How Many Nipples Do Cats Have? A Guide to Cat Pregnancy and Litter Sizes

cats mating

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Like all animals, the number of offspring a cat has depends on the species. For example, a housecat typically gives birth to two to five kittens, while a lioness may have litters of up to six or more cubs. This article will answer the question, ‘how many nipples do cats have.’

Felines generally have between six and eight nipples, with the average being six. Cats typically have two rows of nipples on their belly, with two, three, or four in each row. 

Even male cats have nipples and they can vary in size and color depending on the cat, but they are typically small and pink. Some cats even have an odd number of nipples. 

The number of nipples a cat has seems to be pretty random and not based on the breed of cat, age, or health. A kitten is born with the same number of nipples as it will have as an adult as this body part develops in the mother’s womb. This article will answer the question, ‘how many nipples do cats have?’ We’ll also discuss pregnancy and birthing as well as nipple issues.

How many nipples do cats have?

How many nipples do cats have? Cats generally have between 6 and 8 nipples, one for each kitten. Both male and female cats have nipples, but only the females can produce milk.

As mentioned above, cats have between six and eight nipples. During pregnancy, the size of the nipples will increase as the kitten fetuses grow, and the mother gets ready to give birth.

At birth, kittens will suckle from their mother’s nipples until they are weaned. Kittens will generally start to eat solid food at around four weeks old but won’t totally give up the milk until they are at least six weeks old and ready to leave the mother.

Cats can have different litter sizes, but the average litter size is four or five kittens. The largest litter size ever recorded was 19 kittens. According to the Guinness World Records, in 1970, a female Burmese-Siamese cross gave birth to a large litter in Oxfordshire, UK. Unfortunately, four of the felines died at birth. 

What are cats' nipples called? 

Cats’ nipples are also known as mammae. This word is derived from the Latin word for ‘breasts .’Most female mammals have mammae, which contain milk-producing glands. 

Male mammals also have nipples, but they don’t contain mammae glands, so they won’t be able to produce milk.


Do all animals have nipples?

No, not all animals have nipples. Reptiles and fish don’t have nipples as their young hatch from an egg rather than being born. 

Duck-billed platypus and echidnas don’t have nipples as they also lay eggs that hatch into young that are able to feed and look after themselves. 

Nipples and gender: Why do male cats have nipples?

You can’t tell whether a kitten is male or female by looking at or feeling its nipples, as both genders have nipples. 

A male cat, like most mammals, has nipples even though they don’t use them. Only the female cats have nipples that can produce milk and feed the kittens. 

It’s thought that males have nipples as they develop in the womb before the gender of the kitten is determined. The DNA of all mammals means that the fetus will develop nipples. 

As the pregnancy progresses, either male or female sex hormones will enter the fetus. The male kitten will have testosterone which stops the milk-producing glands from developing. Cats in the same litter can have different numbers of nipples.

Pregnancy in cats

cats mating

The cat’s body will go through many changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growing kittens. 

The first sign of pregnancy in cats is typically an increase in appetite. The cat’s belly will also start to swell as the kittens grow and develop. 

The cat’s abdomen will be significantly larger by the end of the pregnancy.

Can I tell if my cat is pregnant by her nipples?

Yes, you can usually tell if a cat is pregnant by her nipples. The nipples will become larger and more pronounced as the pregnancy progresses. The areola, the area around the nipple, will also darken in color.

This generally happens after about a month to 35 days, so if you’ve noticed changes in your cat’s nipples, she may be halfway through her pregnancy.

It’s also worth noting that some medical conditions also cause changes to a cat’s nipples. You should consult your vet if you’re worried rather than assuming that your cat is pregnant. 

That being said, if you have a cat that’s of breeding age that hasn’t been neutered, there’s a high chance that pregnancy is the cause of swollen and enlarged nipples. 

Nipple issues to be aware of

If you have a nursing cat, she may suffer from a mammary gland infection known as mastitis.

  • Galactostasis is a condition that causes milk to collect in mammary glands during the weaning stage. 

  • Cats can suffer from benign masses around the nipples (Feline Mammary Hypertrophy)– 

  • Cancer of the mammary glands can occur in female cats

  • Mammary Hyperplasia is a condition that affects cat’s nipples and is caused by increased progesterone levels.

  • False pregnancy/ phantom pregnancy is when a cat starts producing milk and mothering toys when not actually pregnant.

How long are cats pregnant?

Cats are pregnant for around 9 or 10 weeks. This is the average length of time, but it can be slightly shorter or longer depending on the breed of cat.

