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Just like all mammals, it’s completely normal for boy cats to have nipples. Find out how many nipples they have and what cat nipples should look like

If you’ve ever dared to rub a male cat’s belly and risked a claw to the hand, you may have felt some tiny bumps and wondered, ‘are they nipples?’ Well, yes, just like male humans and all other male mammals, boy cats do have nipples, and they are non-functioning. Here’s everything you need to know about cat nipples.

brown tabby kitten lying on the back in a cardboard box showing their tummy

How many nipples do cats have?

All cats, both male and female, have around six to eight nipples on average, although some can have more and some can have less. They can be found in two parallel rows along a cat’s chest and underside of their abdomen, and although they’re not always symmetrical there is usually an even number. Having several nipples helps female cats feed several kittens at once, as cats have an average of four to eight kittens per litter.

What do cat nipples look like?

Cat nipples look like little protrusions from the skin and are usually pink in colour, but they’re often well hidden by a cat’s fur. Male and female cat nipples usually look the same, but they may appear bigger and darker in colour on female cats who are pregnant or have given birth.

What do pregnant cat nipples look like?

A female cat’s nipples don’t usually get bigger when they are in heat and preparing to find a mate, but they do grow during pregnancy. If a female cat is pregnant her nipples will usually start to become enlarged around week three of her pregnancy as the mammary glands below swell with milk. They will continue to swell until the kittens are born, and the nipples may also start to appear darker or more pink in colour. After giving birth, nursing female cats produce milk for their kittens for around six weeks and their nipples will continue to appear enlarged. Once the kittens are weaned onto solid food, the nipples may return to their normal size or remain slightly bigger than normal. Find out more about cat pregnancy and kitten care.

black-and-white cat lying on fleece blanket with a litter of six kittens, some black-and-white and some brown tabby-and-white, sucking on her nipples

Why do male cats have nipples?

Male cats are born with nipples for the same reason all male mammals are. All embryos grow nipples and mammary glands in the early stages of development in the mother’s uterus, before the embryo’s sex is determined. Once the reproductive organs form, a female embryo’s mammary glands and hormones will continue to develop so they can produce milk, and a male embryo’s wont, but the nipples will still remain.

Can male cats produce milk?

Nipples on male cats are non-functioning, so they do not produce milk. A male cat’s mammary glands are not developed enough to produce milk and they do not produce the hormones needed to stimulate milk production. Even though a male cat’s nipples have no purpose, they will never go away. If you do notice any liquid/discharge leaking from your male cat’s nipples, get them checked out by a vet.

Why are my cat’s nipples swollen/sticking out?

If you notice any change in the size or colour of your cat’s nipples, then it’s best to get them checked out by a vet. If you have an unneutered female cat, then swollen nipples could be a sign that they are pregnant, but there could be other causes too. In both male and female cats, swollen, leaking, lumpy, red or crusty nipples could be a sign of skin disease, infection, or mammary cancer so further investigation by your vet is needed.

Find more advice about your cat’s health.

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