How Many Nipples Do Cats Have? Demystifying The Myths

Felines are not far removed from many other mammals in the animal kingdom as they can give birth to several kittens in a litter. With a lot of mouths to feed at the same time, mama cat or the queen as she is called sure needs some helping hands, and of course, nature always comes to the rescue. Kitties are born with two rows of nipples/teats on their tummy and after gestation, the mammary gland kicks in and starts producing milk to feed the young. But, how many nipples do cats have for real?

Now, there have always been myths surrounding the number of nipples a kitty is supposed to have. The truth is that all cats are not born with the same number of teats. Get the details as we demystify the myths.

Do Cats Have Nipples Or Udders?

Notably, members of the feline population don’t have udders, what they do have are nipples which are also referred to as teats. Nipples on cats can be found along the underside of a kitty’s belly and run in two parallel rows. Since most cats are fluffy, discovering their row of nipples means running your hands under their belly where you will feel the teats like pimples.

What is common in cats is that their two rows of teats usually come in equal numbers down the length of the belly and are arranged opposite each other. Usually, you get six (three on each side) or eight (four on each side) teats in total. However, this is not cast on stone as anything can happen with cats.

Some rows of nipples in some cats can be uneven and may not match up. We have seen some cats with less than the usual number of six to eight and others that have above eight with up to ten teets. This may not have anything to do with genes as kittens of the same litter have been found to come with a different number of nipples. A cat’s nipple can be hard to find but they are there and only becomes visible during gestation.


Do Cat’s Nipples Go Away?

When you look at a cat that has not been pregnant before, it would look as if it doesn’t have any nipple because of its furry coat. However, this will change once a cat starts having kittens. From 35 days of gestation, the nipples start getting enlarged in preparation for milk production, and visibility is improved. Once the feline starts lactating, the teats grow even larger and you don’t need to make efforts to search for them.

People have asked if the nipples of a cat go away after lactation, the answer to this is that teats don’t vanish in felines as that would be supernatural. What happens is that once the female cat or queen as it is called weans her kittens, the flow of milk will gradually reduce and finally disappear. At this point, teats will automatically shrink and go back to their previous size.

We must not also fail to mention a few exceptions where a feline’s teets remained slightly larger/droopier than it was.

Does The Number Of Nipples Dictate How Many Kittens A Cat Can Have At Once?

Usually, cats can have from one to ten kittens in a single litter, but most times the number of kittens may not exceed five which is perfect as they will have enough nipples to go around. However, rare situations have been discovered where a queen had more kittens than teats. This kind of situation usually calls for additional provision of milk since they won’t be getting enough. Thus, the number of nipples does not really dictate the number of kittens the mother cat will produce per liter.

How Many Nipples Do Cats Have Compared To Dogs?

Just like the female kittens, female dogs or bitches also have two rows of nipples located on the underside of their bellies. For the canines, their nipples can vary from six to ten on equal rows of three to five on each side.

Also, like the cats, the nipples in dogs can equally occur in odd numbers with fewer than six or more than ten. A dog’s nipple can be either pigmented or they can be the same color as the pup’s body. When a dog is nursing, the nipples become more pronounced but generally, they are small, round bumps and come in a line on its belly.

Do Male Cats Have Nipples?

The male cats which are known as tomcats lack developed mammary glands and as a result, their teats are a bit more difficult to discover. But that does not mean that male cats don’t have nipples. Their nipples also run in two rows and like the female cats, they can vary in number but because they don’t produce milk, the teets are smaller and less distinct.

According to expert reports, cats develop nipples in the womb before the gender is determined. Thus, having nipples cannot be a gender-specific thing. Also, you cannot identify the gender of a kitten by the nipples as gender has no impact on the number of nipples a kitten can have. Both male and female kittens can have the same number of nipples but the difference is that the nipples in male cats don’t get to produce milk for breastfeeding.

Do Cats’ Nipples Go Through Changes During Gestation

how many nipples do cats have
A cat’s nipples become enlarged during lactation source

Yes, they do! When a queen is pregnant, the gestation period is supposed to last from 63 to 69 days. Once it gets to the 35th day, you will start noticing changes in the nipples as they grow larger and their colors turn pinker. The nipples become visible at this stage irrespective of the cat’s furry coat. Further changes will be noticed as the pregnancy progresses; it is the effect of the mammary gland getting ready for milk production. This also causes the cat to put on more weight.

Again, during gestation, you may notice your queen’s nipples emitting little drops of milk; this usually happens a few days to delivery, showing the body’s readiness for breastfeeding. A couple of days before delivery, the milk will start flowing very well.

There are still female cats that can lactate even when they are not pregnant. Even some neutered cats have been spotted lactating. This is normally referred to as false pregnancy and has been witnessed in some healthy cats. However, if the lactation lasts long, you may want to call on the vet to be sure all is well.

Read Also: Why Is My Cat So Thirsty?

Health Problems That Can Affect A Feline’s Nipple

It is not every kitty with swollen nipples that is pregnant, especially if it is a tomcat. Below are some health issues that can lead to inflamed nipples in cats;

• Mastitis (a mammary gland infection during lactation)
• Galactostasis (a milk collection in a cat’s mammary gland while weaning)
• Feline Mammary Hypertrophy (benign masses)
• Mammary cancer
• Mammary Hyperplasia (this results from high levels of progesterone)

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