Table of Contents
A round, chubby tummy and swaying belly flap just might be any cat’s most adorable features. And if you’re allotted a brief minute of belly rubs, you might feel little points that you hadn’t realized were there. But if your cat is a boy—could those be … nipples? Do male cats have nipples, and if so, why?
All mammals have nipples, even if they’re male and serve no purpose. So, yes, male cats have nipples and mammary glands. Basically, all cats start with the same parts and don’t differentiate into male or female kittens until a few weeks into embryonic development after parts like the mammary glands and nipples develop.
If you’re wondering if male cats can produce milk and what exactly their nipples look like anyhow (knowing your cat’s anatomy is important), these feline experts share all the breast answers.
Why Do Male Cats Have Nipples?
Male cats have nipples for many of the same reasons as humans, says Dr. Nicole Buote, DVM, DACVS, ACVS, Founding Fellow in Minimally Invasive Surgery and Associate Professor at Cornell University. Male mammals are simply born with nipples—“embryos start out with indifferent or non-gendered reproductive tracts,” Dr. Buote explains. “Then these organs differentiate into male or female after a few weeks due to gene expression.”
In other words, mammals start with all the same parts, including nipples and the framework for milk-producing glands. After a few weeks of development, sex-determining genes kick into gear and either continue developing female parts or stop short of developing “glandular tissue and the necessary hormones” for milk-producing nipples, explains Dr. Steven Fink, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Biology at West Los Angeles College.
Unlike female cats, a male cat’s nipples are not used for nursing and have no function.
Where Are A Male Cat’s Nipples Located?
You’ll find the nipples of a male or female cat dotted along the belly in symmetrical rows. “Cats typically have six pairs of nipples, indicating they typically give birth to six kittens at a time.” Dr. Fink says. However, just as the number of kittens born can vary, so can the number of nipples on a cat.
So, don’t fret if your cat has always had asymmetrical nipples, a nipple without a partner, or if your cat has more or fewer nipples than six. But, if this is something new or you’re not sure what your cat’s nipples looked like at birth, it’s always smart to chat with your vet.
What Do Male Cat Nipples Look Like?
The nipples of a male cat look the same as a female cat unless your female cat had kittens. “If it is an intact cat that has had a litter of kittens, it is possible her glands would be bigger, and the nipples may also be bigger,” Dr. Buote says.
So, if you were wondering if you can determine the sex of a fixed cat or kitten by their nipples, the answer is no. Unless your cat had a litter, the only way to know if your kitten or fixed cat is a boy or a girl is by looking at their genital area.
Do A Cat’s Nipples Ever Go Away?
A cat’s nipples (unless pregnant or nursing) are small and might be covered by fur. So, you may have never noticed them. But your cat’s nipples are there, and they’ll never go away. Your cat also won’t develop more nipples during their lifetime. So, if you notice your cat has one or two more bumps than usual in that area, it’s best to get it checked out by your vet.
Can Male Cats Get Mammary Tumors?
Mammary tumors can be compared to breast cancer in humans. And while rare, male cats can develop mammary tumors. “Cats with mammary tumors usually start grooming the area very frequently,” explains Dr. Faye Forsythe, DVM, Veterinary Surgeon at Royal Veterinary Care.
Mammary tumors in a female or male cat feel like firm masses, lumps, or bumps under the skin of the abdomen near the nipples. According to Dr. Forsythe, mammary tumors are most common in Siamese cats, cats older than ten, and unspayed female cats.
If you feel a lump on your cat’s belly, it’s important to get it checked out right away. Mammary cancer in cats is a serious condition. But the good news is that your vet’s examination and diagnosis could determine the mass is non-cancerous.
Mammary fibroadenomatous hyperplasia
An examination by your vet could determine that the mass is just an increase in the growth of the skin cells—a condition called mammary fibroadenomatous hyperplasia. “It is benign and seen more frequently in younger cats,” Dr. Forsythe explains.
The underlying causes for enlarged nipples vary. So, any signs of swollen or painful nipples should always be examined by a vet. According to Dr. Forsythe, enlarged nipples in male or female cats could indicate:
- Mammary tumors, when accompanied by swollen mammary glands
- An infection, especially if the surrounding area is hot and painful
- Hormonal imbalance
Dr. Forsythe adds that if your cat is female and is not spayed, swollen nipples could be a sign of a false pregnancy. “The cat displays signs of pregnancy, such as swollen mammary tissue and lactation, despite not being pregnant,” she says.
Can Male Cats Produce Milk?
No, male cats (under normal circumstances) can’t produce milk. So, anything with nipples cannot be milked because not all nipples can produce milk. The female cat relies on a hormone called prolactin to stimulate milk production—a hormone male cats don’t readily produce. “The most common reason for a male cat to produce prolactin and, therefore, lactate would be a possible tumor in the pituitary gland,” Dr. Buote says.
Asking questions like, “do male cats have nipples, and do they produce milk?” isn’t silly. Knowing the ins and outs of your cat’s anatomy and functions can help you identify what’s normal and what’s not. And you never know when that will come in handy. So, if you haven’t already, take the time to get familiar with your cat’s nipples—from their shape and size to the number of nipples dotting the belly.