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Normal Cat Nipples Vs. Pregnant Cat Nipples: 5 Key Changes

Normal Cat Nipples Vs. Pregnant Cat Nipples: 5 Key Changes

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If you’re the owner of an unspayed female cat, it’s essential to know the signs of cat pregnancy. By recognizing them on time, you’ll be able to prepare for an upcoming litter of kittens and be ready to help your cat throughout her pregnancy and labor.

One of the first signs of cat pregnancy is a change in the appearance of the nipples. Normal cat nipples vs. pregnant cat nipples have five major differences, which will be discussed in this article.

These differences may not be so noticeable in early pregnancy, but the changes become pretty obvious during late pregnancy. So, what are the five key changes in a pregnant cat’s nipples? Read on to find out!

Normal Cat Nipples Vs. Pregnant Cat Nipples

pregnant cat resting

As you already know, a female cat’s nipples undergo significant changes when a cat is pregnant.

The change in the appearance of a pregnant cat’s nipples will be noticeable around week 4 of the pregnancy. You can even detect the change on day 15 of pregnancy for some cats! Of course, this is only true if you know what to look for.

On day 35 of pregnancy, even an inexperienced cat owner will notice that their female cat’s nipples are enlarged, swollen, and pink! Other nipple-related symptoms of pregnancy appear later on during pregnancy, such as receding fur around the nipples and light discharge.

Let’s look at a comparison of normal cat nipples vs. pregnant cat nipples!

TraitIn non-pregnant female cats In pregnant female cats
Size Not enlargedEnlarged
ColorBright pink Very pink, reddened
The fur around the nipplesClose to the nipples, almost covering themReceding away from the nipples to expose them fully
The area around the nipplesNot enlargedEnlarged
Discharge Not present in healthy catsPresent in some cats during late pregnancy, in the form of milky fluid

Considering the change in a cat’s nipple appearance is one of the first (and also the easiest) ways to detect pregnancy, let’s learn a bit more about them. Further below in the article, I will go over these differences in more detail.

What Do Normal Cat Nipples Look Like?

male cat nipple

Let me start by saying both male and female cats have nipples (yes, male cats have nipples, just as male humans do), and the standard number of nipples is 8 (although it’s possible to have 6, 10, or an odd number of nipples). They appear in two parallel lines running along a cat’s belly, each row having four nipples.

Normal cat nipples are small, pink, raised areas of mammary tissue. You can compare the appearance of a normal cat nipple to that of a pimple or a wart.

It may be hard to notice normal cat nipples, especially in males and females that have never had a pregnancy. They are usually tiny and covered in fur.

The appearance of a cat’s nipples does not depend on a cat’s gender, breed, or age. Therefore, judging a cat’s gender, breed, or age based on its nipples is impossible.

Healthy male cats should not experience a change in nipple appearance throughout their lives, so any change in nipple appearance requires a visit to the vet.

Healthy female cats experience a change in nipple appearance only during heat and pregnancy, and in all other cases, a change in appearance requires a visit to the vet (just as for male cats)

Check out: How Many Nipples Do Cats Have? This Is What You Need To Know

Pregnant Cat’s Nipples – 5 Key Changes

A non-pregnant cat’s nipples are small, firm, and barely seen. That is not the case in pregnant cats, as you can see in the video of a 58-days pregnant Siamese cat below!

Now, let’s go over the telltale differences in normal vs. pregnant cat nipples!

Nipples Swelling Up

For nipple changes to begin being noticeable, a pregnancy should last at least two to three weeks. One of the first noticeable changes is size. The nipples are more apparent at this stage of a cat’s pregnancy, as they often double in size. This change is observed throughout the entire cat pregnancy.

Nipples Having A Pinker Hue

Another telltale sign of cat pregnancy is the cat’s nipples having a more pinkish color, maybe even light red. This change is commonly referred to as the “pinking up” of the nipples or the “reddening” of the nipples. This change is observable in early pregnancy.

Furr Around The Nipples Starts To Recede

You will probably also notice the fur around the cat’s nipples starting to recede away from the nipples! This is one way a cat’s body prepares for nursing the kittens. With the cat’s fur receding, the nipples are easier for kittens to find! This change is observed in late pregnancy.

Area Around The Nipples Enlarge

Not only do the nipples themselves enlarge, but the surrounding tissue also. The area around the nipples gets pinker and appears swollen or inflamed, a sign observed in late pregnancy.

Nipples Leaking Discharge

Another sign of late pregnancy is the cat’s nipples leaking discharge. It is typical to observe a small amount of discharge flowing from the mother’s nipples around two weeks before the kittens are delivered.

The discharge can be continuous or occasional and is usually milky or clear depending on the gestation period and the mother’s health.

The nipples may leak on their own or when pressure is applied. This discharge is typical and indicates that the mammaries are prepared to start producing milk at full capacity whenever necessary. Do not be alarmed if you do not observe any discharge; not all mother cats generate it in noticeable quantities.

