Just like all male mammals (including male humans), boy cats do have nipples. Strange, huh? Unlike in female cats, male nipples aren’t hugely useful. They don’t produce milk, nurse kittens, or generally perform any purpose. They are formed very early in fetal development, before the genders of the kittens are determined, but only in female kittens do the mammary glands progress to full development.
Like other male mammals, male cats do have nipples as the nipples are formed before sex determination of the embryo.
Male cat nipples are small, pale, and arranged in pairs along the abdomen, with between four and 10 nipples being normal.
Males can suffer from some mammary-related health conditions, but not commonly.
Read on to learn more about male nipples in cats: what they look like, why they’re formed, and how many there are.
Why Do Male Cats Even Have Nipples?
It’s a good question! Boy cats do not need nipples, so why do they have them?
It all comes back to DNA, and the very earliest developmental stages of a kitten fetus. Nipples are formed on both male and female embryos in the first few days of gestation before the gender is decided. Male and female kittens develop exactly the same for the first few days of development.
Slightly later in gestation, the sex of the kitten is determined, and sex hormones are produced. In males, testosterone is the dominant hormone, and its production halts the development of the mammary glands, leaving them small and underdeveloped, with the nipples as vestigial structures. In females, estrogen and progesterone are dominant, and the mammary tissue is well-developed.
Nipples are therefore present in male cats, although the internal mammary structures are poorly developed and not functional. Males are unable to lactate, and the nipples are unimportant from an evolutionary point of view.
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How Many Nipples Does A Cat Have?
Cats generally give birth to multiple kittens in a litter, and therefore they also have multiple nipples so that the kittens can all nurse together. Cats can have between four to 10 nipples, with six or eight being the most common number, arranged in pairs. The rows of nipples can be found on the underside of the cat, along the abdomen (belly).
Cats can have a varying number of nipples, but it is almost always an even number. Siblings from the same litter can have different numbers of nipples. It is only in very rare circumstances that a cat may have an odd number of nipples!
Male cats have the same variations in of numbers and location of nipples as females. Again, they most commonly have six or eight, arranged along the lower belly in pairs.
Also Read: Single Kitten Syndrome: What Is It?
What Do Male Nipples Look Like?
Male cat nipples are small (only about a quarter of an inch) and usually light pink or white in color—the same color as the cat’s skin. They are often described as looking like a pimple, or a small bump on the skin. They can be difficult to spot, due to their size and because they are often surrounded by dense fur, but if you run a hand along your cat’s belly you might be able to feel small bumps.
Female nipples are also small, pale, and hard to spot. Male and female cat nipples look exactly the same unless the female cat is pregnant or in heat.
In estrus (heat) and pregnancy, the female cat’s nipples change as they prepare for lactation, and nursing the incoming litter of kittens. Pregnant cats’ nipples are larger, darker in color, and become more obvious as a ring of hairless skin appears around them. You can read more about cat pregnancy here. A pregnant cat in the late stages of gestation might leak small amounts of fluid from her nipples as her body prepares for lactation. Male cats never produce milk from their nipples.
Also Read: Cat Giving Birth: What You Need To Know?
Can You Determine A Cat’s Sex From Their Nipples?
No, you cannot tell if a cat is a boy or girl from looking at their nipples. Female and male nipples will look very similar unless the cat is pregnant or in heat, in which case, you probably know their sex!
Differentiating between male and female kittens is best done by examining their genital region. In females, the genital opening is a small vertical slit and is very situated very close to the anus. In boys, the opening is circular and much further away from the anus and is accompanied by testicles, although these can be hard to spot in very young kittens. Check out our guide to sexing kittens for more on this!
Also Read: Early-Age Spaying & Neutering Of Cats
Can Male Cats Get Mastitis Or Mammary Cancer?
Yes, boy cats can suffer from medical problems concerning their mammary area, although this is unusual. Common health issues include mammary tumors and infection from bites or scratches. Some medical problems are solely seen in females, such as mastitis.
Male cats can get infections, inflammation, and abscesses around the nipples and mammary regions. These are usually caused by injuries or fights with other cats which cause external wounds that bacteria can then colonize and cause infections.
Signs include heat, redness, swelling, discharge, and pain. Most infections can be fairly easily treated with antibiotics, but abscesses can be more difficult to manage.
Mammary cancer (breast cancer) is possible in male cats, but less common. Only around 1% of mammary tumors in cats are found in male cats. Signs include swellings, lumps, redness, and ulceration around the mammary glands or nipples. A mammary tumor is more commonly seen in entire (unspayed) female cats and is quite rare in males. Treatment usually involves surgery, possibly with additional therapies such as chemotherapy.
Other Medical Conditions
Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the mammary glands and affects lactating females rather than males. Similarly, feline mammary hypertrophy, where excessive mammary tissues are formed, can only affect male cats who are receiving hormone therapy.
It is a good idea to check your cat over regularly for signs of ill health. This includes running a hand over their body to feel for any swellings, heat, painful areas, or anything else unusual. If you are concerned about a health issue in your cat or have spotted one of the above symptoms, always seek advice from a vet.
Also Read: 10 Subtle Signs Your Cat May Be Sick
Male Cat Nipples: Final Thoughts
Male cats don’t need nipples, but due to the way that kittens develop in the uterus, they still have them. Most males have similar nipples to non-pregnant females: between four and 10, arranged in pairs along the belly. They are small and pale and difficult to spot. Male cats can suffer from mammary cancer and infections, but this is uncommon.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many nipples does a male cat have?
Male cats have between four and 10 nipples, with six or eight most common. The nipples are arranged in pairs along the belly. It is very unusual for cats to have an odd number of nipples.
What do nipples look like on a male cat?
Male cat nipples, just like non-pregnant female cat nipples, are small and pale pink to white in color. They can be difficult to spot as they can be covered in fur, but feel like small bumps on your cat’s belly.