If you’ve never owned a male cat, this may be a question that you’ve asked yourself.
Female cats need nipples to feed their babies if they ever have a litter of kittens. But what about male cats? Do they have nipples too? Let’s find out!
Male cats do have nipples
It’s true, all male cats do have nipples. While they might not need them to feed their offspring, male cats are no different from most mammals in that both sexes have nipples.
What do a male cat’s nipples look like?
The nipples on a male cat are small round protuberances. They will be the same color as your cat’s skin in that area.
You may not even notice them unless you’re looking closely. Some owners mistake them for a tick the first time that they spot them, as they can feel just raised enough to warrant further investigation if you happen to feel them as you stroke your cat.
The nipples of male cats look exactly the same as those on a non-pregnant female cat or one that’s never had a litter of kittens. When a female cat is pregnant, her nipples will become much larger as her body prepares to produce milk for her babies. Even after she’s weaned her kittens, her nipples may stay larger than they were before.
How many nipples do male cats have?
All cats, both male and female, have between 4-10 nipples. These can be found on their chests, in two rows. There isn’t an exact number that is normal, so you may find that one of your cats has more or fewer nipples than another.
Most cats will have an even number of nipples, but this isn’t always the case!
On a longhaired cat, you may never notice them because they’ll be well hidden under all that fluff. But on shorthaired cats, they can be easier to see.
Why do male cats have nipples?
That’s a good question and there is indeed a scientific explanation.
As the embryo of a cat is developing inside the uterus of their mother, male and female embryos look almost exactly the same to start with. This means they both develop with nipples. In fact, all male mammals have nipples, even though they serve no future purpose.
The scientific term for this is a “vestigial structure.” Nipples are created first, before the sex of the embryo is determined. In female kittens, the nipple will be connected to the mammary gland, while in male kittens, the presence of testosterone means that while they also have small mammary glands, they will never produce milk.
Evolutionary biologists explain that this is because the genetic “default” for mammals is for them to have nipples. Since there’s no real disadvantage to male mammals, including cats, of having nipples, natural selection has never gotten around to removing nipples on males.
Can male cats get mammary tumors?
Yes, they can. Even though their mammary glands are small and serve no purpose, they can still develop a tumor. This is rare but not unheard of.
If you feel a lump on one or more of your male cat’s nipples, we recommend booking them in for an examination with your vet.
Wrapping it up
Now you know that male cats do indeed have nipples. While the number may vary, these will always be found on their tummies.
Male cats can still suffer from mammary tumors, so it’s worth checking your cat’s tummy every now and again to check that he’s free from any strange swellings around one or more of his nipples.
Were you surprised to find that male cats have nipples? Did you already know that the number can vary between cats? If so, let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock