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Pregnant Cat Nipples vs. Normal: What Are the Differences?

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Vet, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Both male and female cats have nipples, but the female’s nipples will change during and after pregnancy to accommodate the nutritional needs of her little ones. After all, those nipples must be ready to feed several kittens at the same time. Changes in a female’s nipples can be a big sign that she has become pregnant, so it’s a good idea to know the differences between normal and pregnancy nipples.

Understanding the differences will make it easier to determine when a cat is pregnant. Even if you know a cat is pregnant before her nipples start to change, you should know what nipple changes to expect so you can seek help if something looks off at any time during the pregnancy. Here is everything that you need to know about the differences between pregnant and normal cat nipples.

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Overview of Normal Cat Nipples

Cats have several nipples located along their bellies. There are typically six to eight nipples in all, situated in pairs. Occasionally, a cat might have more or fewer pairs of nipples or an odd number of nipples altogether. What’s interesting is that both male and female felines have nipples laid out in this way. So, you cannot tell whether a cat is male or female just by looking at their nipples.

How Cat Nipples Work

Every nipple on a male or female cat is connected to a dedicated mammary gland, which is what produces milk when the need arises, which should only be when a female gets pregnant. Each mammary gland is connected to a small duct that delivers milk through a canal that releases the milk out of the nipple. Milk production only takes place when pregnancy occurs, unless a health problem develops.

When a cat is not pregnant, their nipples are small and firm. They are not typically apparent unless you look for them. Sometimes a little bare skin shows around each nipple, but in many cases, all that protrudes from the fur is the small nipple that looks like a wart. If a cat’s fur is long and thick, one may have to feel for the nipples because they are so hidden.

About Male Cat Nipples

Male cats have nipples just like female cats do because they develop before gender anatomy is established in the womb. However, their nipples have no function once hormone changes result in the development of male anatomy. A male cat’s nipples do not go through any changes during their lifetimes. They stay small and hard, and they are often hard to spot with the human eye. Male cats can get mammary cancer and so any changes should be checked by a vet promptly.

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Overview of Pregnant Cat Nipples

beautiful pregnant cat
Image Credit: Jim Polakis, Shutterstock

A female cat’s nipples start to make changes as soon as a few weeks after pregnancy occurs. These changes happen to prepare the nipples for nursing once the kittens are born. The nipples do not just change one time or in one way throughout pregnancy. Changes can be noticed twice during pregnancy and once again after giving birth.

Nipple Changes in Early Pregnancy

It takes about 2-3 weeks of pregnancy for nipple changes to start occurring. At this time, the nipples do what is referred to as “pink up,” which means that they get larger and become redder in color. At this point, the nipples should be more noticeable because they usually double in size. The surrounding tissue of the nipples becomes exposed from the fur and is usually pink and looks inflamed. There should be no discharge happening at this point of pregnancy.

Nipple Changes in Late Pregnancy

 By late pregnancy, a pregnant cat’s nipples have already enlarged to the size that they will stay until the feline gives birth. However, the area around the nipples will enlarge and become more prominent. About 2 weeks before the kittens are born, it is common to see a little discharge coming from the mom’s nipples. The discharge is typically milky or clear and can be continuous or sporadic depending on many factors, including gestation period and health status.

Nipple Changes after Pregnancy

After giving birth to her kittens, a female cat produces milk to nurse her kittens. This stimulation will make the nipples even larger and look full. The nipples may hang down as the mother walks because she is carrying so much milk. The nipples stay swollen and red or pink throughout the nursing period. Once the kittens begin weaning off their mother’s milk, the mother’s nipples slowly start to shrink and look normal again. However, some female cats’ nipples never shrink back to the size that they were before giving birth. They will stay slightly enlarged and easier to see.

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Conclusion

Nipples go through many changes when a mother cat becomes pregnant. The growth and preparation of the nipples can help identify a healthy pregnancy, but it is always important to make regularly visiting the veterinarian a component of proper prenatal care. Now that you know what transformations a cat’s nipples go through during pregnancy, you can better identify when your kitty becomes pregnant and get them the professional care that they need.

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Featured Image Credit: Boy77, Shutterstock

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