Tomcat Jowls / Cheeks in Male Cats

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  • What are tomcat jowls or cheeks?

    A tomcat is a sexually mature un-neutered male cat. The name tomcat is derived from an eighteenth-century work of fiction titled The Life and Adventures of a Cat authored by Willoughby Mynors. The main character was Tom the Cat, a promiscuous male cat.

    Also known as stud jowls, stud cheeks or shields, tomcat jowls are fleshy areas that develop in the cheeks of intact male cats due to the effects of the hormone testosterone. Tomcat jowls send a signal to other intact males as well as fertile females of their physical status and protect vulnerable neck areas during territorial fighting (hence the name shields).

    two cats fighting in street
    Tomcat jowls send a signal to other cats about physical status and protect neck areas during fights

    When do tomcat jowls develop in male cats?

    Jowls start to develop when the cat reaches sexual maturity, and one study found they were present in unneutered cats by twelve months. Some breeders report that not all entire male cats develop jowls.

    Do tomcat jowls go away once a male is neutered?

    Once a cat is neutered and his testosterone levels drop, jowls will usually decrease in size although some breeders and pet owners with former tomcats say they didn’t decrease once the cat had been neutered.

    Do all male cats develop tomcat jowls?

    No, cats who are neutered before they reach sexual maturity (usually before 6 months) will not develop stud jowls. Some cat breeders also claim that not all stud cats (entire tom cats) develop jowls.

    Do male cats change after being neutered?

    Neutering involves the removal of the male cat’s testicles which eliminates the production of the sex hormone testosterone. This can eliminate typical male behaviour in approximately 90% of cats. Common behaviours include aggression, roaming (to look for a female to mate with) and territorial spraying.

    While neutering changes aspects of a cat’s behaviour, it doesn’t change the cat’s personality. In addition to the behavioural changes, neutering also confers health benefits including eliminating the risk of testicular cancer, reducing roaming, which puts the cat at risk of motor vehicle accidents and animal attacks, territorial fighting and associated injuries such as bite wound abscess and the transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio