Do Tom Cat Cheeks Deflate?

An Introduction to Tom Cat Cheek Anatomy

Tom cats have a unique anatomical structure that gives them distinctive pouches on each cheek. These pouches are formed by fatty tissue deposits that build up in unneutered male cats due to the effects of testosterone [1]. The fatty deposits create rounded, fleshy protrusions on both sides of the face, commonly referred to as “jowls” or “cheeks.”

The purpose of the tom cat’s cheek pouches is not fully understood, but they are believed to play a role in scent communication, visual signals, and protecting the face during territorial disputes. The jowls contain many scent glands and may release pheromones used for marking territory and attracting mates. Visually, the cheeks make the tom cat’s head appear wider and more intimidating to potential rivals. During fights, the fatty padding may also help shield vital facial areas from injury [2].

While cheek pouches are normal for unneutered male cats, their size often appears to fluctuate. Tom cats’ cheeks may look fuller or more deflated at times. This is typically due to changes in hormone levels, weight loss/gain, age, and other factors influencing the distribution of fatty deposits in the jowls.

The Unique Structure of Tom Cat Cheeks

Tom cats have uniquely structured cheeks compared to female cats or neutered males. Their cheeks contain special fat pads and connective tissue that give them their full, round shape.

These fat pads are made up of adipose tissue and can expand or shrink in size depending on factors like age, health, and hormone levels. According to an article on, “What Are Tomcat Jowls (Cheeks) In Male Cats?”, the fat pads grow larger in unneutered male cats due to the effects of testosterone.

Underneath the fat pads, tom cats have a matrix of connective tissue and tough bands of collagen. This connective framework provides structural support to the cheeks and jowls. As male cats age or go through hormonal changes like neutering, the fat pads can deflate to an extent while the connective tissue remains.

So in summary, the unique and malleable fat pads on top of the firm connective tissue give tom cat cheeks their distinctive fullness and ability to expand and shrink over time.

Why Do Tom Cat Cheeks Appear to Deflate?

Tom cat’s cheeks may appear to temporarily deflate for various reasons not related to neutering, including weight loss, illness, age, and heat.

When a tom cat loses weight, the fat pads in their cheeks will become less full, causing the jowls to seem deflated. Illnesses that cause dehydration, poor nutrition, or fat loss can also lead to a deflated look. As cats age, the fat pads in their cheeks may gradually diminish as well. Additionally, when cats are in heat, the hormones circulating in their body can cause water retention or mild facial swelling that can temporarily enhance their jowls. Once the heat cycle passes, their cheeks may then look deflated by comparison.

However, the deflation of tom cat cheeks after neutering is not a permanent change. According to veterinarians, the cheek fat does not actually disappear after neutering. The male hormones that stimulate the facial muscles and cause the tom cat’s cheeks to enlarge are reduced after neutering, causing the cheeks to become more relaxed and less swollen with time. However, the underlying facial fat remains. With proper nutrition and hydration, tom cats’ cheeks may regain their full appearance.

So in most cases, deflated tom cat cheeks are a temporary condition and not a cause for concern. Monitoring your cat’s weight, health, diet, and activity levels can help maintain full, healthy cheeks.

Myths and Misconceptions

There’s a common myth that deflated or sagging cheeks in tom cats are a sign of health problems. However, this is often not the case. The large, full cheeks seen in intact male cats are caused by the effects of testosterone. When male cats are neutered, their testosterone levels drop dramatically, causing their cheeks to deflate over time until they have a much flatter facial profile.

Some people mistakenly assume that deflated cheeks post-neutering indicate that the cat is sick or has lost a concerning amount of weight. But research shows that the deflation is simply due to hormonal changes and not indicative of any illness.1 The cheeks had been abnormally enlarged before due to testosterone’s effects on the muscles and fatty tissues in the face. After neutering, as testosterone fades, the facial features naturally become less prominent.

Additionally, some may attribute deflated cheeks to lack of proper nutrition. However, as long as the cat is eating a complete and balanced diet, the deflation is unlikely to be caused by weight loss or malnutrition. The cat’s body condition and energy levels are better indicators of health than cheek fullness alone.

The bottom line is that deflated cheeks are often a normal side effect of neutering in cats who previously had enlarged cheeks from testosterone exposure. There’s no need to be alarmed as long as your cat seems otherwise healthy and content.

When to Be Concerned About Deflated Cheeks

While some deflation of tomcat cheeks after neutering is normal, extreme or rapid cheek deflation can sometimes indicate an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention. According to, if your cat’s cheeks seem to be deflating at an abnormally quick pace or appear extremely sunken and drawn, it’s a good idea to schedule a vet visit to identify the cause.

Some possible medical conditions that may lead to rapid tomcat cheek deflation include:

  • Dental disease like tooth resorption, infection or abscesses
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Systemic viral infections like FIV or feline leukemia
  • Cancer, especially oral cancer
  • Kidney disease

Your veterinarian can perform a physical exam and use diagnostic tests like bloodwork, urinalysis or dental x-rays to check for any of these underlying conditions. Prompt treatment of the cause, if identified, is important to stop ongoing facial changes and restore your cat’s health and quality of life.

So while some cheek deflation post-neutering is expected, abnormal or very rapid changes in your cat’s face shape warrant a trip to the vet for further evaluation. Catching and addressing any medical issues early on can prevent more severe progression.

Caring for Tom Cat Cheek Health

As a cat owner, you can help maintain the fullness of your tom cat’s cheeks with proper care and nutrition. Here are some tips:

  • Provide a high-quality diet rich in protein. Meat-based proteins help strengthen muscles and tissues in the cheeks.
  • Make wet food a regular part of the diet. The moisture content helps keep tissues hydrated and supple.
  • Encourage chewing with crunchy kibble or chew toys to exercise the cheek muscles.
  • Play interactive games like chase and fetch to get your cat moving its head and facial muscles.
  • Brush frequently to stimulate blood circulation in the cheeks.
  • Ask your vet about supplements like glucosamine that support joint and tissue health.
  • Monitor for signs of weight loss, poor eating, or swelling which could indicate an underlying issue.
  • Schedule regular vet checkups to monitor cheek fullness and rule out medical conditions early.

With attentive care and a healthy lifestyle, most tom cats can maintain full, healthy-looking cheeks well into their senior years. Be observant of any changes and seek veterinary advice if you have concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many cat owners have questions about tom cat cheek anatomy, especially when it comes to deflation. Here are answers to some of the most common questions:

Do Tom cat cheeks deflate permanently?

In most cases, yes, deflation of the cheeks in tom cats is permanent once it occurs. According to, the chunky cheeks are caused by hormones, and when those hormone levels drop after neutering, the cheeks will deflate. The skin itself is stretched out, so even without the hormonal influence, the cheeks do not return to their previous filled out shape.

At what age do Tom cats’ cheeks deflate?

Tom cat cheeks usually begin to deflate around 6-18 months of age, according to Cat-World. This coincides with sexual maturity in male cats. Once they are neutered, the hormone levels drop quickly, leading to rapid deflation of the cheeks over the course of a few weeks or months.

How can I make my Tom cat’s cheeks full again?

Unfortunately, there is no way to return tom cat cheeks to their previously filled out size and shape. The deflation is a natural result of neutering and hormonal changes, so attempting to make them full again would require reintroducing hormones, which is not recommended.

Are there health risks if a Tom cat’s cheeks are deflated?

In most cases, deflated tom cat cheeks do not pose a health risk to your cat. According to Cat-World, the loose skin is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern on its own. However, if the cheeks appear red, inflamed or irritated, take your cat to the veterinarian to check for potential infections or other issues.

The Outlook for Tom Cats with Deflated Cheeks

For the vast majority of tom cats, deflated cheek appearance is a temporary phenomenon that will resolve on its own. After a mating session, increased testosterone causes tom cats’ cheek glands to enlarge and become prominent. As testosterone levels decrease post-mating, the cheek glands will shrink back down, causing a deflated look that returns to normal within a few days.

However, if your tom cat has chronically deflated cheeks that do not seem to be related to mating behaviors, or if the deflation persists longer than a week, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian examine him. In rare cases, issues like dental disease, mouth infections, or tumors could cause lasting cheek deflation. Your vet can help determine if there is an underlying condition and recommend appropriate treatment if needed. With prompt care, most cats can recover well from conditions causing deflated cheeks.

The outlook for tom cats with temporarily deflated cheeks after mating is excellent. Their cheek appearance should bounce back on its own. But persistent deflation or any abnormal changes warrant a vet visit to diagnose and resolve any potential health issues. With appropriate care and monitoring, tom cats with deflated cheeks generally have a good prognosis.


To recap the main points, tom cat cheeks often appear slightly deflated compared to other cats due to their naturally prominent cheekbones and jowls. This structural difference is normal for the breed and not necessarily a cause for concern. Proper care and nutrition are key to maintaining tom cat cheek health and fullness. While myths abound, cheek deflation in itself is not a definitive symptom of illness in tom cats.

The key takeaways are:

  • Tom cats tend to have naturally thinner cheeks than other cat breeds due to their underlying facial structure.
  • As long as the cat is alert and eating well, moderate cheek deflation is likely normal for a tom cat.
  • Severe deflation, sunken eyes, lethargy or appetite changes may indicate illness requiring veterinary attention.
  • Proper nutrition, hydration and facial grooming help maintain fuller tom cat cheeks.
  • While myths persist, deflated cheeks themselves are not necessarily a cause for alarm in tom cats.

With proper care and an understanding of their facial anatomy, tom cat owners can better assess cheek fullness and determine when veterinary attention is needed.


American Veterinary Medical Association. (2021). Basic pet care.

Bellows, J., Center, S., Daristotle, L., Estrada, A.H., Flickinger, E.A., Horwitz, D.F., Lascelles, B.D.X., Lepine, A., Perea, S., Scherk, M., & Shoveller, A.K. (2015). Feline welfare. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 17(10), 763-768.

Case, L. P. (2010). Canine and feline nutrition: A resource for companion animal professionals. Mosby.

Little, S. (2021). The cat: Clinical medicine and management. Elsevier.

MacDonald, M.L., Rogers, Q.R., & Morris, J.G. (1984). Nutrition of the domestic cat, a mammalian carnivore. Annual Review of Nutrition, 4(1), 521-562.

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