Yes, this is absolutely a ridiculous sounding topic for an article, but I’m totally okay with that considering I used to be REALLY confused over my male cat Avery’s nipples when we first got him. It’s not that I didn’t think male cats would have any nipples, I just didn’t know there would be so many… and didn’t really realize what I was feeling when I rubbed my cat’s belly and found his.
If you’ve ever wondered about cat nipples before, even for a fleeting moment, this is the article for you; because boy is it a weird topic that does not come up often. 😉
Let’s do this Q & A style, as it’ll help me make sure I don’t forget anything interesting or important!
Tackling an Odd Topic: Cat Nipple Facts!
First: Cats have nipples?
Yes indeed! Female cats use their nipples to feed milk to their young, as many mammals do.
There actually aren’t all that many mammals that don’t have nipples. Monotremes, like the platypus and the echidna, don’t have any; they have milk patches instead. But as I’ve said, these types of animals are rare.
Cats certainly do not fit in with them. Instead, cats fit in with dogs, cows, pigs, monkeys, a slew of other animals, and humans. These mammals all use nipples in the process of feeding their young offspring milk until they are old enough to eat solid foods.
Okay, but – do male cats have nipples?
Yes! All cats have nipples, not just female cats. Just the same way human males have nipples although they do not use them to feed their young, male cats also have nipples. Male cats, like male humans, don’t use their nipples for anything, but they both do have them.
Since they don’t use them – why do male cats have nipples?
In the animal kingdom, if the female of the species has nipples, it’s much more typical to see males with nipples as well, even though the males are not likely to use them in any way.
Thus, in mammals that have nipples, there are actually very few whose males don’t have nipples – rats and horses to name a couple.
The why is stated perfectly by Rob Harris in his article published on the Nest:
[…] Males and females start out developing the same as fetuses. As male DNA kicks in, the male hormones such as testosterone stop the development of some traits — like full sets of mammary glands — and start the development of others, including reproductive organs. Because it doesn’t hurt males to have nipples, most mammals haven’t evolved away from them.
Basically, males and females start out developing in exactly the same way at inception, and then if there happens to be a male component to the DNA, that component blocks specific traits (like the development of full mammary glands/breasts for feeding offspring) from developing.
But nipples aren’t stopped from developing in male mammals like cats and humans. Why? Because they don’t harm a male cat or human to have. If a male had full mammary glands that he wasn’t using, it would be a waste of resources (resources like energy) that could be used elsewhere in the body (like for building muscle or sent to the brain instead). But since nipples take up little to no resources/energy to have and maintain, male DNA doesn’t bother to block them from developing.
If nipples were resource-consuming, male DNA would more likely have evolved to block them from being developed, to conserve those resources that otherwise would’ve been wasted on something that is, for all intents and purposes, useless. Instead, nipples are left to develop, because there isn’t much benefit in the added complication of blocking them from developing, thus having them be gone.
Exactly how many nipples do cats have?
Apparently, this is one of the most common questions about cat nipples asked on the net!
It seems cats have varying numbers of nipples – some with 4, some with 6, and others with 8. Cats can at times have up to 10 nipples, and there are cats that have an odd number of nipples as well!
Based on what I’ve read (a whole bunch of forum threads of people listing how many nipples their own cats have!) it seems that the most common number of nipples for a cat to have is either 6 or 8.
Let me know in the comments section down below if you’ve ever done a count of your own cat’s nipples (yes, I’m aware of how strange that question is!), and how many you found. More than one cat? Do they all have the same number of nipples? Again, very weird thing to be discussing – I acknowledge that – but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever been curious enough to wonder about odd things like this!
Where are a cat’s nipples on their bodies?
You can find cat’s nipples running along either side of their bellies. Usually, a cat will have two rows of four or six nipples, matched up evenly with one on the right and one on the left side. Though again, sometimes cats will have odd numbered nipples, or fewer or more nipples than that.
What do cat nipples feel like?
This is where my confusion arose when I first got Avery. While petting his belly and his chest, I felt something almost like a little pimple one day, and confused I asked Thomas what it was. He informed me that he actually looked it up months previously because he noticed it and didn’t know: turns out it was just nipples!
So that’s essentially how I’d describe the feeling of a cat nipple: like a pimple almost!
Are cat nipples easy to find?
Cat nipples aren’t particularly easy to find since cats (for the most part) are so stinkin’ fluffy! They’re small, but they’re there! Beneath all the fuzz.
What do cat nipples look like?
Honestly, to me they look like pimples, though if you have a better description of them, let me know. Check out this Google search for more images of cat nipples (!!! yes, I’m finding it hard to believe I typed that).
Can you tell if a cat is pregnant by her nipples?
Yes! Cats will have swollen nipples if they are pregnant. That being said…
What do I do if my cat has swollen nipples?
Not every cat with swollen nipples is a pregnant cat (especially if the cat is male!). These are all the health issues there could be if your cat has swollen nipples (sourced from Wag Walking):
- Mastitis (mammary gland infection while lactating)
- Galactostasis (milk collection in mammary gland while weaning)
- Feline Mammary Hypertrophy (benign masses)
- Mammary cancer
- Mammary Hyperplasia (from high levels of progesterone)
And yes, just like with humans, sadly it is possible (however unlikely) for male cats to develop breast cancer.
If your cat has swollen nipples, please take him or her to the vet.
Can you tell if a kitten is male or female by looking at the nipples?
Nope! Because both male and female kittens have nipples, and because gender makes no difference to the number of nipples a cat has, no, you can’t identify a kitten’s gender by nipples.
Time for the Nipple Talk!
Hope I didn’t make that too cringy or strange to read through! I know this is an extremely odd topic but if you have absolutely any questions or comments about cat nipples, the comments are wide open! It may be uncomfortable to ask or respond to them, and if so, don’t leave a real name down below if you don’t want to, but I’d like you to be as comfortable as you can be to open up about your curiosity on such a strange topic, so believe me when I say there will be no judgement here – no matter what your comment! 🙂
Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say on the topic of cat nipples. 😉 Leave any thoughts down below!