

To this day, I have never had a male indoor cat, even if neutered. I’ve had (and currently have!) plenty of female cats, but never a male cat. That’s not to say that they don’t make great pets – for the right people. My personal preference is not to having to worry about male cat behavior to begin with.

Neutering: A Responsible Choice for Pet Owners

My decision to to own male cats is a personal one, but to be truthful a neutered male cat is unlikely to give me any more trouble than a female cat. Neutering a male cat is not only a responsible decision for population control, but it also contributes to a healthier, happier pet. 

When a tomcat is neutered, it significantly reduces the likelihood of him engaging in aggressive behaviors such as fighting with other males or wandering far from home, which decreases their risk of injury and illness. Furthermore, it also prevents unwanted litters, thereby easing the burden on local shelters and rescues.

From a behavioral perspective, neutering is beneficial in curbing the urge to spray, leading to a more pleasant environment at home for everyone. The procedure is a routine one, carried out by veterinarians every day with a quick recovery time, so your pet will be back to their playful selves in no time.

An added benefit is that the cost of neutering a male cat are generally far less than the cost of spaying a female cat.  Personal preferences of male vs. female aside, there really is no good reason not to own a neutered male cat, they make just as good pets as do spayed females.

What is a Male Cat Called - studio image of an orange maine coon tomcat laying on a grey surface with a grey background

Summing Up

Whether you bring a male cat into your home as a playful kitten or as a serene, neutered adult, understanding and addressing their behaviors ensures a smooth relationship between you and  your cat.

The decision to neuter, while personal, goes a long way toward the health and happiness of your pet and contributes positively to the overarching welfare of feline friends worldwide. 

Remember, each cat, regardless of gender or breed, brings a unique personality into our lives, and with proper care and attention, they will offer us companionship, comfort, and joy for many years to come. 

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins DVM PhD.

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.