HEALTH & CARE

How Many Nipples Do Cats Have: A Relevant Question for Both Male and Female Cats

cat lying and showing nipples
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

How many of us know the anatomy of male and female cats? Perhaps not many. Sure, you know about the legs and the ears, but are you educated on the other parts of them? Of course, your knowledge of cats changes with time—especially if you have a cat of your own as you need to educate yourself about feline anatomy. If you’re wondering how many nipples do cats have, well, that’s a good question and one that needs to be answered, especially if you’re thinking of getting a female cat of your own.

The nipples are an important part of a female cat’s anatomy. They serve as an indicator of pregnancy, to deliver milk to the litter, and swollen nipples can even be one of the first symptoms that warn you of an issue in the breast tissue.

counting cat's nipples

Learning more about how many nipples cats have will allow you to be more watchful of sudden any changes so you can prepare and react accordingly. Even if you have a male cat, not a female cat, you can still benefit from learning about their nipples, because male cats have nipples as well.

In this article, you’re going to find out everything you need to know about feline nipples. From their purpose to the number of nipples, you’ll be given a rundown of what cat nipples do.

How Many Nipples Do Female Cats Have?

kittens feeding on mother's nipples

Interestingly enough, the number of nipples can vary from cat to cat. Some cats can have four nipples while others will have eight. Some cats can even have ten nipples. However, the most common number of nipples is usually either six or eight.

Their nipples run along their belly in two rows. Each row will have either four or six nipples. They’ll be matched up evenly on either side of their belly.

The nipple itself is usually 1cm in diameter. You’ll be able to see them if you rub your cat’s belly as they’ll be poking out of their hair. Though, it may be difficult at times to spot their nipples, especially if their fur is thick.

If your cat is pregnant, you’ll be able to spot them much easier as their nipples will swell and increase in size. Remember, when rubbing their teats, you must make sure to do it gently as they’re sensitive.

When it comes to nipples they have the same sensitivity as human nipples, so keep that in mind the next time you’re giving your cat a belly rub. If you rub them too hard when playing, it can hurt them.

How Many Nipples Do Male Cats Have?

cat having 10 nipples

If you’re wondering how many nipples do male cats have, the answer is simple: Male cats have the same number of nipples as females cats. This means that a male cat can have any number between four to ten nipples as it varies from cat to cat.

If your cat has an odd number of nipples, this is nothing unusual or anything to worry about. The number of nipples a cat has doesn’t have anything to do with their poor or excellent health. Every cat has their own quirk, and this would be one of them.

You may be surprised that male cats have nipples, but so do human males. In general, most male mammals have nipples. However, male cats, like humans and other mammals, do not use their nipples to feed their offspring.

So then why do male cats have nipples if they don’t use them? That’s a good question. The answer has a lot to do with the way fetuses develop in the womb:

  • In the womb, as fetuses, both males and females develop the same way. Basically, all fetuses start out as females until the male DNA is introduced.

  • If the fetus is determined to be a male, once the male hormones are introduced, certain male hormones such as testosterone stop the development of specific traits such as mammary glands and in turn, develop other features such as male reproductive organs.

  • However, because male nipples do not take up energy or resources, the male DNA does not reject them. The DNA just lets them be. Because nipples do not harm males, male mammals haven’t evolved from developing them.

This is why male cats have nipples even though there’s no purpose to them. They’re simply a biological leftover, just like the tailbone in humans or the hip bone in whales. The number of nipples on a male cat is nothing to be concerned about because these are no more than the remnants of development.

However, just because a male cat cannot use his nipples, doesn’t mean he’s not prone to diseases which occur in the breast area. In fact, because cats also have breast tissue, they may encounter breast diseases just like human beings.

Of course, breast cancer in human males is rare. However, it still occurs. These issues can affect male cats as well. The first thing you’ll notice if there’s anything wrong with your cat around their breast area will be nipple swelling.

Nipple Swelling in Cats

cat's nipples swelling

It’s always a good idea to give your cat a routine check-up. Of course, you can do this yourself while you’re petting or massaging them while snuggling together on the couch. If you notice anything, you’ll be able to catch it early and get it checked out by your vet.

See Also: How to Massage a Cat

Now, if your cat is showing signs of swollen nipples, you’ll want to pay attention to it as this could be a sign that something is going on with your cat. We’re going to discuss the possible health-related issues that are associated with swollen nipples.

Reason #1: Pregnancy

Swollen nipples are one of the most common signs of female pregnancy. A pregnant cat’s nipples will become pinker and swollen when she enters her third week of pregnancy.

Your cat may experience morning sickness as well, which is another clear sign that your female cat may be pregnant. If this is the case, getting your cat checked out by a vet will confirm whether or not she’s pregnant.

