Mastitis in Cats: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Have you ever noticed your female cat’s affected breasts looking red, swollen, and painful? It could be a sign of mastitis, a common bacterial breast infection that affects lactating cats. Mastitis is caused by milk accumulation in the mammary glands, which can become infected and lead to abscess formation. If you suspect your cat has mastitis, it’s important to take her to the vet for treatment. This condition can cause discomfort for both the mother cat and her litter.

Mastitis, also known as breast infection, is most commonly seen in female cats during lactation, but it can also occur after weaning. An initial presentation of mastitis may include pus or milk discharge from the affected breasts and tenderness and swelling of the mammary tissue. If left untreated, mastitis can lead to serious complications such as mammary cancer, sepsis, or even death.

If you suspect your cat has mastitis or mammary cancer, it’s important to take her to a vet immediately. The vet will likely examine the affected breasts and take a milk sample to determine which bacteria is causing the infection or if there are any abnormal mammary tissue growths. Antibiotics may be prescribed accordingly. In severe cases where an abscess has formed, surgery may be necessary. If your cat is a nursing kitten, prompt attention to any signs of mastitis or mammary cancer is crucial for the health of both the mother and kitten.

We’ll also discuss ways to prevent breast infection or mastitis, milk accumulation, and mammary cancer in your feline companion. So read on to learn more about this common yet painful condition that affects cats worldwide and make sure to consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Mastitis in Cats

Bacteria Entering the Mammary Glands

One of the most common causes of mastitis in cats is bacteria entering the mammary glands through cracks or wounds on the nipples. This can happen during nursing when kittens scratch or bite at their mother’s nipples, causing small wounds that allow bacteria to enter. Poor hygiene practices during nursing can also contribute to bacterial growth and infection. In addition, milk accumulation in the teats and increased milk production can also lead to mastitis. If you suspect your cat has mastitis, it is important to take her to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When bacteria enter the mammary gland through the teats, it can cause inflammation and swelling, leading to breast infection or mastitis. Some common types of bacteria that cause mastitis in cats include staphylococcus aureus and E.coli. To help soothe the affected area, applying honey may be beneficial. In severe cases, milk replacer may be necessary for the affected kittens.

Septic Mastitis

Septic mastitis is a severe form of the condition caused by bacterial infections that affects the mammary glands of nursing cats. If left untreated, it can lead to sepsis and even death in some cases. This type of mastitis is typically caused by gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E.coli) or Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can enter through a wound in the teats. However, it’s important to note that septic mastitis is not related to mammary cancer.

Septic mastitis occurs when bacteria penetrate deep into the tissue surrounding the mammary gland of a female cat, causing severe inflammation and infection. Signs of septic mastitis include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and swollen or painful mammary glands with wounds on the teats.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances can also contribute to breast infection or wound in cats. During pregnancy and lactation, hormonal changes occur that prepare the mammary glands for milk production. However, if these hormones become imbalanced or disrupted for any reason, it can increase a cat’s risk for developing mastitis.

Certain medications or medical conditions that affect hormone levels may also increase a cat’s risk for developing severe mastitis, especially if they have a wound.

Trauma to Mammary Glands

Trauma or wound to the mammary glands can also lead to mastitis in cats. This includes injuries from fights with other animals or accidents such as being hit by a car.

When the mammary gland suffers a wound or injury, it can become inflamed and infected, leading to mastitis. It’s important to seek veterinary care immediately if your cat experiences any trauma to their mammary glands.

Inadequate Hygiene During Nursing

Inadequate hygiene practices during nursing can also contribute to mastitis in cats. This includes dirty bedding or living conditions, as well as poor cleaning practices for the mother cat and her kittens. Wounds on the mother cat’s nipples can also lead to mastitis.

If bacteria are allowed to grow and multiply in these unsanitary conditions, it can increase a cat’s risk for developing mastitis or wound infections. It’s important to keep your cat and her kittens clean and provide them with a safe, sanitary environment during nursing.

Types of Mastitis in Cats

Infectious and Non-Infectious Mastitis

Mastitis is a painful condition that affects the mammary glands of cats. There are two types of mastitis in cats: infectious and non-infectious. Infectious mastitis is caused by bacterial infections, while non-infectious mastitis is caused by hormonal imbalances or trauma.

Infectious mastitis is more common in nursing queens and can be caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus species. These bacteria enter the mammary glands through cracks or injuries on the nipples, causing inflammation and infection. The infected mammary gland may become swollen, red, warm to the touch, and painful for the cat.

Non-infectious mastitis, on the other hand, is not related to bacterial infections but rather hormonal imbalances or trauma to the breast tissue. This type of mastitis can occur in both male and female cats but is more common in females who have recently given birth or are lactating.

Symptoms of Mastitis in Cats

The symptoms of mastitis in cats can vary depending on the type. However, both require prompt veterinary attention to prevent complications.

Symptoms of infectious mastitis include:

  • Swelling and redness around one or more mammary glands.
  • Painful mammary gland(s).
  • Warmth around affected area.
  • Fever.
  • Lethargy.
  • Loss of appetite.

Symptoms of non-infectious mastitis include:

  • Swollen breasts that feel hard to the touch.
  • Redness around affected area.
  • Painful mammary gland(s).
  • Discharge from nipples (clear fluid or blood).

If you notice any symptoms of mastitis in your cat, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and may recommend diagnostic tests such as a bacterial culture or ultrasound to determine the underlying cause of mastitis.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for mastitis in cats will depend on the underlying cause. In cases of infectious mastitis, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove infected breast tissue.

Non-infectious mastitis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication and pain relief. If the condition is caused by hormonal imbalances, hormone therapy may be recommended.

Preventing mastitis in cats involves keeping their living environment clean and sanitary, providing proper nutrition, and monitoring nursing queens closely for signs of infection. Regular veterinary check-ups are also important to catch any potential health problems early on.

Symptoms of Mastitis in Cats

Mastitis in cats is a condition that affects the mammary glands, which are responsible for producing milk. This inflammation of the mammary gland can be caused by a variety of factors such as bacterial infections, hormonal imbalances, or trauma to the area. The symptoms of mastitis in cats can vary depending on the severity and underlying cause but typically include swelling and pain in the affected breasts or glands.

Clinical Signs of Mastitis in Cats

Clinical signs of mastitis in cats include discomfort and illness. The first sign of acute mastitis in cats is often a swollen, painful affected gland. Other clinical signs may include redness, heat, and discharge from the nipple area. In severe cases, systemic illness may occur with clinical signs such as fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Swelling and Pain

The most common symptom of mastitis in cats is swelling and pain around the affected breast or gland. The swelling may be localized to one area or spread throughout multiple glands depending on how advanced the infection is. The cat’s behavior will also change during this time; they might become irritable or aggressive when their breasts are touched.


Cats with mastitis may also show signs of general discomfort such as restlessness or panting. They might also lick excessively at their nipples due to itchiness caused by inflammation.

Systemic Illness

In severe cases where mastitis has been left untreated for too long without proper care from a veterinarian, it can lead to systemic illness that affects other parts of your cat’s body besides just their mammary glands. These symptoms can include feverish temperatures above 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius), lethargy (extreme tiredness), dehydration (not drinking enough water), loss of appetite leading to weight loss over time if not addressed promptly by medical professionals.

Acute Mastitis vs. Severe Mastitis

Acute mastitis is the early stage of the infection when the symptoms are mild and localized to one gland or breast. If acute mastitis is left untreated, it can progress into severe mastitis where multiple glands become infected, leading to systemic illness and more severe symptoms. Mama cat owners should be aware of these potential risks.

What Does Mastitis Look Like in Cats?

Mastitis in cats can appear as a swollen breast or gland that may be red or warm to the touch. The nipple area may also have discharge such as pus or blood. In some cases, the affected area may develop an abscess (a pocket of pus) which will require surgical intervention by a veterinarian.

Diagnosis of Mastitis in Cats

Physical Examination

Mastitis in cats is diagnosed through a physical examination of the mammary glands. The veterinarian will palpate each gland, looking for signs of swelling, redness, and pain. They may also check for discharge or lumps in the breast tissue. The cat’s temperature may be taken to determine if there is an infection present.

Bacterial Culture

Bacterial culture is used to identify the type of bacterial infection causing mastitis in cats. A sample of milk from the affected gland is collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This test can identify which bacteria are present and determine which antibiotics will be most effective in treating the infection.

Microscopic Examination

Microscopic examination of milk samples can help detect the presence of streptococci bacteria in cats with mastitis. This test involves examining a small amount of milk under a microscope to look for signs of bacterial infection.

Laboratory Tests

Laboratory tests are necessary to confirm the diagnosis of mastitis in cats and rule out other diseases. Blood work may be done to check for signs of infection or inflammation throughout the body. X-rays or ultrasounds may be performed to evaluate the extent of any abscesses or other abnormalities within the mammary glands.

Nursing Care for Cats with Mastitis

Fluid Therapy and Open Wound Management

Nursing care for cats with mastitis involves providing fluid therapy and open wound management. The patient needs to be hydrated to maintain their health, especially if they are not eating or drinking well. Fluid therapy can help replace lost fluids and electrolytes in the body, improving the cat’s overall condition.

