Below is information about the structure and function of the feline mammary system. We will tell you about the general structure of the mammary system, how the mammary system works, common diseases that affect the mammary system, and common diagnostic tests performed in cats to evaluate the mammary system.
What Is the Mammary System?
The mammary system is comprised of the mammary glands or breasts and is present in all mammals, including cats and other pets. In males, mammary glands exist in a rudimentary state.
Where Is the Feline Mammary System Located?
Mammary glands are typically arranged in two parallel rows extending from the underside of the chest to the groin area, along the outside of the body wall. In cats, there are usually four mammary glands on each side, joined together in a chain.
What Is the General Structure of the Mammary System in Cats?
Mammary glands are composed of glandular tissue and connective tissue. The secretory tissue of the mammary glands become active during pregnancy, pseudopregnancy, the period of lactation when kittens are nursing, and often remain active for four to 50 days after weaning.
Each breast consists of a glandular complex and its associated nipple or teat (papillae mammae), which is covered by skin. The teats indicate the position of the glands in both the male and the female. Cats have four pairs of teats on either side of the midline. It is believed that each nipple has its own special smell, so kittens may attach themselves to one nipple and find it repeatedly.
The number of ducts opening into a teat varies from 7 to 16, and these are located on the blunt end in an irregular pattern. The streak canal, or teat canal, is 1/4 to 1/3 the length of the teat. The teat sinus extends upward from the teat canal into the gland. The teat sinuses are small uniformly wide passages.
The mammary glands have a large blood supply, and veins are more extensive than arteries. The thoracic (chest) mammary glands receive their arterial blood supply from the artery that passes through the ribs. The abdominal and inguinal (groin) glands are supplied by the arteries that come from the abdomen. Mammary veins usually lie next to the arteries.
Nerve fibers accompany the blood vessels to the mammary glands. These nerves are distributed to the tissue of the gland, to the blood vessels, to the smooth muscle of the teat, and to the skin. Secretion of the mammary glands is influenced by hormones from the brain and other organs, and by the nervous system.
What Are the Functions of the Feline Mammary System?
The chief function of the mammary glands is to provide milk and nourishment to the newborn.