Do Female Cats Show Nipples?

Female cats, like all female mammals, have nipples. However, there is often confusion around whether a female cat’s nipples are visible all the time or only when pregnant. This article will provide an overview of the anatomy and visibility of feline nipples, helping cat owners understand what is normal and how to care for their cat’s nipples properly.

Anatomy of Feline Breasts

Cats have 6-8 pairs of mammary glands located on their underside between their front and back legs. While most mammals have their nipples in two parallel rows, cats can have their nipples arranged in a variety of patterns. Each nipple has small pores that secrete milk and are surrounded by small masses of glandular and fatty tissue.

Mammary glands develop in female cats before birth but remain inactive until puberty or pregnancy when milk production begins. The stimulation of suckling kittens triggers the release of hormones that initiate lactation. Kittens receive nourishment and antibodies from their mother’s milk during the first weeks after birth. As cats mature, their mammary glands shrink when not in use but retain the ability to produce milk if a queen becomes pregnant again.

Visibility of Nipples

On most unspayed female cats, nipples are not easily visible except during pregnancy and nursing. Cat nipples are small and blend in with the surrounding skin and fur coat. Unless the cat is shaved in the nipple area, the nipples will typically remain hidden under the fur.[1]

The main reasons cat nipples are not easily visible are:

  • Small nipple size – Cat nipples are quite small, usually 2-5 mm wide.
  • Camouflaged by fur – A cat’s fur conceals the nipples unless the area is shaved.
  • Neutral nipple color – Cat nipples are the same color as the surrounding skin when not pregnant or nursing.
  • Low nipple profile – Cat nipples don’t protrude much from the skin surface.

During pregnancy and nursing, increased blood flow and pigmentation make the nipples enlarge, protrude more, and become darker pink or red. This makes them much easier to see. Outside of these times, most cat owners don’t notice their cat’s nipples.


Nursing Kittens

Newborn kittens rely on their mother’s milk for nourishment and survival. Kittens nurse by latching onto their mother’s nipples and stimulating milk production. Mother cats have 8 to 12 nipples arranged in two rows on their belly.[1] The nipples enlarge and become erect when nursing kittens suckle on them.

Newborn kittens instinctively root around and seek out their mother’s nipples. However, some kittens may have trouble finding and properly latching on to nurse. Gently guiding the kittens to the nipples and assisting them to latch on can help. Letting them suckle will trigger the mother’s nursing instinct and milk production.[2] You may hear clicking sounds as the kitten latches on and begins nursing. Kittens nurse frequently, stimulating milk production and enabling the mother cat to produce enough milk for her litter.

The mother’s nipples deliver vital colostrum and nutrients to newborn kittens. Proper nursing supports the kittens’ growth and development. If a kitten struggles with nursing, supplemental bottle feeding with kitten milk replacement formulas may be needed.



Spaying refers to the surgical procedure of removing a female cat’s ovaries and uterus, while neutering refers to removing a male cat’s testicles. Both procedures are done to sterilize cats and prevent unwanted pregnancies. Spaying and neutering has several effects on a cat’s nipples and mammary glands:

Spaying female cats before their first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of mammary cancer later in life, since the ovaries produce hormones that stimulate breast tissue growth. Mammary cancer is malignant and aggressive in cats, so spaying provides major health benefits.

Spaying causes the cat’s nipples and mammary glands to shrink and become less pronounced over time without the influence of reproductive hormones. The breasts will become flatter and less swollen. However, the nipples themselves don’t fall off and will remain visible.

In the first few weeks after spaying, some female cats’ nipples may temporarily become enlarged and firm. This is due to the sudden drop in ovarian hormones and usually resolves on its own. It’s generally not a concern unless the nipples are painful, hot, or oozing.

Neutering male cats eliminates testosterone production and typically causes the nipples to shrink in size. However, the nipples remain present.

Overall, spaying and neutering causes cat nipples to become smaller and less prominent. But the nipples themselves remain intact for life. It’s important to monitor the breasts after spay/neuter surgery for any abnormal changes.


Female cats that are not spayed can experience a condition known as pseudo-pregnancy or false pregnancy. This occurs when the cat shows signs of being pregnant, even though she is not actually carrying kittens. According to FirstVet, pseudo-pregnancy is triggered by hormonal changes in an unspayed cat after she goes into heat.

The hormonal changes cause enlargement and development of the mammary glands. As a result, the cat’s nipples become enlarged and more noticeable, just as they would in a true pregnancy. The hormonal fluctuations happen because the cat’s body prepares for pregnancy after mating, even if fertilization did not actually occur. Along with nipple enlargement, symptoms of pseudo-pregnancy include nesting behaviors, weight gain, and behavioral changes.

Pseudo-pregnancy usually resolves on its own within 2-3 weeks after the cat’s heat cycle ends. However, according to WagWalking, some cats experience repeated episodes of false pregnancy. This indicates a hormonal imbalance that should be addressed by a veterinarian.

Diseases and Disorders

Female cats can develop a variety of diseases and disorders affecting their mammary glands and nipples. The most common disease is mammary cancer. According to Cornell University, mammary tumors account for the third most common type of feline cancer, occurring in over 95% of cases in intact cats ( Mammary cancer often presents as firm nodules in the mammary tissue that can ulcerate and become infected. Treatment depends on the stage of disease and can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Another condition that affects the feline mammary glands is mammary hypertrophy. This benign condition causes abnormal enlargement and swelling of the mammary glands, typically during heat cycles or pregnancy ( The nipples may become enlarged and swollen as well. Treatment involves hormonal therapy or surgery.

Being able to identify abnormalities in the mammary glands and nipples through routine inspection and palpation is important for early detection of disease. Regular veterinary checkups can also help diagnose issues early on.

Finding the Nipples on Female Cats

Locating the nipples on female cats can be tricky, especially if you have a long-haired breed. The nipples are usually located on the belly between the hind legs, but their exact placement can vary. Here are some tips for finding a female cat’s nipples:

Gently run your hand along the belly between the hind legs looking for small bumps. Be careful not to press too firmly as the area may be sensitive. Part the fur with your fingers to uncover the nipples if needed. You may find the nipples arranged in two neat rows of 3-4 nipples each.

Try locating the nipples when the cat is calm and relaxed laying on her back or side. The nipples may be more visible when not standing.

Look for the nipples to protrude and become pink/red and swollen when a female cat is pregnant or nursing. This increased size makes them easier to locate.

Shaving or trimming the hair on the belly can help reveal the nipples if you are having trouble finding them by touch alone. Be very gentle if using clippers.

If you still cannot find the nipples, ask your veterinarian to point them out at the cat’s next checkup. They will be able to locate them easily.

Caring for Nipples

Keeping your cat’s nipples clean and healthy is important, especially for nursing mothers. Here are some tips for caring for your cat’s nipples:

Gently wash the nipples with warm water and a mild soap during bathing to remove dirt, dried milk, or bacteria. Avoid harsh scrubbing which can cause irritation (Source).

Apply a warm compress to swollen or sore nipples to increase blood flow and promote healing. Use a clean cloth soaked in warm water and hold against each nipple for a few minutes (Source).

After nursing, apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment to the nipples to prevent infection. Consult your veterinarian for a recommendation of a safe topical antibiotic for cats (Source).

Make sure nursing kittens have their nails trimmed regularly to avoid scratches or damage to the nipples during feeding.

Monitor nipples for signs of mastitis, like redness, swelling, warmth, and discharge. Seek prompt veterinary care for symptoms to avoid complications.

Providing a soft, clean nesting area can help relieve pressure on sore nipples when the mother cat is resting between nursing sessions.


In summary, the answer is yes, female cats do have nipples. Female cats have two rows of nipples running down their belly, usually numbering around 8 total. While the nipples are small and not very noticeable on non-pregnant cats, they become enlarged and pinkish in color during pregnancy in order to produce milk for nursing kittens.

We explored the anatomy and purpose of feline nipples, their visibility, and changes during pregnancy and nursing. Even after spaying, female cats retain their nipples. While disease is rare, mammary cancer is possible. Knowing what is normal for your cat’s nipples allows you to monitor their health.

Caring for your cat’s nipples involves gently cleaning them and watching for signs of problems. Overall, female cat nipples serve an important purpose in nursing kittens, even though they remain relatively inconspicuous when not pregnant. Understanding the role of nipples allows cat owners to support their pet’s health.

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