See Also: How to Get a Cat Into a Carrier

Reason #2: Infection

cat having infection

If you know your cat isn’t pregnant, for example, your cat is a male, or she’s an indoor cat without any male interaction, then this is a different issue which needs to be taken seriously as it shows signs of possible infection.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

If it’s an infection of the mammary glands, which can occur in pregnant cats as well, you’ll see signs of inflammation, loss of appetite, fever, and lethargy. Though it’s treatable with antibiotics and painkillers, you need to get this dealt with as soon as possible.

If your cat does have an infection and is pregnant, she’ll be unable to nurse her kittens, and the responsibility will fall on your shoulders.

See Also: How to Care for Newborn Kittens

Swollen nipples can indicate other health issues such as:

  • Galactostasis: Happens when the breasts accumulate too much milk in the mammary gland during late pregnancy. Thus, it causes an inflammation reaction. You’ll notice the teats becoming warm and painful.

  • Feline Mammary Hypertrophy: Though it is benign, it’s the drastic enlargement of the mammary glands which you’ll usually see in younger cats. It can be seen in both pregnant and non-pregnant, unspayed females. But it can also be seen in males and spayed females.

  • Mammary Cancer: Similar to breast tumors in humans, mammary cancer starts off as a small lump in the mammary gland. Typically more than one mammary gland is affected. This disease is preventable by having your female cat spayed before six months of age.

  • Mammary Hyperplasia: This is a rapid growth of the mammary tissues. It is benign. However, it mimics mammary cancer.

Though these diseases sound frightening, if you notice that your cat is experiencing swollen nipples, don’t freak out. If anything, you should be happy that you caught this early.

If you notice that your cat is suffering from swollen nipples, take them to the vet. Your vet will be able to check your cat out and carry out any tests that they believe are needed. Do not leave swollen nipples unattended for too long. It can grow into something much more serious than needed.

Can You Use the Number of Nipples to Determine Gender?

newborn kittens in hands

Having a cat or a kitten is an amazing adventure. As they mature, you see them grow, learn new things, and develop their personalities. Though, of course, you want to be able to know the gender of your cat. This will come in handy for when you’re choosing a name.

See Also: Egyptian Cat Names

Now, you may be curious about nipples because your cat has just had a litter of kittens and you’re trying to determine their gender. Or, you’ve rescued a newborn kitten, and now you may be wondering if it’s a girl or a boy.

Well, there is a way to tell the gender of a kitten. However, it’s not how you think it is. This can get a little tricky since both male and female kittens have nipples. Thus, you may not be able to really tell their gender just by looking at their nipples. But there is a way to figure it out.

Both genders have two openings in their rears. For females, the two openings are close together—practically touching. However, for males, the openings are spaced further apart with hair in between them.

See Also: How to Tell If a Kitten is Male or Female

If you wait until your cat is around six weeks of age, you’ll begin to notice a small bump where the scrotum of male cats starts to develop. If you’re not sure about the gender of your cat, even though the cat is past six weeks of age, the vet will be able to finalize the gender for you.

Wrap Up

Looking for cat nipples

All female mammals—including female cats—have nipples since they’re used specifically to feed milk to their young. Yes, there are a couple of mammals that do not have nipples such as the Monotremes and the Platypus. However, these are the exceptions to the rule. They have milk patches instead of nipples.

Cats do not fit into that special category. Instead, they’re similar to cows, dogs, monkeys, and humans. These mammals all use nipples in the process of transferring milk to their offspring until they’re old enough to eat solid foods. Nipples are purely used as a biological feature as opposed to sexual.

You might wonder then why male cats also have nipples, as they do not appear to serve any biological purpose. Male nipples are not functional. They are simply the remnants of the cat’s development as a fetus in the womb.

As we talked about previously, male mammals, including cats, stop developing nipples in the fetus due to their male DNA. Since cat fetuses develop nipples prior to the moment of truth that determines the sex of the cat, nipples are present in males. However, once the male DNA is in the fetus, the development stops immediately.

Still, although they’re not in use, male cats still have the same number of nipples as female cats. This is because the body doesn’t see those nipples as a threat, so it just lets them be in a non-active state.

In comparison, female nipples are fully functioning and are specifically used during pregnancy to produce and transfer milk to their litters. So, nipples play an important and vital role in the development of kittens. In addition, they can also indicate pregnancy or other health issues if they appear to be swollen.

How many nipples does your cat have? At first, it may seem like a funny question to ask, but it can reveal a lot about your cat. Has your cat had any health-related issues that were indicated by their nipples? If so, let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear about your cat and your experiences with your four-legged friend.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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