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Why Is My Cat's Nose Dry?

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Why Is My Cat's Nose Dry _ pretty british shorthair cat portrait

When your cat nuzzles against your hand, their nose usually feels cool and wet. But what if it is warm and dry? Does that mean they have a fever? Not necessarily. Learn about the reasons your cat's nose might be dry and get the inside scoop on some fun cat nose facts.

Reason for Dry Cat Noses

If your cat's nose feels warm and dry, you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that they are feverish or sick. There are a few different reasons it might be dry:

  • Your cat was some place warm. Maybe your cat took a nice nap in a sunny windowsill, near a heating vent, or by your fireplace, and their nose is just temporarily dry.
  • It's normal for your cat. Some perfectly healthy cats tend to have dryer noses than others.
  • Cats tend to lick their noses. This can remove the natural moisture and cause their nose to feel dry.
  • Your cat may be a bit dehydrated. Cats don't always take in as much water as their body needs during the day.

To help avoid dehydration, make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water. If your cat isn't interested in drinking from a bowl of still water, you can try a pet fountain. Canned cat food is another way to increase your cat's fluid intake. It contains a high percentage of moisture—much higher than the small amount of moisture in dry kibble.

nose of a red cat in focus

When Should I Worry About a Dry Cat Nose?

A dry cat nose on its own may not be anything to worry about. However, you should contact your veterinarian if you're concerned or notice other symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal discharge, especially if it's colorful

These may be signs of an illness like an upper respiratory infection (URI), which is a common health condition in cats caused by a virus or bacteria. A simple URI will typically run its course on its own in a week or so. However, you should still reach out to your veterinarian who may prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms and make your cat more comfortable. If your cat has a bacterial infection, they may also need antibiotics.

Sunburned Cat Noses

Cats are at risk of getting sunburn on their hairless noses, which can cause dryness, swelling, redness, and flaky skin. Sunburn is more prevalent in white-haired cats who have pink noses. If your cat has a light coat or is obsessed with soaking up the sun, you may need to take steps to protect them against harmful rays. For instance:

  • Close the blinds or curtains of windows that let in a lot of sun so your cat can't bask in those rays.
  • Keep your cat out of rooms that are particularly sun-drenched, especially during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Dab a little cat-safe sunscreen on their nose. You can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation and guidance on how much and how often you should apply it.

Never use human sunscreen products on your cat since they can irritate their skin. They can also make your cat sick if they lick their nose and ingest harmful ingredients.

bottom view of the muzzle of a gray cat

Why Are Cats' Noses Wet?

That wetness on your cat's nose is mostly made up of sweat, which helps them stay cool. Cats don't sweat all over their bodies like we do, so their noses perform an important function when it comes to regulating their body temperature. They also sweat through their paw pads, which is why your cat might leave wet footprints on a rather hot day. Additionally, some of that outer nasal dampness is due to drainage from your cat's lower tear duct.

The benefit of having a wet nose is that it enhances a cat's sense of smell, which is already quite remarkable. The dampness traps and holds onto scent particles so cats can really get a good whiff of something.

Fun Facts About Cat Noses

Cats have around 200 million scent receptors, which is more than some dogs! They use their keen sense of smell to help them find and track their prey, figure out if something is safe to eat, and detect other cats in the area who have marked their territory or may be in heat. Here are some other fun cat nose facts:

  • Every cat nose has a unique pattern of bumps and ridges. Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two cat noses are alike.
  • Cats don't have many taste receptors, so their sense of smell plays a big part in stimulating their appetite. This is why many cats lose their appetite when they have a stuffy nose.
  • With such a keen sense of smell, some cats can be overwhelmed by scents, such as scented litter, air fresheners, or laundry products. If this is an issue for your cat, stick to brands without fragrances.
  • When cats lick their noses, they may be resetting their sense of smell by cleaning off those trapped scent particles. Licking their nose can also be a sign that your cat is feeling anxious.
  • Cats like to greet each other with a mutual sniffing that can go from nose to tail. This is why cats will come over and sniff at your finger when you hold it out for them. It's like a substitute nose.
  • Cats with orange coloring, like calicos or tortoiseshell cats, are prone to getting freckles on their noses. These freckles are caused by a condition known as lentigo. But don't worry—these freckles won't multiply with sun exposure or become cancerous.
  • A cat's nose has lots of small blood vessels that can grow or shrink due to changes in their emotional state. For instance, your cat's nose may get brighter and more vibrant when they're excited.

The Flehmen Response

Another interesting fact about your cat's ability to smell is the flehmen response. Have you ever seen your cat make a strange-looking open-mouthed grimace? That's the flehmen response. It happens when your cat detects a highly stimulating scent, such as catnip or pheromones, which are the hormones that attract cats to one another.

This response draws air into their mouths and past fluid-filled sacks in the roof of their mouth. These sacks are connected directly to the nasal cavity and enable your cat to smell more deeply. Some people call it “smell tasting.”

nose of a white cat

How to Care for Your Cat's Nose

Like the rest of your cat's body, their nose is pretty much self-maintained. Cats will generally clean their noses when they groom themselves with their tongue. However, you can use a soft cloth to gently wipe away debris or discharge when needed.

Common Cat Nose Ailments

Your cat can get a stuffy or runny nose, which may be a sign of a URI or other illness. Other common nose issues include allergies, scratches from an accident or altercation with another animal, and growths, which can be difficult to detect if they are inside the nasal cavity.

Keep in mind that not all growths are cancerous, so you don't need to panic. But you should visit the veterinarian sooner rather than later. If the growth is cancerous, your cat may have a better outcome if it is caught in the initial stages. Even if it isn't cancerous, the growth may need to be removed, especially if it is causing your cat discomfort or making it difficult for them to breathe.

You may be wondering how much something like that would cost. Surgery and treatment for cancer can be expensive, but, of course, we all want the best medical treatment for our cats. Pet insurance can help you manage the costs of your cat's care so you can worry less about the cost and focus more on your furry family member's wellbeing. Learn more by getting a personalized quote now.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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