How Do The Cat’s Nipples Change Throughout Pregnancy?

pregnant cat

The appearance of a cat’s nipples does change throughout pregnancy, and a queen’s nipples do not look the same at the beginning and at the end of the pregnancy.

Early pregnancy is characterized by the cat’s nipples being:

• Larger than usual

• Redder than usual

• Exposed from the fur

Late pregnancy is characterized by the cat’s nipples being:

• Larger than usual

• Redder than usual

• Exposed from the fur

• Surrounding tissue appearing inflamed (larger and pinker than usual)

• Discharge being present (2 weeks before the kittens are born)

Why Do Cat’s Nipples Change During Pregnancy?

A pregnant Canadian sphinx

You might be wondering why a cat’s nipples change during pregnancy in the first place. Why don’t they stay the same as usual?

This change in nipple appearance takes place to get the nipples ready for feeding when the kittens are born. When a nipple is larger, protruding from the surface of the cat’s body, and isn’t covered by fur, it’s much easier for kittens to find it!

Every nipple on a cat, whether it be male or female, is attached to a specific mammary gland, which produces milk as necessary (which should only occur when a female becomes pregnant).

Each mammary gland has a tiny duct attached to it that carries milk to a canal that allows the milk to exit the nipple. Unless a health issue arises, only during pregnancy should milk production occur!

If your cat experiences changes in nipple appearance but is not pregnant or in heat, you should take it to see a veterinarian.

Female Cat Nipples After Pregnancy

pregnant cat nursing

Before pregnancy, a cat’s nipples are bright pink and small. During pregnancy, the nipples get enlarged and pinker. But what happens to the appearance of a cat’s nipples after pregnancy? Do they go back to how they were before?

After labor, the mother cat starts feeding her kittens. The nipples will grow and seem fuller as a result of feeding. Due to the mother’s heavy load of milk, the nipples may hang down while she walks. Throughout the feeding phase, the nipples remain puffy and red or pink.

The nursing cat’s nipples gradually begin to shrink and resume their normal look after the kittens start weaning themselves off of their mother’s milk.

The nipples of some female cats, nevertheless, never return to their pre-pregnancy size, and they will continue to be more visible and somewhat bigger.

This is important to mention because the changes in nipple appearance will not be so apparent for the second or third pregnancy, compared to the changes during the first pregnancy. Therefore, noticing these first signs of pregnancy is a bit harder in cats that have had multiple pregnancies.

Essentially, the nipples of female cats will never again be as small as they were before pregnancy.

6 Other Signs Of Cat Pregnancy

cat eating from metal bowl

Apart from the change in nipple appearance, you might be interested in knowing how to recognize other signs of feline pregnancy.

Knowing the signs of cat pregnancy is important so you can begin caring for a pregnant cat (for example, increasing the quality of the cat’s food and having frequent veterinarian check-ups) and prepare to buy kitten food!

Some cats don’t display obvious signs they’re pregnant, while for other cats, the signs are very easily observable. Nevertheless, the most common signs of cat pregnancy are explained below!

An Increase (Or Decrease) In Appetite

Adult cats have a steady appetite, and cat owners can easily observe an increase or decrease in appetite. One of the biggest tale-tell signs a cat might be pregnant is a drastic change in eating habits.

You may notice a cat eating more than usual, which leads to you having to fill up the cat’s food bowl more frequently. On the other hand, some cats might have a decrease in appetite. However, an increase in appetite is a much more common occurrence.

The cat will need the extra energy as carrying kittens within their body is demanding and exhausting. Remember that mama cats must eat in addition to providing food for their growing kittens, so a particularly increased appetite is to be expected.

Sleeping More Than Usual

gray tabby cat sleeping

Another sign of pregnancy is sleeping more than usual. Cats sleep a lot daily, but a pregnant cat will sleep even more! Your expectant furry friend will love to rest alone and spend most of their time sleeping. You might even notice a cat sleeping in places it wouldn’t usually.

Relaxing and sleeping will be preferred over active playdates, so expect a pregnant cat to become a bit lazy, so to speak.

Experiencing Morning Sickness

Just like humans, cats may have morning sickness while they are pregnant. This is due to the abdomen’s expanding size gradually putting more pressure on their digestive system.

So, if you see that your cat has vomited, there’s a chance that she’s pregnant.

Bulging Of The Abdomen

At days 35-45 of the pregnancy, you can expect your cat’s stomach to be more observable when looking from the side! When seen from above, a pregnant cat’s belly enlarges more than halfway from the neck to the tail. 

Change In Cat’s Behavior

owner pets cat

When pregnant, most cats exhibit some form of behavior change. That can be being more affectionate or being more aggressive than normal.

She may allow you to pet her longer, sit on your lap, follow you around the house, and purr louder than usual. On the other hand, some cats become distant and are not so fond of human attention or interaction.

Either way, most cat owners quickly notice their cats’ obvious changes in behavior.

Displaying Nesting Behavior

Your cat will start exhibiting nesting tendencies a few days before giving birth as she prepares for her litter’s arrival. She can select the place you prepare for her or try to conceal herself at the back of a closet or under a bed.

If you notice your cat has selected a place to give birth, putting blankets, towels, or other fabrics there is an excellent option to prepare the site for cat labor.

Suggested: 7 Pre Labor Signs In Cats: What You Need To Know!

What Should I Do When I Notice Signs Of Cat Pregnancy?

sick cat at the vet

You should take your cat to the vet if you suspect your cat is pregnant. Some veterinary clinics may identify feline pregnancies as early as 15 days into the animal’s pregnancy using ultrasound.

By day 40 of her pregnancy, the doctor might also be able to tell you how many babies your cat is carrying. Remember that a larger kitten might hide a more petite kitten in a pregnant cat’s womb, so you can end up with more kittens than you anticipated!

More importantly, your veterinarian will be able to counsel you on how to care for your pregnant cat and ensure that the delivery is as safe and painless as possible.

Mastitis – A Health Issue You Need To Be Aware Of

cat with mastitis

While we’re on the subject of feline nipples, let me warn you about a potential postpartum health issue with the main symptom being enlarged, swollen nipples.

Mastitis is an inflammation of a mammary gland, usually caused by a bacterial infection. For example, bacteria could end up in the mammary gland via trauma to the nipple.

When bacteria enter the mammary gland, they multiply, creating an infection. An infection can also be caused by a prolonged period of milk accumulation without milk removal, for example, in the case of separation from its kittens.

Signs a cat has mastitis are:

• Swollen, red nipples

• Painful nursing

• Inability to express milk

• Discolored milk

• Fever

• Loss of appetite

• Lethargy

• Kittens not gaining weight

• Rejecting nursing the kittens due to pain

Mastitis can have a severe impact on a cat’s health (and the health of her kittens) if not treated on time; therefore, noticing the signs of mastitis early on is crucial.

Oral antibiotics and painkillers are usually effective outpatient treatments for cats with mastitis. The cat may continue to live at home with her kittens, making this therapy approach a good option. The diseased gland might have to be hand-milked, as suggested by your veterinarian.

The prognosis for mastitis is generally favorable. Symptoms usually go away in two to three weeks with the proper care.


Can You Feel Cats Nipples If Not Pregnant?

If a female cat is not pregnant, feeling the nipples is a bit harder to do, but it’s not impossible. The nipples might be slightly covered in fur, but after feeling a cat’s stomach, you should be able to find two parallel rows, with each row containing 3-4 or even 5 nipples.

Why Do Cats’ Nipples Get Bigger When Pregnant?

Cats’ nipples get bigger when they’re pregnant because their body is preparing to nurse the kittens. Enlarged nipples are easier for kittens to find.

Can A Cat Have Large Nipples And Not Be Pregnant?

Large nipples aren’t always a sign that a female cat is in heat or is pregnant. It can be a symptom of an underlying health issue, such as:
• Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland that usually arises after labor in female cats, but male cats can have it as well)
• Mammary cancer (a common feline cancer, male and female cats can have it)
• Mammary hyperplasia (abnormal enlargement of mammary glands, can happen in male and female cats)
• Galactostasis (excessive accumulation of milk in the mammary gland)
• Mammary hypertrophy (enlargement of the mammary gland)
If your male cat or non-pregnant female cat displays enlarged nipples, you should schedule a veterinary appointment, as enlarged nipples are usually a sign of an underlying health issue.

In Conclusion

If you decide against spaying your female cat, you need to be aware that she will (most likely) get pregnant at some point. This is especially true if you have a healthy tomcat in your home or neighborhood.

Noticing when your cat is pregnant is very important to prepare yourself for the litter of kittens you’re about to have, but more importantly, to prepare yourself to help a cat if labor goes wrong. 

Because of this, you need to be aware of some crucial signs of pregnancy, one of which is a change in nipple appearance.

Normal cat nipples vs. pregnant cat nipples have five key differences. A pregnant cat’s nipples are enlarged, have a red hue to them, the surrounding area appears slightly swollen too, the cat’s fur recedes away from the nipple, and at late pregnancy, nipples might leak milky liquid.

Other signs of feline pregnancy include changes in behavior, increased appetite, sleeping more than usual, a growing belly, and displaying nesting behavior.

After you’ve determined your cat is pregnant, you can start preparing for the cat’s labor and crossing things off your new kitten checklist, such as kitten food, bed, and all other necessities! What an exciting time for you!

I hope this article was informative, and I’m sure you’ll be able to spot if your cat is pregnant on time!

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