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Male or Female? Identifying Gender of Your Exotic Pets

Updated: Jul 1, 2023



Have you ever found yourself wondering about the gender of your exotic pet? Determining the sex of many small mammals and birds can be challenging. Whether you've recently welcomed a hedgehog into your home or your rabbit has given birth to a litter of adorable bunnies, knowing the gender is crucial for your pet's well-being and to avoid unintended pregnancies. Additionally, satisfying your curiosity may be a factor too.


However, figuring out the sex can be tricky, especially when dealing with small pets that have tiny genitalia. To unravel this mystery, we sought advice from the exotic vet team at Island Vet Bali on how to identify the gender of popular pets.


Is Your Exotic Pet a Male or a Female?


Hedgehogs

The most challenging aspect of determining the sex of a hedgehog is encouraging them to uncurl. Regardless of whether they are male or female, the anus of a hedgehog is located near the base of the tail. In males, the penis is situated approximately 5 to 6 centimeters from the anus and may resemble a belly button. Spotting the penis can be difficult as hedgehogs can retract it into a penial sheath. Unlike males, there is no scrotum in female hedgehogs since their testicles are internal. However, during mating season, some noticeable swelling may occur in the region. To identify females, look for the vulva, which is located about a centimeter away from the anus. Female hedgehogs have a smooth abdomen, and there should be no presence of a "belly button."


Rabbits

To determine the sex of your rabbit, you can gently apply pressure to the genital orifice to expose the genital organs. Starting from around 10-12 weeks of age, when rabbits reach sexual maturity, the testicles of a male rabbit will descend and become visible (Note: Neutered rabbits will not have visible testicles). A male rabbit will have a round and protruding penis with a rounded urethral opening. On the other hand, in female rabbits, the vulva will appear elongated with a slit-like opening. Some female rabbits may also develop a dewlap, which is a fold of loose skin hanging from the throat or neck, serving as a secondary sex characteristic.


Guinea Pig

When determining the sex of a guinea pig, there's a helpful tip to keep in mind. The male guinea pig's genitalia has a resemblance to a lowercase 'i,' while the female guinea pig's genitalia resembles a 'Y.' Both male and female guinea pigs possess a perineal sac around their anus and sex organs. In female guinea pigs, known as sows, the vulva has a 'Y' shape at its opening. If pressure is applied above the vulva, towards the belly, nothing will emerge. On the other hand, male guinea pigs, referred to as boars, have a short distance between the anus and the penis. The penis appears as a straight line leading to a dot. Applying gentle pressure above the genitals can cause the penis to protrude and make the testes more visible.

Ferret

In most cases, ferrets sold at pet stores are already spayed or neutered and de-scented by the time they reach 4 weeks of age. An intact female ferret is called a "Jill" and will have a smooth abdomen, as the vulva is located near the anus. On the other hand, intact males are referred to as "Hob" or "Jack." The penis in male ferrets is positioned further away from the anus and can sometimes be mistaken for a belly button. If a male ferret has been neutered, the testicles will not be visible.


Chinchilla

To determine the sex of your chinchilla, begin by examining the genital area. In males, there is a noticeable, hairless gap between the anus and the penile cone. You can apply gentle pressure around the penile cone to carefully expose the penis from the sheath. During this process, check for any fur, hair, or string-like material that may be wrapped around the penis. By observing closely, you can also identify the scrotum, testicles, and penile cone.

In female chinchillas, there are two genital orifices, with a slit located between the urethral cone and the anus.

Knowing the sex of your chinchilla is crucial for health reasons. Male chinchillas commonly experience a condition called "fur-rings," where hair becomes wrapped around the penis. This can cause extreme pain, urinary retention, and circulation loss. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.


Sexing Parrots, Budgies and Other Birds


Here's a foolproof trick to determine the sex of your pet bird: If your bird lays eggs, it is undoubtedly a female. However, for birds that do not lay eggs, identifying their sex can be challenging. In fact, the use of endoscopy in avian medicine was first introduced in 1953 to determine the sex of monomorphic bird species.


Monomorphic birds refer to species where the male and female have a similar appearance. Only around 25% of parrot species are dimorphic, meaning that the males and females have distinct visual differences. For instance, in Eclectus parrots, males are green while females are red and blue. However, for the remaining 75% of parrot species and many other birds, a DNA test is required to determine their sex. An avian veterinarian will typically obtain a small blood sample through venipuncture for this purpose.


While some individuals may claim that observing behavior can help determine the sex of a pet bird, it is not a reliable method for sexing your bird. Relying on behavior alone may lead to inaccurate conclusions.


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