Home Gardening Catfacing Tomatoes

Catfacing Tomatoes (Identification, Causes & Prevention)

Catfacing tomato on plant in garden

Imagine picking a juicy, red tomato, only to discover a disfigured, scarred fruit that looks more like a monster than a vegetable.

For many tomato growers, this is a reality known as cat facing, which causes fruits to have deep scars and pits, making them look highly unappetizing.

Catfacing mostly affects tomatoes, but it can lead to catfacing strawberries, peaches, and apples.

What causes this strange condition, and how can it be prevented?

What is catfacing on tomatoes?

Catfacing in tomatoes is a physiological condition that results in scarred and misshapen tomato fruits.

Scars on tomato fruits can be large and unsightly, and can sometimes cause the tomato to have an abnormal shape.

In severe cases, the scars can be so deep that they cause the tomato to split open.

What causes tomatoes to catface

Catfacing occurs due to damage to the tomato flower pistils, which eventually form the fruit.

A combination of factors, including temperature fluctuations, insect damage, pesticides, and genetics can lead to catfacing.

  • Temperature fluctuations during the blooming stage can cause the blossoms to die and the fruit to scar. Flowers in the developing tomato fruit are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, and if the temperature drops too low, it can damage the flower which leads to scarring. This is the most common cause of catfacing in tomatoes.
  • Insect damage, such as from the tomato fruitworm, can also cause catfacing. The fruitworm is a small caterpillar that feeds on developing fruit, and its damage can cause scarring and fruit deformity. In addition, other pests, such as aphids and mites, can also damage the fruit and contribute to catfacing.
  • High soil nitrogen levels and excessive pruning may also cause malformed flower buds to develop, which may lead to catfacing.
  • Chemicals in herbicides such as glyphosate and 2,4-D can also cause catfacing in tomatoes. Herbicide injuries may be reversed with applications of nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, boron, and copper. [1]
  • Genetics can also play a role in the development of catfacing in tomatoes. Tomatoes with larger fruits, such as beefsteaks or heirlooms, are also more susceptible to catfacing.

How to prevent catfacing on tomatoes

To prevent catfacing and tomato deformities, there are a few steps that can be taken.

  • Choose tomato varieties that are known to be resistant to catfacing. This will help to minimize the risk of the condition developing.
  • Maintain consistent temperatures during the blooming stage to avoid sudden temperature drops.
  • Prune fused flower blossoms, as these are signs of incomplete pollination, which is likely to lead to catfacing.
  • Monitor your plants for signs of insect damage and take steps to control the population of pests, such as by using insecticides or introducing natural predators.
  • Avoid the use of herbicides, excessive nitrogen, or physical damage to crops or flowers when gardening.

How to treat tomatoes with catfacing

There is no specific treatment for tomatoes with catface, as the deformities are typically caused by environmental factors or insect damage. The best treatment is prevention.

Provide your tomatoes with adequate sunlight, water, and nutrients, and protect them from extreme weather conditions and pests.

There is no way to reverse cat-faced tomato flowers or fruits, but the tomatoes can still be cooked or preserved and are otherwise healthy to eat.


[1]  Ramdas Kanissery, (2019). Herbicide Exposure to Crops – Making a Foe out of a Friend. Acta Scientific Agriculture 3.5 (2019): 161-162.

Join Us

Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips!