If you are sharing your life with a male cat, you might have wondered, from time to time, what they are called. Have you ever heard an older person – perhaps your grandmother – refer to a male cat as a “Tomcat”? Or perhaps you heard her call a male cat a “Gib.” Or a “Sire.” Where did these names originate?
What is a Tomcat?
A tomcat is a sexually mature male cat who has not had his reproductive organs removed (also referred to as an unaltered male cat). The word “tomcat” is thought to have originated in the 1300s. One of the first times it is believed to have been seen in print is in the 1760s, in the book, The Life and Adventures of a Cat, published anonymously. The book’s main character is called Tom. From that time on, male cats have been referred to as “tomcats.” Promiscuous behavior among humans and other mammals has even been referred to as “Tomcatting.”
(Before that book was published, male cats were called “rams” and “boars.”)
Another piece of popular culture that referred to a male cat as a “Tom” is the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”. The male cat in the cartoon is named Tom, and it is also assumed that the name refers to the cat’s gender.
Some of the notorious traits of tomcats include:
- Will fight to obtain a mate
- Less likely to groom themselves
- Wanderers and roamers
- Always looking for a female cat in heat
- Tend to be slightly larger and stockier than female cats, with a thicker neck and heavier head
- May be friendlier and more affectionate to humans than female cats
- Let out a caterwaul call or yowl when they are letting female cats in heat know they are available
- This call is also used to warn other male cats if they cross into their territory
What is a Gib?
A neutered male cat is referred to as a “gib.” A gib is the opposite of a tomcat. Gibs usually have the following traits:
- Less territorial than tomcats
- Prefer staying at home to wandering
- Don’t have the same hormonal fluctuations as tomcats, since they lack reproductive organs
- Are much less aggressive than tomcats
What is a Sire?
A male cat that is kept for breeding purposes is called a “sire,” as it is assumed that the cat will keep siring litters during its lifetime. Another word breeders use to refer to male cats used for breeding purposes is “stud.” A tomcat turns into a sire after he has become a father. This makes sense, as the word sire means “to father” or “to parent.” Male European monarchs have been referred to as sire throughout history.
What Do We Call Young Male Cats?
No matter what their gender, juvenile male cats are called kittens if they are under one year of age. Kittens who are under six months old are called immature cats. Male kittens who are neutered may still be referred to as gibs, and those who are not may be called tomcats. But most cats under a year of age are just referred to as kittens.
How Can I Identify a Tomcat?
A tomcat has a larger separation between the anus and the penis, and will have testicles in the middle. A gib will not have testicles.
Fun Facts and Trivia About Male Cats
- Male cats are more likely to be left-pawed (their left paw is their dominant paw). In a study, 52 percent of male cats showed a left paw preference. 30 percent showed a right paw preference. 16 percent showed no paw preference.
- Male cats, on average, tend to live one to two years less than female cats
- Neutered male cats (gibs) live longer than tomcats. In fact, gibs live 62 percent longer than tomcats.
- When cats do father kittens, they don’t usually display any interest in them
- Siamese sires, however, have shown more affection to their kittens than other breeds, having been known to lay with and groom their young
- Orange tabby cats are usually male (80 percent of them are tomcats). This is because the gene that produces orange fur is on the x chromosome. Female tabbies need two copies of this gene to become orange, while males need only one.
- Male calico cats are rare, making up less than 1 of every 1000 calico cats
- Male calico cats, when they do exist, often have the XXY chromosome, also called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. This will shorten the cat’s lifespan.
- Male Maine Coon cats are huge, and can weigh up to 25 lbs. In fact, a Male Maine Coon holds the Guinness World Record (2019) for the World’s Longest Domestic Cat. He measures 3 feet 11.2 inches, longer than a baseball bat!
- If a male cat is neutered before one year of age, he will not be as large and muscular as a male tomcat
- Tomcats are fertile all year round, unlike female cats who go into “heat.”
- Tomcats who are never neutered usually retain the desire to mate. Even a tomcat as old as 27 years has been known to still have the desire to mate.
- Tomcats will often bite the neck of a female cat they are mating with, to keep her from moving. It does not usually puncture the female cat’s skin.
- Unneutered male kittens at three months of age have been known to mount other unneutered male kittens, especially if no females are around.
- Adult male tomcats have also been known to mount other male tomcats if no females are around.
- Male cats may still spray urine after they are neutered.
- The temperament of a male sire can influence his kittens’ temperament, even if they have never met. It is thought that the genes of the sire can greatly affect the kittens’ personalities and traits.
- Wild male tomcats have been known to kill kittens, even their own kittens. It is thought that they sometimes confuse kittens for prey, or that they kill kittens to reduce competition in their territory. Another potential reason for killing kittens could be that the kittens are not the tomcat’s and he wants to mate with their mother so that she will produce his kittens.
- Male tomcats in the wild (undomesticated) are known to be more solitary than females
- According to the Cat Fanciers Association and Nationwide Pet Insurance, the most popular male cat name in 2021 is Oliver.
- Other popular male cat names in 2021, per Nationwide Pet Insurance, are: