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How Many Nipples Do Cats Have?

Picture of a female cat with kittens

Because cats are mammals, naturally they have nipples. You might be surprising, however, to find out that even male cats have nipples. If you’re a first-time cat owner (or even if you’re not), discovering nipples on your cat might freak you out just a bit. We’ll examine cat nipples further in this post.

How Many Nipples Do Cats Have?

On average, cats have eight nipples. These nipples begin to form during a kitten’s early development, while it is still in its mother’s womb.  Nipples can be found along the underside of a cat’s body, running in two rows from the chest to the stomach.

Of course, not every cat has exactly eight nipples, but most do have an even number of nipples. Kittens from the same litter have been known to each have differing numbers of nipples.

Do Male Cats Have Nipples?

Male cats do, indeed, have nipples, just as all male mammals have them. So if you’ve been petting your kitty named Bernie and suddenly notice nipples, don’t think you need to suddenly change his name to Bernadette. Discovering nipples on a male cat does not warrant a visit to the vet, either.

What Do a Cat’s Nipples Feel Like?

If you’ve never petted a cat before, you might be surprised to be doing so and, all of a sudden, discover its nipples. They feel like pimples, but of course they aren’t. They are simply small protrusions, running in two rows along the right underside and left underside of the cat.

I Can’t Find My Cat’s Nipples! Should I Panic?

Don’t panic if you can’t feel your cat’s nipples! Many cats have thick fur, even on their undersides, which makes finding their nipples difficult. A cat’s nipples may be small, but be certain that they are present, even if you can’t find them. Worrying about a cat’s lack of nipples is not a reason to take your kitty to the vet.

Do a Cat’s Nipples Change During Pregnancy?

When a female cat is pregnant, its nipples will become more swollen. There are other reasons that your cat’s nipples may be swollen, however, including an infected mammary gland, a benign mass in the mammary gland, milk collecting in the mammary gland if she’s a nursing mother, or mammary cancer. If your cat has suddenly developed swollen nipples (and especially if it’s male), please take him or her to the vet.

How and When Do Cats Produce Milk?

Cats can become pregnant even before they are a year old, and will gestate for about two months.  When a female cat is about to give birth, lactation will begin. All of the cat’s nipples will produce milk. Special cells, called cuboidal cells, in the breast alveoli form into clusters. The cuboidal cells will then secrete milk, fill the alveoli, travel to mammary gland ducts, and leave the cat’s body through the nipples when a kitten suckles.

Cats that are not pregnant have even been known to produce milk, under what is called a false or pseudopregnancy. This can occur in male, female, and even spayed cats. Under these conditions, the milk is produced when hormones in the cat’s body are unbalanced. Don’t allow a cat with a pseudopregnancy to pretend to nurse toys or other items, as this will just make the pseudopregnancy go on for a longer duration. If your cat is producing milk but is not pregnant, take him or her to the vet for a thorough checkup. This could indicate various health problems, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.

How Long Will a Cat Nurse Its Kittens?

Cats will nurse their kittens as long as the kittens keep suckling. When a kitten has begun to eat solid food, it’s time to wean it from its mother. The kitten will usually stop nursing on its own, and the milk in the mother cat’s teats will begin to dry up. The mother cat’s nipples will gradually decrease in swelling as the milk dries up over a few weeks.

Can Cats Have Problems With Their Mammary Glands?

The short answer to this question is, yes. Breast cancer, or cancer of the mammary glands, is the third most prevalent type of cancer in felines. And it can occur in both male and female cats (although male cats account for less than one percent of all cases of breast cancer in cats).

Summing Up…

Most cats have an average of eight nipples, although some may have more and some may have a fewer number. Male cats also have nipples. Nipples develop during a kitten’s fetal development. Nipples will become swollen when a cat is pregnant, but may swell for other reasons. If this occurs, take your cat to the veterinarian for a full checkup.

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