Do Male Cats Have Nipples?

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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.

Quick Overview

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Like other male mammals, male cats do have nipples as the nipples are formed before sex determination of the embryo.

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Male cat nipples are small, pale, and arranged in pairs along the abdomen, with between four and 10 nipples being normal.

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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?

All cats develop nipples very early on in fetal development, before the cat’s gender is even decided.

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.

Also Read: Basepaws Cat DNA Test Review (We Tried It)

How Many Nipples Does A Cat Have?

Individual cats can have different numbers of nipples, but six or eight is most common.

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?

Because a male cat’s nipples serve no function, they are very tiny.

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?

It’s not possible to tell the sex of a cat based on looking at their nipples alone.

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?

cat belly

Though a male’s nipples are non-functional, they can still be affected by mammary diseases.

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.

Infections

ginger cat lying belly up

After cat fights, some cats develop abscesses, which are pockets of infection under the skin.

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.

Also Read: Cat Uterus Infection (Pyometra): Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Mammary Tumors

Although it’s possible for boy cats to develop breast cancer, it’s much more likely to affect female cats.

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.

Also Read: Breast Cancer In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Other Medical Conditions

If you feel lumps or something else unusual on your cat’s body, have them checked over by a veterinarian.

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

As with humans, a male cat has nipples, but they don’t serve any function.

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.

Also Read: How To Tell If A Cat Is Pregnant: Labor Signs, Behavior And Timeline

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.

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About Lizzie Youens, BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS

Lizzie has worked in companion animal practice for over ten years, in a variety of roles from small rural branch surgeries to large hospital environments. She also enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with her young daughters.

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