Open wound management is also crucial in nursing cats with mastitis. It is essential to keep the affected area clean and free from infection. The veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat any bacterial infections that have developed. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove infected tissue.

Warm Compresses and Cabbage Leaves

Warm compresses can be used to alleviate discomfort in the breast area of a cat suffering from mastitis. A warm towel or cloth can be placed on the affected area for 10-15 minutes several times a day. This will help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Cabbage leaves are another effective remedy for mastitis in cats. They have been used for centuries as a natural treatment for breast infections due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Simply place cold cabbage leaves over the affected nipple(s) for 20-30 minutes several times a day.

Seek Veterinary Care

It is important to seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and treatment of mastitis in cats. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as sepsis or even death.

The veterinarian will examine your cat thoroughly, take blood work, and perform other diagnostic tests if necessary. Treatment options may include antibiotics, pain medication, fluid therapy, wound management, or surgery depending on the severity of the condition, especially in cases of severe mastitis.

Treatment Options for Mastitis in Cats

Antibiotics: The Most Common Treatment for Mastitis in Cats

Antibiotics are the most common treatment for mastitis in cats. In fact, they are often the first line of defense against this condition. When a cat is diagnosed with mastitis, her veterinarian will usually prescribe an antibiotic to help fight off the infection.

Oral antibiotics are commonly prescribed by veterinary professionals to treat mastitis in cats. These medications work by killing off the bacteria that cause the infection. It’s important to follow your vet’s instructions when administering antibiotics to your cat, as improper dosing or administration can lead to complications.

Surgical Removal: A Solution for Severe Cases

In severe cases of mastitis, surgical removal of the affected mammary gland may be necessary. This procedure is known as a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy and involves removing one or both mammary glands from the affected area.

While surgery is not always necessary, it may be recommended if your cat has a severe case of mastitis that does not respond well to antibiotics or other treatments. If you’re considering surgery for your cat, it’s important to discuss all possible options with your veterinarian before making any decisions.

Natural Remedies: An Alternative Approach

Natural remedies such as milk replacer and therapy can also be used to treat mastitis in cats. Milk replacer can help soothe inflamed mammary glands and provide additional nutrition for nursing kittens. Therapy techniques like massage and warm compresses can also help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

It’s important to note that while natural remedies may offer some relief from symptoms, they should never be used as a substitute for proper medical treatment from a qualified veterinary professional.

Additional Medications: Pain Relief and Tetracycline

In addition to antibiotics, pain medications like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may also be prescribed to manage discomfort associated with mastitis. Tetracycline, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, may also be used in some cases to help fight off the infection.

It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions when administering any medications to your cat. Always provide the full course of treatment as prescribed and monitor your cat closely for any adverse reactions or side effects.

Importance of Recognizing and Treating Mastitis in New Mother Cats

Mastitis is a common condition that affects new mother cats. It is a painful inflammation of the mammary gland tissue, which can be caused by various factors such as bacterial infection, trauma, or hormonal imbalances. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications for both the mother cat and her kittens.

Recognizing and treating mastitis in new mother cats is crucial for their well-being. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent the spread of infection and reduce the risk of complications. Proper nursing care and treatment options such as antibiotics, surgery, or natural remedies can help alleviate symptoms and promote healing.

In conclusion, if you suspect that your cat has mastitis, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. By recognizing the signs and symptoms early on, you can ensure that your cat receives proper treatment and care.


Q: Can mastitis in cats be prevented?

A: While there is no guaranteed way to prevent mastitis in cats, providing proper nutrition, hygiene, and medical care during pregnancy and lactation can help reduce the risk.

Q: How long does it take for mastitis to heal in cats?

A: The healing time for mastitis in cats depends on various factors such as the severity of the infection and the type of treatment used. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, most cases of mild to moderate mastitis can be resolved within one to two weeks.

Q: Is it safe to nurse kittens from a mother cat with mastitis?

A: Nursing kittens from a mother cat with mastitis may not be safe as they may contract the infection or experience difficulty nursing due to pain or discomfort. In some cases, separating the kittens from their mother temporarily may be necessary until she recovers.

Q: Are there any natural remedies for treating mastitis in cats?

A: Some natural remedies such as warm compresses, herbal supplements, and homeopathic remedies may help alleviate symptoms of mastitis in cats. However, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before using any alternative treatments.

Q: Can mastitis in cats be fatal?

A: In severe cases or if left untreated, mastitis in cats can lead to serious health complications such as sepsis or death. It is important to seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect that your cat has mastitis.