Have you ever looked at your cat and wondered, “does my cat have a belly button?” This inquiry is along the same lines as the question, “How many nipples do cats have?” It is a fair question. The same logic as to whether or not cats have nipples also applies here – because cats are placental mammals, they do, of course, have a belly button (as they also have nipples). We will talk more in depth about cats and their belly buttons here.
What Does My Cat’s Belly Button Look Like?
The belly button, also called the umbilicus or the navel, is simply a circular scar where the umbilical cord was attached to a kitten’s abdomen when it was born. It is about 5 mm wide and located halfway down the cat’s abdomen. It is below the cat’s ribs and between the nipples. Your cat’s belly button won’t look like a human’s. It isn’t an “innie” or an “outie,” like the human navel can be. This is because the mother cat doesn’t tie the umbilical cord end into a knot like humans do. (If your kitten’s belly button looks like an outie, notify your vet – it could, instead, be an umbilical hernia, or could be infected- see below). Instead, it is smooth, with just a slight indentation to define it.
The cat’s belly button can be hard to find under all that fur. Darker-colored cats’ belly buttons will be more visible than those of lighter-colored cats, where the belly button blends in more with their skin color.
Why Does My Cat Have a Belly Button?
Again, this is simple science. A cat is a placental mammal (a mammal with a placenta). It is also viviparous, meaning the fertilized egg develops inside the body and offspring are born live. The placenta is attached to the mother’s uterine wall, and the umbilical cord attaches to the mother and the fetus. This cord helps to move fetal waste and carbon dioxide away from the developing fetus while helping to supply it with the mother’s blood which contains nutrients, water and oxygen.
Each kitten fetus will have its own placenta and umbilical cord. A litter of four kittens, therefore, will have four placentas (unless two of the fetuses are identical twins, who will therefore share a placenta).
Once the kitten is born, the mother’s uterus expels the placenta. The kitten is still attached to that placenta via the umbilical cord. After the kitten has taken its first breath, the mother cat will sever the umbilical cord with her teeth, or lick the umbilical cord until it detaches from the placenta. The mother cat then eats the placenta. The umbilical stump will remain attached to the kitten. It will dry out and shrivel up, and within about three days, fall off. The small scar where the cord was will become the cat’s belly button.
Potential Problems with a Cat’s Belly Button
As mentioned above, if it looks like your kitten has an “outie” belly button, you should get it checked out by a vet. This could be an umbilical hernia. Umbilical hernias may be complicated (this occurs when intestines or parts of the cat’s umbilical cavity pokes through the umbilical opening/belly button), or uncomplicated (when there is just swelling around the umbilical area with no protrusion of the abdominal cavity through the belly button). Umbilical hernias can be hereditary or the result of trauma. A veterinarian will need to perform surgery on a cat to fix an umbilical hernia.
Facts About Belly Buttons and Reproduction in Cats
Here are some more interesting facts about cats, reproduction, and belly buttons:
- Female cats can reach sexual maturity and get pregnant at just four months of age.
- Cats are seasonal breeders, only entering their reproductive cycle at certain times during the year (usually starts in spring and ends in late autumn).
- Litters of kittens are usually born between April and September.
- Female cats signal to males that they are ready to mate (“in heat”) by becoming noisy and more active, rubbing on things/people and rolling.
- Female cats can be mated by more than one male cat in a short period of time.
- Female cats can be mated by relatives, including their father and brother.
- Mating between cats doesn’t take long.
- Female cats don’t benefit from having a litter of kittens; some never have them (especially if they are spayed early).
- The gestation period for cats (from conception to giving birth) is 58 to 67 days.
- Cats can be safely neutered or spayed as young as eight weeks old, per the ASPCA.
- When your cat exposes her belly to you, that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants you to pet it. She might just be relaxing or trying to cool herself.
- Some cats have curly fur on their bellies, hiding that belly button even further.
- A cat’s soft belly helps to protect its vital organs during a fight with another animal.