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What Are Tomcat Jowls (Cheeks) In Male Cats?

“Tomcat jowls,” also referred to as “tomcat cheeks,” are a distinctive feature found in mature male cats, particularly those that are unneutered (not neutered or castrated). This term describes the enlarged, often bulging, and fur-covered cheek area of these male cats, which is caused by specialized scent glands.

These scent glands, called “cheek glands” or “buck glands,” produce pheromones that play a significant role in scent marking and communication among cats. When a male cat rubs his cheeks against objects, other cats, or even humans, he’s depositing his scent from these glands. This behavior is known as “head bunting” or “head butting.”

The enlarged appearance of the cheek area is most pronounced in mature, unneutered male cats due to their increased levels of testosterone. Neutering (castration) can reduce the size of these glands and the associated cheek bulge and eliminate the strong scent associated with them. Neutering also has other health and behavioral benefits.

It’s important to note that “tomcat jowls” or “tomcat cheeks” might not be an official scientific term but an everyday way of describing this particular feature of male cats.

Puberty In Cats

Puberty in cats, also known as sexual maturity, refers to the stage of development when cats become capable of reproduction. This stage marks the onset of sexual and reproductive behaviors. The timing of puberty in cats can vary based on factors like breed, genetics, environment, and overall health.


Here are some general characteristics and information about puberty in cats:

Age of Puberty: Puberty typically occurs in cats around 5 to 9 months, although it can happen earlier or later. Smaller breeds tend to reach sexual maturity earlier than larger breeds.

Physical Changes: Male cats (tomcats) will often exhibit material changes such as the development of larger testicles and the enlargement of scent glands, particularly in the cheek area (referred to as “tomcat jowls” or “tomcat cheeks”). Female cats (queens) will experience changes in their reproductive organs and may go into heat (estrus).

Behavioral Changes: Puberty is accompanied by changes in behavior. Male cats may become more territorial and exhibit behaviors like urine marking to establish their presence. Female cats will go into heat, where they may yowl, be more affectionate, and assume mating postures.

Heat (Estrus) Cycle: Female cats come into heat, also known as estrus, multiple times throughout their breeding season. Estrus lasts about a week and is characterized by behavioral changes and vocalizations. If a female cat is not mated during this period, she will go through a period of rest before entering the next heat cycle.

Neutering and Spaying: Neutering (castrating) male cats and spaying female cats involves the removal of the reproductive organs and is commonly done to prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduce certain behaviors (like spraying in males), and decrease the risk of specific health issues (like certain types of cancer). These procedures are often performed before sexual maturity to prevent unwanted litter.

Cat owners need to be prepared for the changes that come with puberty. If you don’t plan to breed your cats, neutering and spaying are recommended to prevent unwanted pregnancies and improve their overall health and well-being. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate timing for these procedures based on your cat’s breed, age, and health status.


Entire Male Cats Show Different Behavior


Yes, intact (non-neutered) male cats, often called “tomcats,” can exhibit distinct behaviours due to their hormonal makeup and instincts. Here are some common behaviours associated with intact male cats:

Territorial Marking: Intact male cats are more prone to marking their territory by spraying urine. This behaviour helps them establish their presence and communicate with other cats.

Roaming and Exploring: Male cats tend to walk and explore their surroundings for potential mates. This behaviour is driven by their instinct to find and mate with female cats in heat.

Aggression: Intact male cats might display more aggressive behaviour, especially toward other male cats, as they compete for territory and mating opportunities. This aggression can lead to fights and injuries.

Vocalisation: Male cats might become more vocal, mainly when they detect the scent of a female cat in heat. They may yowl or meow loudly to attract potential mates.

Restlessness: Intact male cats can become more restless and hyperactive, especially during breeding. They may exhibit pacing, increased activity, and overall restlessness.

Seeking Out Females: Male cats can focus on seeking out female cats in heat. They might try to escape from indoors to find potential mates outside.

Decreased Social Behavior: Intact male cats might show less interest in social interaction with humans and other cats, as their primary focus is breeding.

These behaviours are primarily driven by the instincts and hormonal changes associated with intact male cats. Neutering (spaying/castrating) can often help mitigate these behaviours and provide health benefits for the cat while also contributing to overall population control by reducing the number of unwanted litters. Neutered cats are generally calmer, less aggressive, and more focused on social interaction with humans and other animals.


Other Causes Of Large Cheeks In Cats


Prominent cheeks in cats can be caused by various factors, some of which may be normal variations while others might indicate underlying health issues. Here are a few potential causes of prominent cheeks in cats:

Breed Characteristics: Some cat breeds, such as the Persian and Exotic Shorthair, are known for their distinct facial structures with prominent cheeks. These breeds naturally have round faces and may appear to have prominent cheeks due to their breed-specific characteristics.

Obesity: Overweight or obese cats might develop excess fat deposits around their cheeks, making them appear larger. Obesity in cats can lead to various health issues and should be managed through proper diet and exercise.

Dental Problems: Cats with dental issues, such as abscesses, infections, or inflammation of the gums, might have swollen or inflamed cheeks. Dental problems can cause discomfort and should be addressed by a veterinarian.

Allergic Reactions: Allergies to certain foods, environmental factors, or substances can lead to facial swelling in cats. This might manifest as puffiness in the cheeks, among other symptoms.

Abscesses or Infections: Infections, including abscesses, can lead to swelling and inflammation in various parts of the body, including the cheeks. Injuries, bites, or other forms of trauma can cause these.

Salivary Gland Issues: Salivary gland problems, such as salivary gland infections or blockages, can result in swelling around the cheeks and jaw area.

Tumours: While less common, tumours or growths in the facial region could cause the cheeks to appear enlarged. It’s essential to have any unusual lumps or bumps evaluated by a veterinarian.

Cystic Structures: Certain cysts or fluid-filled sacs can develop in the facial area, leading to localized swelling.

Systemic Health Issues: Some systemic health conditions, such as kidney disease or heart failure, might lead to fluid retention, resulting in facial swelling.

If you notice your cat’s cheeks are more prominent than usual, it’s essential to have a veterinarian examine your cat to determine the underlying cause. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, possibly conduct diagnostic tests, and provide appropriate treatment based on the findings.


Do all male cats develop tomcat jowls?

Not all male cats develop what you might refer to as “tomcat jowls.” The term “tomcat jowls” seems to imply the development of prominent cheeks or a more robust facial structure in male cats, possibly due to hormonal changes or other factors. However, the appearance of a cat’s face can be influenced by various factors, including genetics, breed characteristics, age, and individual variation.

Certain breeds of cats are more prone to naturally having a rounder or fuller facial appearance. For example, species like Persians and Exotic Shorthairs are known for their distinct flat faces and round cheeks, which can be present in both males and females.

While intact (non-neutered) male cats can develop specific behaviours and physical characteristics related to their hormones and sexual maturity, such as territorial marking and roaming tendencies, there isn’t a universal rule that all male cats will develop what you might describe as “tomcat jowls.” The appearance of a cat’s face can vary widely among individuals, and factors beyond hormones can play a role.

If you have concerns about your male cat’s appearance or health, consulting with a veterinarian is a good idea. They can assess your cat’s overall health and address any specific questions you may have about your cat’s facial appearance.