Nipples are essential to mammals. Mothers of multiple species use nipples to feed their young. Cats are no exception to this rule of nature. Like all mammals, though, male cats cannot feed their babies. This makes nipples on male cats theoretically pointless.
Male cats have an average of 4 or 6 nipples. Male cats have as many nipples as females. They are found on the belly. The only difference is that a male cat’s nipples do not usually lactate. Nipples are formed in utero, before the gender of a cat is assigned.
You may never notice a male cat’s nipples. They are usually covered by fur and will be small and seemingly inconsequential. Feline nipples only swell when the cat is pregnant or living with mammary cancer. The former is impossible in males, and the latter extremely rare.
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Do Male Cats Have Multiple Nipples?
Male cats have as many nipples as females. They are also located on the same part of their body. Nipples are formed while a kitten is in the womb, and gender is not yet determined at this stage.
Looking at nipples is not enough to determine a cat’s gender. As Perception explains, you have a better chance of doing so by looking at a cat’s face.
Nipples on a male cat can be hard to see. Unlike those of a female, the nipples will not rise or swell. The nipples are also often covered by fur. You may only find them by touch.
Some cat owners mistake nipples for pimples or skin tags in male cats. The presence of nipples is completely normal. If your cat’s nipples are not chapped, bleeding or swollen, he is healthy.
How Many Nipples Do Male Cats Have?
There is no set number of nipples a male cat will have. Male cats have no more or fewer nipples than females.
The average cat will have four or six nipples. Some cats have more than this, and some less. This is not a sign of ill health.
Cats usually have an even number of nipples. Again, this is not always the case. If your cat has an odd number of nipples, it’s not an issue.
Why Do Male Cats Have Nipples?
Kittens develop in the womb in a similar way to human babies. The pregnancy is just shorter. The Y chromosome, which triggers the production of male genitals, comes later in the gestation process. By this point, the feline embryo already has nipples.
If no Y chromosome is detected, the nipples will be attached to mammary glands. This allows a female cat to nurture and feed her young. If a cat is assigned as a male, these glands are not required.
The nipples on a male cat serve no useful purpose. At the same time, they do not cause any harm. There is no physical advantage to male cats not having nipples, so evolution has not phased nipples out of male cats.
My Male Cat Doesn’t Have Nipples
Male cats do have nipples, but you just can’t see them. This is nothing to worry about, especially in a male. Feline nipples are small, no bigger than a pimple. They will also likely be covered with fur.
You’ll find a male cat’s nipples on his stomach. They are lower on the body than those of a human. You’ll find your cat’s nipples around an inch above the pelvis. They are usually evenly distributed across two vertical rows.
Cat nipples should not be painful to the touch. Just remember that most cats loathe being touched on the stomach. This will often be why your pet rejects such contact. His nipples are irrelevant.
Can Male Cats Produce Milk?
It’s is rare for a male cat to produce milk. If he does so, there are two possible explanations for this:
- Constant massage of male nipples can lead to minor lactation.
- Some medications contain female hormones.
It takes a lot of massage to male nipples to generate milk. So much, in fact, that it remains unlikely. If kittens constantly stimulate a male cat’s nipples, he may eventually lactate. This will not be sufficient milk to feed a litter of kittens, though.
If your male cat is on medication and this is causing lactation, you should speak to your vet. This medication could contain female hormones.
The use of a hormone therapy replacement cream, such as Ovestin, could also explain this phenomenon. A male cat will ingest this cream if he licks an owner’s skin. According to the Biology of Reproduction, estrogen exposure can affect male cats.
My Male Cat Tries to Feed Kittens
It’s common for male cats to nurture their young. Few male cats willfully harm their babies. Any danger to a kitten usually arises from accidental rough play.
Kittens will attempt to suckle on a male cat’s teats. This is because they are hungry. Young kittens do not differentiate between the genders of adult cats. They just want to be fed and kept warm. Female cats often share feeding responsibilities.
The suckling may also be a source of comfort for the kitten. Even if no milk is released, the kitten enjoys the sensation. It’s akin to a human baby using a pacifier. This is likely if the kitten was weaned too soon. Kittens should not be separated from their mother before eight weeks of age.
If your male cat is affable, he will accept this attention without complaint. A male cat cannot be relied upon to feed kittens, though. If the kittens’ mother rejects them, turn to bottle feeding.
Can Male Cats Get Mammary Cancer?
Mammary cancer in cats is associated with estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are associated with female cats. This makes mammary cancer in male cats extremely rare.
It is believed that less than 1% of feline mammary cancer patients are male. It can happen, though. The BMJ discusses one such case in detail.
The main warning sign of mammary cancer in male cats is swollen nipples. Ordinarily, a cat’s nipples only swell during pregnancy. This happens around a month into the gestation. In male cats, swollen nipples invariably suggest ill health. Other symptoms of mammary cancer include:
- Open wounds and bleeding around the nipples
- Foul odor from the nipples
- Excessive heat from the nipples
- Excessive grooming to the nipples
- Lethargy and depression
- Loss of appetite and associated anorexia
If your male cat’s nipples become prominent, you should take your cat to see a vet. There is no reason why this should be the case.