 Signs of pregnancy in cats

  • Increased appetite and weight gain 

  • Little or no noticeable changes in the first two weeks

  • The cat’s nipples will become larger and pinker

  • Morning sickness: loss of appetite, lethargy, and vomiting

  • The female cat will be less tolerant of other pets or children

  • Restlessness and discomfort approaching labor. 

  • Increased use of the litter box and accidents may happen due to the kittens pressing on her bladder.

Cat pregnancy stages

There are three stages of cat pregnancy in a female cat. Let’s look at each stage in more detail, so you’ll know what to expect if your cat gets pregnant: 

1st stage

The first stage is the earliest and lasts for around two weeks. During the initial stages, the fertilized eggs travel through the fallopian tubes and are implanted in the uterus. 

Most cats won’t show pregnancy symptoms until they are in stage two. However, you may notice that your cat’s appetite has increased slightly.

2nd stage

The second stage is from week three to week six and is when the kittens start to develop and grow in the womb. During this stage, the female cat will gradually begin to put on weight, and her appetite will likely increase further. 

The cat will also suffer from morning sickness, which has similar symptoms as it does with humans. You may notice that your cat is lethargic in the morning, vomits, and losses her appetite. This will generally clear up as the day progresses. 

You’ll also notice that your cat’s nipples get larger and pinker and that she will start to lick around the nipples to remove the fur. This will make it easier for the kittens to suckle when they are born.

After three or four weeks, you can take your cat to the vet for an ultrasound (from day 24) to determine that she is definitely pregnant. The vet will be able to detect the kitten’s heartbeats and tell you her estimated due date and how many kittens she’s carrying. 

 3rd stage

The third stage is from week seven to week nine. The kittens will continue to grow and develop. The mother will also start to produce milk for her kittens. You may notice that the female cats’ nipples have started to leak slightly, and this is a sign that the kittens will soon arrive.

You may find that your cat becomes more loving and wants more attention in the lead-up to the birth. She may also feel threatened by other pets and won’t tolerate dogs or other cats that she previously got on with.

Helping a pregnant cat stay comfortable

how many nipples do cats have
A pregant cat that's almost ready to give birth. How many nipples do cats have? Generally between 6 and 8. You can see from this image that the nipples have become enlarged and are pinker. The female cat will lick the fur off her nipple to make it easier for the kittens to suckle.

As the belly grows larger, the pregnant cat may find it uncomfortable to lie on her side. You can help by providing her with a soft bed or blanket that she can lie on.

As the due date approaches, the female cat may start to nest.

This is when she starts to look for a safe place to have her kittens. You can help by providing her with a box or basket lined with soft bedding. 

Cats like to be somewhere safe and dark to give birth and often choose a covered area. 

Putting a large cardboard box on its size with a bed inside is a good idea. This will stop the cat from giving birth in the litter box, something which should be avoided at all costs for hygiene reasons. Newborn kittens can easily pick up infections, so ensure your cat has a clean and safe spot to birth. 


When the time comes for the kittens to be born, the mother cat will usually do it on her own. However, if you are concerned about her welfare, you can take her to the vet to have them assist with the birth. 

There are three stages of birthing, and the whole process can take up to 24 hours. 

1st stage

  • The cat will begin to pant and cry out as she starts to have contractions.

  • The mother cat will lick herself to prepare for birth. 

  • Children and other pets should be kept away from your cat.

  • The first stage will take 6 to 12 hours.

2nd stage

  • The first kitten will start to move through the birth canal 

  • The cat will strain as if going to the toilet

  • One or more kittens will then be born.

3rd stage

  • The placenta will be passed

  • Stage two will begin again if there are more kittens to be birthed. 

  • After the kittens are born, the mother cat will clean them and herself. 

  • The mother will bite through the umbilical cord and eat the placenta

  • The kittens will be nursed.

 Related Article: Do Cats Have Belly Buttons?

It’s important not to interfere during birth or initial nursing unless you have to. Let her do this on her own as she knows what is best for her kittens. 

You should only intervene if there are problems, such as if the kittens are not nursing or if the mother cat seems to be in distress. In these cases, you should consult a vet immediately. 

It’s common for some time to pass before the birth of each kitten, but if it’s been more than three hours since the last kitten was born, consult a vet. 

Kittens are born tiny and helpless as they have their eyes closed.

Related Article: New Kitten Checklist

How many nipples do cats have?: Final thoughts

So, how many nipples do cats have? Six on average, but the number can vary depending on the species. Both male and female cats have nipples.

 Litter size also varies, with the average being four kittens. A female cat will have swollen nipples when pregnant.

You may also like: Why Do Dogs and Cats Fight?

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