Do Tom Cat Cheeks Go Away After Neuter?

Tom cat cheeks refer to the prominent, jowl-like cheek pouches often found in unneutered adult male cats. These cheeks develop due to testosterone and are sometimes called “tom jowls” or “stud jowls”. Many owners wonder if their male cat’s prominent cheeks will shrink after neutering. This article explores the development of tom cat cheeks, the neutering procedure, how hormones and physiology change post-neutering, and whether cheeks shrink following the procedure.

What are tom cat cheeks?

Tom cat cheeks refer to the jowls or pronounced cheekbones that develop in unneutered male cats as they reach sexual maturity. The extra fat and tissue around the face leads to the appearance of “cheeks” that can make male cats’ heads appear wider and more rectangular compared to female cats.

According to, tom cat cheeks are caused by testosterone production in male cats. The hormones lead to increased fat deposits and muscle around the face and head as the cats mature.

Tom cat cheeks help male cats appear more intimidating and dominant to other males. The distinctive masculine features are part of sexual dimorphism in cats, allowing them to attract mates and defend their territory.

Development of tom cat cheeks

Tom cats develop pronounced cheeks due to the effects of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone, which is present at high levels in unneutered male cats, leads to an increase in the size of the cheek muscles and a thickening of the fat deposits on the face.

The cheeks contain numerous scent glands that male cats use for territorial marking. Testosterone causes these glands to enlarge and become more prominent, resulting in the characteristic “chubby” or “jowly” appearance of tom cat cheeks.

According to veterinarians, the degree to which a male cat’s cheeks become pronounced varies quite a bit between individuals. Genetics, diet, and activity levels all play a role. But in general, cats with higher testosterone levels will develop larger, more prominent cheek structures over time.

Some sources note that Maine Coon and Persian breeds in particular are prone to very significant cheek/jowl development as tomcats. But any breed of male cat can exhibit some degree of cheek enlargement before being neutered.

Purpose of tom cat cheeks

Tom cat cheeks, also known as tomcat jowls, serve an important biological function for male cats. The enlarged cheek area is caused by deposits of fat and testosterone which help make male cats appear larger and more intimidating to other cats. According to Cat-World (1), the tom cat’s jowls send visual signals about their physical status and maturity to other males as well as to females in heat. This makes the tom cat look bigger and more muscular, which is useful for establishing dominance and deterring challenges from other males.

The fat deposits in the cheek area also protect the vulnerable jugular veins and neck area during fights over territory and breeding rights. So in biological terms, tomcat cheeks help facilitate mating opportunities and defend territory for the dominant male. The visual display of the tomcat’s cheeks lets other cats know they are dealing with a mature, virile male.

Neutering procedure

Neutering, also known as castration, is a surgical procedure performed on cats to remove the testicles in males or the ovaries and uterus in females. This procedure sterilizes cats and prevents them from reproducing. For male cats, both testicles are removed so they can no longer produce sperm or testosterone.

The neutering procedure for male cats is fairly quick and routine. Cats are placed under general anesthesia so they are asleep and pain-free during the surgery. A small incision is made just in front of the scrotum to access each testicle. The veterinarian then cuts and ties off the ducts attached to the testicles before removing them completely. Any bleeding is controlled and the incision is closed with dissolvable sutures.

Most cats fully recover within 7-10 days after being neutered. It’s important to follow all post-operative care instructions from your veterinarian, including limiting activity and preventing licking or chewing at the incision site while it heals.

Hormonal changes after neutering

The main hormonal change in male cats after neutering is a significant decrease in testosterone levels. Testosterone is responsible for many typical male cat behaviors like roaming, urine marking, and aggression. After neutering, testosterone levels drop rapidly. According to the The Wildest, the effects of reduced testosterone can be seen as soon as 3 days after surgery.

Testosterone takes about 4-6 weeks to completely leave the body after neutering. During this time, male cats will experience a calming effect and reduction in behaviors mediated by the hormone, like spraying, roaming, and fighting. The VCA Animal Hospital states that neutering only affects behaviors influenced by male hormones.

While testosterone is the main hormone impacted, other hormones like estrogen may increase after neutering. According to the Mercury News, this can lead to changes like increased appetite. However, the overall effects of neutering are driven by the significant reduction in testosterone in male cats.

Physical changes after neutering

Neutering causes some significant hormonal and physical changes in male cats. The most noticeable change is that the testicles are surgically removed during the neutering procedure. This eliminates the main source of the male sex hormone testosterone in the cat’s body.

Without testosterone, male cats will exhibit less mating behaviors like roaming, spraying, and aggression. Their metabolism may slow down, leading to potential weight gain after being neutered. It’s important to monitor your cat’s diet and exercise after neutering to maintain a healthy weight.

In addition to behavioral and weight changes, neutering causes changes to tom cat cheeks or jowls. The cheeks are areas on either side of the face that tend to enlarge in unneutered male cats. This is because the cheeks contain scent glands that enlarge under the influence of testosterone. According to, the tom cat’s cheeks help spread their scent when rubbing and marking territory.

After neutering, the tom cat’s body no longer produces as much testosterone. This causes the jowls and cheek glands to shrink and become less prominent over time. However, sources indicate the cheeks usually do not disappear completely. There may still be some residual swelling, but it is often dramatically reduced compared to before neutering.

Do cheeks go away completely?

While the cheek size may decrease after neutering, the changes are usually not dramatic enough to make the cheeks disappear entirely. According to one source, “If cats develop tomcat cheeks and then undergo gonadectomy (neutering) as adults, they tend to keep their handsome jowls!” The cheeks may deflate somewhat as testosterone levels drop post-neutering, but some residual cheek tissue often remains.

This is because the extra cheek growth that developed under hormonal influence tends to be permanent to some degree. So once the cheeks have fully formed, neutering alone won’t completely reverse the tissue growth. The cheeks may shrink a bit with the hormonal changes, but they rarely go away completely after neutering.

However, neutering at a young age before the cheeks become pronounced can prevent substantial cheek development in the first place. But for cats neutered as adults, owners can expect the tomcat cheeks to diminish in size but not vanish entirely after the neutering procedure.

Managing cheek changes

After neutering, it’s important to monitor your cat’s weight and adjust their diet and exercise routine as needed to prevent excessive weight gain, which can contribute to saggy jowls. According to this WikiHow article, you should feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals after neutering to prevent gorging and weight gain. Provide interactive feeding toys or puzzles to make your cat work for their food. Increase playtime and engage in more active games to encourage exercise. Take your cat for walks on a leash or harness if they enjoy it. Consult with your vet about an appropriate diet and exercise plan for your cat post-neuter.

With proper care and attention, you can help minimize and manage the visible cheek changes in your cat after neutering. While the tom cat jowls may not disappear completely, focusing on diet, exercise, and weight can prevent excessive sagging and keep your cat looking handsome.


In summary, tom cat cheeks are the result of testosterone influencing bone and muscle development around the face and head of unneutered male cats. Their purpose is for sexual signaling and intimidation. The neutering procedure reduces testosterone and therefore halts further enlargement of the cheeks. While existing developed tissue may not completely regress, the cheeks generally do diminish in size after neutering due to decreased muscle mass and new bone growth. The transition can take a few months and the final result will depend on the cat’s genetics and age at neutering. Proper care and nutrition can help manage the changes. The tom cat’s personality may also soften along with the shrinking cheeks.

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