Gender identity

I kind of think of myself as feminist and a little above average in terms of rejection of gender stereotypes and acceptance of different interpretations of gender and relationships.  I have six purrmanent resident cats …. three girls … three boys … and I love them all to pieces.

It shouldn’t matter really whether cats coming into rescue are male or female …. so long as we don’t mix unneutered different sexes.  What’s the difference really?  other than a slightly higher cost for neutering if they’re female?

And yet…  And yet …… somehow it feels important to know which they are.   Choosing names is often what forces the issue for me.  Of course several cat names are gender neutral, many aren’t, some I think should be but aren’t.  There’s a whole other blog post I think in the naming of cats.  That aside, are we going to play with them differently or snuggle them differently?   No. Or at least not consciously/intentionally.

In the course of several years of rescue we’ve had a few cats whom we’ve believed to be one gender only to find they’re the other.  Only a handful … but its a strange feeling, and one I can’t quite get my head around.

Little Mogs came to us a few weeks ago.  A lovely pretty little girl.  We’ve had a disproportionate number of little boys recently …. Felix & Fritz, Relish & Raffles,  Merlot, Mr Tiggs & Figgs …. it’s not been intentional but its been marked enough for even the vets to comment.   Then we were asked to take another kit and told she was a little girl.   She seemed a pretty little thing.  We posted her on our facebook page and lots of people said how pretty she was.

She was friendly and affectionate, and after the usual hissy fit introductions to the other cats, settled in quite happily.   As we’d had the lovely Karis staying with us over Xmas and they were both long haired cats, we ended up comparing ….. and something seemed not quite right.

Same cat, different angle.  Just as adorable.  Just as lovely …. and we loved her … but somehow she had a face that reminded us of our Rufus.

A couple of days after she arrived, she was quite itchy scratchy so we put some flea stuff on her. Very shortly afterwards she was unwell, stiff legged, unable to climb into the chair, flopped on the floor. We rushed off to the emergency vets. One of the first things they do of course is listen to their heart/lungs …. and take their temperature …. which led to the surprise sideline diagnosis being that she had testicles! The vet took some bloods, and we each negotiated the tricky pathway of gender re assignment. It was easier for the vet, or at least appeared to be – she was being calm and professional and had only known Mogs for 10 minutes. I, on the other hand, was anxious, and with a poorly cat who had been fine a couple of hours earlier … and indeed supposedly female at that point 😉 She was poorly so I wanted to be close to her and at that point it meant knowing her as I’d always known her, as a little girl.  Equally we’d been unequivocally been told she was a boy, and I think maybe at some level suspected it already.   I was aware of switching back and forth between referring to her as “she” and then “he”.  By the time we came to pay the bill and leave Mogs was clearly a ‘he’.

I think we should have listened to what Flipper was saying at the start … she obviously knew … and empathised since everyone wrongly assumes Flip is a boy.

What changed as a result of this? What should change? Why does it matter? He still looks as lovely as ever … but somehow “pretty” is no longer quite right as a description. Why?   Somehow those good looks now need to be referred to as “handsome”.

Categories: cat, cat rescue, kittens, Sheffield | Leave a comment

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