Turns out the rescued Baby Kitty Lilly is a Lenny. He’s a boy. It’s not a sex change, it was a mistake, one that is pretty common. It’s very difficult to determine the correct sex of a young kitten. And there’s a lot online that attests to that fact.

Doesn’t she look like a baby Lilly?

The biggest part of Lilly being a boy is finding an appropriate name. As Lenny’s new mom, I wanted to find a name that stuck with the same alliteration as Lilly. I’ve heard kitties respond better to names that end in ee…. Needless to say none of my other cats have names ending in ee, but I find myself calling Lionus –  Liunee, and Clyde –  Clydee.

But let’s stick with Lenny’s story here.

Kimberly, Lilly’s surrogate mom, took great pains in naming Lilly, finding a name that fit her (his) determination to overcome obstacles, and she took great pains to find an appropriate name for a kitty that only days old scurried up to a high, safe place in a wood pile. His three siblings, who stayed below, all perished in the water that had seeped into the wood pile. Mom and dad, both ferals, which were slated for Trap, neuter, return, were nowhere to be seen during the rescue.
This youngster was safe, and Kimberly took her home to join her two cats, three dogs, grandchildren and two other adults.

Kimberly named Lilly soon after her rescue. In a May 28 email, she writes:

  • “Lilly, who was found in a small valley…. Lilly of the valley means : “LILY OF THE VALLEY: Return of happiness, purity of heart, sweetness, tears of the Virgin Mary, you’ve made my life complete, humility, happiness, love’s good fortune.
  • The legend of the lily of the valley is that it sprang from Eve’s tears when she was kicked out of the Garden of Eden. It is also believed that this flower protects gardens from evil spirits. Also known as the flower of May.” (http://marriage.about.com/od/flowers/a/flowermean_2.htm) As you know she was born in May….
  • .And another lists it as “survival of the fittest” (http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-cobuild/lily%20of%20the%20valley)… Maybe this is why when I looked at her the name fit. I found this AFTER she was named. She just looked like a Lilly to me. 🙂 She is now three-weeks-old.”

People with this name tend to be a powerful force to all whose lives they touch. They are capable, charismatic leaders who often undertake large endeavors with great success. They value truth, justice, and discipline, and may be quick-tempered with those who do not. If they fail to develop their potential, they may become impractical and rigid.

I have no problem with the baby kitty being a boy (I have three) because he’s neutered, and no longer has the annoying habits, yowling, spraying, etc., of male cats. But the name adjustment was wrenching. Lily could become a Billy, but I didn’t like the name. What about Willie, and then a co-worker suggested Lenny. It resonated. Lenny  It means The meaning of the name Lenny is ‘Brave lion’, very fitting for a little one that survived against all odds.

The fact the Lilly was a boy was not discovered until he was taken in to be spayed (neutered). Turns out he didn’t weight the needed two-pounds, but that’s another story.

Sexing kittens, especially young ones tend to be a challenge. According to

Lilly is a Lenny.

petplace.com, even the most experienced breeders and veterinarians can have difficulty determining the sex of very young kittens from a few days to a few weeks old.

The internet lists several sources and links to the issue, which is testimony to how difficult it can be.

A basic anatomy lesson is appropriate to know what to look for.  According to petplace.com, kittens are born with two anatomical openings just below the tail. One is the anus and the other one is the genital area. The primary way to tell a female kitten from a male kitten is by comparing the distance between the anal opening and the genital opening.

For male kittens, the space between the anus and the tip of the penis is longer than the space between the anus and the vagina. This extra space allows for the testicles to descend out of the body cavity and into the scrotal sacs later in life. After about four to six weeks of age, one can start to feel the testicles, although they won’t be all that visible. They should feel like small peas in the space between the anus and penis.

That may sound pretty complex. Let’s try to simplify this. The spot on the male should look like a dot. The spot on the female should look like a longer slit. For graphic demonstration go to www.petplace.com or http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/kittengender.aspx.

Next post: Lenny’s story.

Have you ever made a mistake sexing your kitten? Have you ever had to go through the difficulty of finding a name that fits once you’ve settled on one? Do you think we should rename a kitten after determining it’s not the boy or girl you thought it was? Should Lilly have remained Lilly or become Mr. Lilly?  Please share your opinions.

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BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

12 Responses to Baby Kitty Lilly is a Lenny, a common mistake, because sexing young kittens can be tricky

  1. Estelle says:

    I have been living with my Bengal girl kitten, Cleopatra for 8 weeks. She was 9 weeks old when she came home with us and I had my heart set on a girl, and thought I’d gone home with the only girl in the litter, according to the breeder. I paid a lot of money for her and she had a lot of problems when we first got her (ear mites, dihorreah, worms, then a few weeks later, conjunctivitis). My vet has seen her countless times and not said anything otherwise (he even took her temperature- anally) and my partner and I have only just started having our suspicions that she’s a boy because of her increasingly growing ball sack! Which I just presumed was her girl parts! I’m gutted and can’t get used to changing the name, and saying ‘he’ and ‘good boy’. It doesn’t sound right! Obviously we love her/him very much but I’m just a bit gutted to be honest! Her bedroom is full of girl things. The nearest name we have thought of to Cleo is Leo, or Leonidas in full. Our little girl has gone from Egyptian Queen to Greek King. :/

    • BJ says:

      Estelle: I can relate to that because Lilly had to become a Lenny. I think the name change is so hard, and my heart goes out to you. When they are really young, it’s hard to tell if they are a boy or girl, but your vet should have been able to tell if kitty is a boy or girl. Regardless, Bengals are full of energy and will provide you and your partner with endless entertainment. As kitties don’t really care about a he or she (unless mating) I wouldn’t worry about a room full of girl things. The switch from Cleo to Leo would probably be easy. It took awhile to get used to saying Lenny, but it was relatively easy to get used to. You’ll have to share some photos of your new Greek King.

      • Estelle says:

        Thanks so much for your kind reply, I am starting to get my head around it now but still slipping up a lot saying she instead of he, I think it might take a while! I couldn’t work out how to post photos but would love to share some x

  2. I do consider all the concepts you have presented in your post.

    They’re really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for novices. Could you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

    • BJ says:

      Thanks for your response. The problem with blogging or writing for any periodical today is that most people don’t like to read long posts, especially blogs. But thank you for your comment, because Paws takes all comments seriously, and looks to constantly improve posts.

  3. Andrea Dorn says:

    I’ve not been wrong yet (knock on wood) but then I sometimes withhold my determination if I’m not sure. The way I describe “things” is to say that the male is a colon (:) and the female is an upside down exclamation point (!) That usually helps but you’re right, it is difficult with a very young kitten.

    The most recent litters I had were born to feral moms so I wasn’t able to touch them until their eyes were open. Even so I figured out the sex of all but one of them just by intuition. That one was a red tabby so I guessed that it was a “he” but “she” fooled me 🙂

    Enjoy Lenny now that you know more about him!

  4. Lenny’s a cutie, even if he’s a boy!

  5. good info. Lenny is a keeper, just as Lilly was. what a sweetie.

  6. The animal shelter actually called my Lily a Lenny. When I adopted Dahlia, I was told “he” was a 12-week-old male, and “his” name was Blackie (a woefully uncreative name for a black cat, I might add).

    I believed them, until Dahlia showed me her butt about two days later and I said, “Hey! That’s an innie, not an outie!”

    • BJ says:

      Dahlia is a much more distinguished name! Maybe the innie, outie could be the best description on how to know if it’s a girl or boy. I’ll have to remember that one.

  7. Good info and it’s easy to make a error even with some adults.

    • BJ says:

      You know, I remember people trying to figure out if the kitty was a girl or boy even when I was a kid. Guess it hasn’t gotten all that much easier.

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Catpersonable BJ Bangs



At Paws for Reflection, we're serious about cats, writing about cat health, cat rescue and cat news. We delve into why cats are the absolute best soul mates. We spring in a little humor with lots of travel tips, photos and a few feline tales, making Paws for Reflection a must stop for cat information on the cat crazed Internet. BJ is an award-winning blogger/journalist, communications professional and photographer.

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