Rubbing Miles’ belly I thought he had been scratched while playing with Persephone. Or that he had somehow managed to bring fleas into our apartment. How he would have done being an indoor-kitty I couldn’t even begin to speculate.
Turns out I was wrong about all of the above. Miles hadn’t been bit nor did he catch the bug, nor was he sneaking off during the day to gallivant across town.
Nope, what I found were his cat nipples. Because all cats have nipples, both male and female.
Turns out this is a question people ask so let’s dive into the exciting world of cat nipples.
Do male cats have nipples?
One of the most important questions for cat owners is do male cats have nipples. Followed up by, “Is it okay to check?”
Yes, male cats have nipples—just like humans. We’re more alike than we are different in many ways.
But then there’s that lingering question…
Why do male cats have nipples?
Science hasn’t quite completely answered why it is that male mammals like cats and humans have nipples. (This is a question I remember being brought up when I was in 7th grade at the cafeteria: we didn’t find the the solution.)
Afterall, there’s no adaptive reason for male cats to have nipples. They don’t serve any purpose. Right?
Researchers have given us some reasonable explanations in an attempt to explain why male humans and male cats have nippless. To understand we need to break up our biology textbooks.
Biology of the Cat Nipple
By default, male and female cats (and people) share the same genetic traits. In the womb a fetus develops following the same directions handed down by the organism’s DNA. It’s like workers at a construction site listening to the directions of the architect.
Everything is the same up to a point. And then hormones start yelling into their cellphones and call for either male or female anatomy: hormones dictate the sex of the mammal.
What’s important to note is that the blueprint doesn’t change any details unless they need to be changed—unless the default directions harm the reproductive success of the male or female cat. If a trait was harmful it would be cycled out through adaptation.
So, we arrive at our nipple answer.
The nipple has no obvious disadvantage for male cats. It doesn’t stop them from reproducing, nor does it hinder their ability to live a typical life. Since there’s nothing detrimental to having it, why not have nipples? Male cat nipples are a keepsake from the time they existed as a sexless embryo.
Maybe one day male cats won’t have nipples. Maybe that’s the day science has gone too far. For now, the male cats in your home can roll onto their bellies and proudly sport their tiny bumps.
Fun Fact: Do all Male Mammals have nipples?
In the course of researching this piece I learned that there are some mammals that don’t have nipples. Those would be horses, the platypus, and echidnas.
That’s not all either. Turns out the nipples has also cycled out of existence for the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the house mouse (Mus musculus).
Just goes to show it’s not nipples that separates mammals from reptiles.
How Many Nipples Does a Cat Have?
Neither male nor female cats have a set number of nipples. They can have as little as 4 nipples as many as 10 nipples, and some people report even more. They can even have an odd number of nipples, which goes against everything biological symmetry stands for.
The average number of nipples a cat will have is between 6 and 8. Yours probably falls somewhere in this range.
Oddly enough, two cats from the same litter can have a different number of nipples. It’s all in the genes and each kitty gets their own building code.
This question got me curious, and I was tempted to start counting the nipples on Miles and Persephone. Unfortunately, they weren’t too receptive to the idea.
Where are a cat’s nipples?
Better get out your comb and magnifying glass because cat nipples are not easy to find. That’s because of all the immaculately kept fur.
That doesn’t mean we can’t share a signpost if your as curious as a kitty.
A cat’s nipples are on their belly, just below their chest. It makes biological sense.
Remember, female cats have to feed their kittens. So evolution has placed nipples at a convenient spot to make lunch as easy as possible.
(By the way the average male and female nipple size is about the same.)
Will nipples tell you if a cat is male or female?
Since there’s no difference between male cat nipples and female cat nipples, at least by appearance’s sake, no. Nipples will not tell you if a cat is male or female.
If my cat has swollen nipples is she pregnant?
If a cat is pregnant her nipples will become enlarged at around 3 weeks. They will also become darker in color so you may easily notice them through her pristine fur.
Sometimes there will be some runoff cat milk as well. Don’t fret. Milk won’t start production until after the kittens are born.
However… (there’s always a caveat.)
What if my Cats Nipples are Swollen and They’re not Pregnant?
Not every cat who has swollen nipples is necessarily pregnant. Sometimes swollen nipples might mean a much-needed trip to the vet.
Cats can suffer particularly from mammary gland enlargement. It’s more common in female cats, but can afflict male cats all the same.
There are a number of causes of mammary gland enlargement, according to Wagwalking:
- Mammary cancer
- Feline Mammary
- Mammary Hyperplasia
But it’s best to consult your vet before arriving at a conclusion yourself.
Wrapping Up Cat Nipples
Well, don’t actually wrap up your cat’s nipples, that sounds terribly uncomfortable.
I hope that was as enlightening for you as it was for me to learn about. Who knew one could type up an article about cat nipples? Today I learned…
Anything to miss, anything to add to the world of cat nipples? Let us know in the comments below!