I live on a pretty big property and we've had all kinds of animals. We got our first cat about 10 years ago, when my dog ran off and brought him home. She hatched him and licked him to his annoyance for the rest of her life. Besides that, he's a little hellion. He beats the other dogs on a regular basis and seems to have a special hate for other cats. He is fixed, but he hisses and attacks other cats.

For whatever reason, a new cat has been coming around and my cat doesn't seem to mind him. He/she isn't exactly feral as I'm pretty sure he used to be the neighbor's and just ran off. He's usually pretty shy, but came up for me to pet him/her tonight. He seemed okay, with just a little scabbing on his body, which I assume is for fighting, as my cat has gotten similar ones in the past.

However, when I was running my hand down to scratch it's chin, I felt it's cheeks. They were very large and round. It was like that on both sides. It felt firm and fatty. The cat wasn't really fat anywhere else, not skinny, but not fat. What I'm worried about is it being a symptom of something wrong with it that could make my cat sick.

So does this sound like the cat could be sick or does it just have fat cheeks? I realize that no one on here is a vet and that you can't see the cat. My cat experience is fairly limited, but I've never run across one with fat cheeks like this one. I just want to know if there are any communicable cat diseases with swollen cheeks are a symptom? Thanks.

  • Can you try taking a picture? You can use the edit link to include it in your question.
    – Zaralynda
    May 29, 2015 at 3:52
  • Not really, he only shows up at night and runs off when I turn the lights on. Also, he's got fuzzy cheeks and I think the hair would cover anything necessary to see, even in the day light.
    – Dalton
    May 29, 2015 at 11:59
  • Are you able to tell if this is an intact male? Jun 1, 2015 at 17:55
  • Not in any way that he wouldn't immediately and vehemently object to.
    – Dalton
    Jun 2, 2015 at 19:17
  • Some types of cats just have chubby cheeks. Are they stretchy?
    – user9860
    Jul 9, 2017 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


So I looked through my copy of Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Carlson and Giffin (I have the first edition, apparently I should update!), and played around with the PetMD symptom checker.

The only possible disease process that I could find reference to (I am not a veterinarian) was some type of infection that would case the lymph nodes to swell. The lymph nodes are "located in the neck area near the angle of the jaw. They lay right next to the salivary glands" (Long Beach Animal Hospital). The linked website also includes a picture (but beware if you scroll down too far you will find surgical pictures as well). The lymph nodes are slightly below what I would consider to be his cheeks, but if they are extremely swollen that could distort his face.

Other possibilities included various forms of cancer, but that wouldn't generally be symmetrical in both cheeks. Cancer wouldn't be communicable anyway.

It seems likely that this cat is an unneutered (or late-neutered) male.

A cat neutered prior to puberty (most cats are neutered at approximately age 6 months) do not develop secondary sex characteristics. These include a more muscular body, thickenings around the face called “shields,” and spines on the penis. (Mar Vista Animal Medical Center)

Additionally, a male cat who is unneutered will be more likely to get into fights, which could be the reason the cat has so several wounds.

It seems UNLIKELY that the swollen cheeks are a symptom of a communicable disease, but the best way to know would be to take the cat to a veterinarian. I recommend checking with your neighbors first, in case the cat is theirs.


They are called "shields" and form on unneutered male cats. They are normal, not a sign of disease.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.