Why Tomatoes Catface? 6 Ways to Stop It

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Quick Answer: Are Your Tomatoes Catfacing? How To Check And Stop It?

Tomato catfacing is a physiological disorder that results in deformed-shaped tomatoes. It may happen due to fluctuating temperatures during the blooming season, high nitrogen levels in the soil, heavy pruning, herbicide injury, and thrips damage. It can be prevented by pinching off catfaced flowers, using resistant varieties, avoiding excessive pruning, using mulch, and controlling fluctuating temperatures.

In this article, let us explore one of the maladies of the tomato fruit called catfacing and the different ways to prevent it.

I have prepared the article based on my experience in dealing with tomato catfacing. I have also referred to a few research articles to provide the complete solution for tomato catfacing.

Read on to know more!

What Is Tomato Catfacing?

I like to explore growing different varieties of tomatoes. But once my heirloom tomatoes went from a regular shape to a unique malformed shape. One of the garden experts pinpointed that it was tomato catfacing. So, what is tomato catfacing?

The tomato catfacing is physiological damage that affects the field and greenhouse tomatoes. It is not caused by pests or diseases. The affected tomatoes have scars, deep indents, puckers, and holes near the blossom end. Sometimes, it may occur on the sides of the fruit. The fruit becomes misshapen. It is called catfacing, as the abnormalities on the tomatoes look similar to the cat’s face.

It may not only be unappetizing but increase the chance of the tomato fruit being infected with a fungal disease, black mold rot under certain environmental conditions.

Why Are Your Tomatoes Catfacing?

The exact cause of tomato catfacing is uncertain with the available research studies. The possible causes of the tomato catfacing suggested include cold weather, high nitrogen levels, heavy pruning, herbicide injury and thrips damage.

Cold Weather During Flowering

An extended period of cool night temperatures, especially when the plants are immature may cause the catfacing of tomatoes.

It may result in incomplete pollination causing the blossom to stick to the developing fruit causing catfacing.

The extreme fluctuations in night and day temperature may also increase the incidence of catfacing in tomatoes.

High Nitrogen Levels

Excess nitrogen levels in the soil may aggravate the tomato catfacing due to excessive fruit growth.

Herbicide Injury

Another possible cause of tomato catfacing is exposure to 2,4-D herbicides. The chemical may mimic the plant hormones and so, the normal developmental process is affected.

Heavy Pruning

The experts of the Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment suggest that heavy pruning, especially in the indeterminate varieties causes catfacing. It may be because of the reductions in plant hormones, auxins in the plant.

Thrips Damage

Additionally, flowers of the tomato plants may be physically damaged by tiny insects called thrips. The damage by thrips may cause catfacing.

These insects may also transmit tomato spotted wilt virus that may destroy your tomato plants.

Check out this video for insights on tomato catfacing:

What Types Of Tomatoes Are Prone To Catfacing?

The tomato varieties that have large and rounder fruits are more susceptible to catfacing. Also, plants with Tomato Little Leaf infections are more vulnerable. In my experience, heirloom tomatoes have more chance of catfacing than other varieties. It may be because they have not been hybridized or crossbred. It is rare in cherry tomatoes.

How To Check If a Tomato is Catfaced?

A tomato is said to be catfaced if there is a scar on the blossom end and it is enlarged or perforated. Also, it may have some deformities, including lumps, outgrowths, and holes. The affected fruit is often misshapen. But not all fruit distortions can be classified as catfaced.

How To Stop Tomato Catfacing?

Unfortunately, there is little to be done to stop the tomatoes from catfacing. It can only be avoided using preventive measures. You may practice good growing techniques with monitoring temperatures.

1. Pinch off catfaced tomato flowers

One of the interesting remedies for catfacing that I have never across but referred to by many gardeners is pinching off the malformed fused flowers.

It will prevent the formation of the malformed distorted fruit.

Here is the video on preventing catfaced tomatoes at the flowering stage:

2. Use Resistant Varieties

One of the best solutions to avoid catfaced tomatoes is to choose resistant varieties.

It should not have a history of catfacing disorder. Some of the resistant varieties are Duke, Count ll, Floradale, and Walter.

3. Avoid hormonal herbicides

You may avoid the use of herbicides that may have triggered the problem.

Do not prune excessively especially during the bloom time

The excessive pruning may cause the nutrients to go to the limited number of flowers resulting in larger fruits.
The larger fruit is more susceptible to catfacing. So, avoid excessive pruning of tomato plants.

4. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization

It is recommended to do a soil test to check out if there is a nutrient deficiency. You may then use the well-balanced fertilizers with nitrogen as required.

5. Avoid fluctuating temperatures

If you are growing tomatoes in the greenhouse, avoid inconsistencies in the temperature. You may wait to plant the transplants until the soil temperature is above 55oF.

You may use shade netting to protect the tomato plants from extremities in temperature, especially during pollination.

6. Water regularly and use mulch

Tomatoes require adequate and consistent watering. Also, you may use a mulch to retain the moisture. Make sure to keep the soil moist throughout the growing season.

You may check this video to know more information on preventing catfaced tomatoes:

Are Catfaced Tomatoes Safe to Eat? What To Do With a Catfaced Tomatoes?

Catfaced fruit is safe to eat. I eat it and it is delicious. You may need to cut the damaged parts. However, I find it challenging to remove uneven ripened parts. But, I would not recommend eating catfaced tomatoes with exposed tissue.

Some gardeners suggest that it may not be ideal to save the seeds from catfaced tomatoes for the next generation as it is more prone to catfacing.


Should you remove catfaced tomatoes?

It may be beneficial to remove the catfaced tomatoes off the vine as they are unmarketable. Also, they may drain the nutrients from the plants if left. But, they may still be consumable.

What are the other fruits and vegetables with catfacing problems?

The catfacing occurs not only in tomatoes. It may happen in peaches, apples, grapes, and strawberries. These fruits have ridges, furrows, and indentations.


If you are facing a tomato catfacing problem, I hope this article will help you solve the problem with preventive measures.

Have you tried any other measures to prevent the tomato catfacing? Let us know your suggestions.
Please do share the article with your friends if you find it useful!