I was petting my male cat when I noticed something strange. His nipples were dry and crusty. I’d never really paid attention to his nipples before, but I was sure they weren’t supposed to look like this. What was going on?
Why are my male cat’s nipples dry?
Sure male cats have nipples, but it’s probably not something you think about very often, if at all. In fact, until I encountered the problem, I had only occasionally stopped to wonder why males have nipples at all.
Well, it turns out that both humans and felines all start out as females. During very early development, there is no differences between males and females. As development continues, males develop male characteristics, while females develop female traits.
By the time this divergence occurs, nipples have already been formed. Now we know why males have nipples in the first place, but what causes them to get dry?
If your cat’s nipples are dry and crusty or have a yellow appearance, they are probably just dirty.
The average cat spend up to 50% of their time grooming themselves. Their tongue is specially designed to remove dead skin cells and oil from their fur. This is why cats rarely need bathing.
However, sometimes things go awry. If your cat doesn’t clean their nipples, it will cause a build up of sebum.
Cats and humans both produce sebum, although they have a different chemical make up. The sebum you produce is what makes your hair oily when you don’t wash it. It’s also responsible for the shiny face you may notice in the mirror at times, and it can even lead to breakouts.
Most of your cat is covered with hair. Just like human hair, it will absorb most of the sebum. The nipples are one of the few areas of your cat where your cat’s hair may be sparse.
Without the hair to soak up the sebum like a sponge, it will coat the nipples. If your kitty doesn’t groom themselves properly, it will continue to build up, causing a dry and crusty appearance.
It’s a common problem, particularly in overweight male cats. They can have difficulty reaching all of their nipples. If they can’t reach them, they can’t clean them. Your cat may also develop dry nipples if they are sick or injured, and unable to groom themselves properly.
Why Did My Cat’s Nipple Fall Off?
You notice your cat’s nipples are dry and crusted. You begin to try to remove the crust, and the nipple comes off. You see a small hole where the nipple was. Is your cat hurt? Did their nipple really fall off?
No, their nipple didn’t fall off. What actually happened was the sebum that was covering their nipple fell off. Their actual nipple inverted. This means it went inward into the body, which is why you won’t see it when the sebum is removed.
The weather can also cause your cat to have dry nipples. This typically occurs in the winter. The frigid air is very dry, and the humidity indoors is low as well. This can cause chapped hands and lips for humans, because these are the areas most exposed to the cold.
Because cats typically have less hair on their stomach, it also puts their nipples at risk of dryness. If this is the case you may notice dryness or cracking.
Yes, dry crusty nipples are typically caused by under grooming, but overgrooming can cause nipple dryness as well.
Let’s consider chapped lips again. Constantly licking your lips will quickly result in chapped irritated lips. For your cat, constant licking of their nipples causes the same problem.
Overgrooming can occur due to irritation or pain in the area. If your kitty has fleas or a skin allergy, this can cause them to overgroom in an attempt to relieve the discomfort.
However, the most common reasons cats overgroom is boredom and stress. A bored cat, like a bored child, will find something to entertain themselves with. Of course, its often something you don’t want them doing.
Grooming is comforting to a cat. When they groom themselves, their brain releases feel good chemicals. These have a relaxing effect. When a cat overgrooms due to stress, it’s similar to a human rocking or twirling their hair.
Why are my pregnant cat’s nipples dry?
Dry nipples are common in pregnant cats. It is a bit ironic, since they should become wet with milk after she gives birth. There are a few potential causes of dry nipples during pregnancy.
If your cat is nearing birth, her nipples will begin to produce colustrum. This is a thick milky substance that is produced before her regular milk comes in. It can leak from the nipples, and get stuck on them as it dries.
This will create a white or yellow crust on the nipples that looks dry.
Your cat’s nipples can also become dry and black. The black substance is a mixture of dirt, sebum, and dried milk or colustum.
Another culprit for dry nipples during pregnancy is poor grooming. When your cat is very pregnant, it can be difficult for her to reach her nipples. If she can’t clean them, they will become dirty and covered with dry sebum.
The hormonal changes of pregnancy can also cause dry skin, including dry nipples. Your cats nipples are also changing while pregnant, which can add to the dryness.
If she isn’t near labor and producing milk, it may simply be hormones causing the dryness.
Should you clean your cat’s nipples?
If your cat is having a hard time cleaning their nipples themselves, yes, you should clean their nipples. If your cat’s nipples look perfectly normal, you can probably skip this step in the grooming routine.
Do Your Cat’s Nipples Need Cleaning?
The easiest way to determine if your cat’s nipples need cleaning is to take a look. If they appear dry, crusty, or otherwise gross, you’ll need to clean them.
Normal cat nipples are small and pink. They resemble a pimple. If your cat’s nipples are swollen or very red and they aren’t nursing, you’ll need to consult your vet. They may have an infection.
How to Clean Your Cat’s Nipples
Cleaning your cat’s nipples is fairly simple. You can use a wet washcloth or a pet wipe. Be sure to rub each nipple and the surrounding area, removing any dirt and dry skin. If the nipples are cracked, you may want to use an antibacterial soap or antiseptic wash.
If there’s dry sebum on the nipple, you can loosen it with a warm compress or oil. Applying a warm compress for a few minutes will moisten the sebum and allow it to come off easier.
Oil can also work well because sebum is waxy. It will remove the sebum easily. Just rub it on with your hand or a cotton ball. Allow it to set for 1 to 2 minutes, and then wipe away.
What to do about my cat’s dry nipples?
Dry nipples can make your cat uncomfortable. The good news is, there are a few basic at home treatments.
If your cat has dry nipples, particularly if its due to a lack of grooming, you’ll need to help them by cleaning their nipples. A quick daily cleaning should have their nipples back to normal in no time.
You can moisturize your cats’ nipples with a cat safe moisturizer. Never use lotion designed for humans on your cat. Cats love to lick themselves, so don’t put anything on their skin you wouldn’t want them to eat.
Olive oil and coconut oil are excellent moisturizers for cats. You may have used these moisturizers on yourself, and learned they aren’t just for cooking. They are safe for cats to ingest, and they are very effective as well.
Coconut oil has the added benefit of being antibacterial and antifungal. This can help prevent your cat from developing a nipple infection.
If your cat’s nipples are very dry and cracked, you may need a heavy duty moisturizer. In this case, use cocoa or Shea butter. These butters are thick, which makes them better for dry cracked skin. They also work as a protectant while your cat’s nipples begin to heal.
Clearing the Air
If your cat has dry nipples during winter, a humidifier can help. Using a humidifier in your home will help moisturize the air, which should help your cat’s nipples heal. You may find your own skin feels better as well.
Paw wax is used on dog paws to help protect them from the elements. However, it can also be used for your cat. You can apply paw wax, like Musher’s Secret, to any sensitive areas, including your cat’s nipples. This provides a protective barrier. This can help prevent winter dryness. It can also help with overgrooming.
When to See a Vet
Cats can develop nipple infections. If their nipples are red and swollen, it’s best to see the vet. Heat is also a sign of infection. Mastitis can occur in nursing cats. This is an infection in the milk ducts. This must be treated with antibiotics.
In non-nursing cats, infection typically begins with skin irritation. The nipples become dry and cracked, and then they become infected.
You should also see the vet if the nipples are painful for your cat. Sure, having its nipples rubbed or cleaned isn’t likely to be your cat’s favorite thing. However, they shouldn’t seem to be in pain.