Some people think that a cat's nose should always be cold and wet. This leads some cat owners to think there is a problem if their cat has a warm, dry nose. After all, cat lovers are used to the cold, wet feel of their cats' noses when being nuzzled. They may have been told by other cat lovers to check their cats' noses to determine whether or not they are sick.
Can the health of a cat really be determined by the temperature and moisture of the nose? Does a cold and wet nose mean good health? Is a warm and dry nose a sign of illness?
The short answer to all of these questions is no. Your cat's nose alone is not enough to determine his health. A healthy cat can have a warm, dry nose. A sick cat may have a cold, wet nose. In the absence of other signs, the nose itself tells you very little about your cat's health.
A Cat's Nose
In general, cats lick their noses to keep them cold and wet. The moisture on the nose tends to keep it cool to the touch, but it also helps the cat's sense of smell. Scents are stronger with a wet nose and the moisture also helps cats determine which direction scents are coming from.
Why a Cat's Nose May Be Warm and Dry
Although cats usually have cold, wet noses, there are normal causes for their noses to be warm and dry. For instance, it's normal for a cat to have a warm, dry nose after waking from sleep. This is simply because the cats don't lick their noses while asleep.
Cats that have been outdoors or near a heat source may temporarily have warm, dry noses. Time spent near a fan, air vent, or breeze may cause the nose to become dry for a time. These are normal reasons for
Sometimes, a cat will have a dry or warm nose along with other signs of illness, such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. These symptoms are reason enough to call your vet, regardless of how your cat's nose feels.
Nose Problems in Cats
Problems with the nose itself can begin with dryness, crusting, swelling, redness, discharge, or other abnormalities. There are several potential medical reasons for these.
Respiratory Diseases: Perhaps the most common cause of nose issues is cats, respiratory diseases can cause sneezing, nasal discharge, and dryness or inflammation of the nose. Some respiratory diseases in cats are self-limiting and resemble to the common cold in humans. Others can be severe, chronic, and even contagious to other cats. If your cat is showing signs of a respiratory issue, be sure to observe him closely. If the signs are getting worse or they have not improved within four to five days, be sure to schedule a veterinary appointment for your cat.
Skin Diseases: From simple allergies to the rare but serious Pemphigus Foliaceous, cats can experience skin problems that lead to abnormalities of the nose. Signs include nasal scabs or crusting, irritation, redness, swelling, or extreme pigment color changes. These all call for a visit to the vet.
Trauma: Cats love to run, jump, and explore. This can lead to a traumatic injury if your cat runs into something with his nose. The risk of trauma is highest in cats with outdoor access. In addition, these cats may suffer insect stings or bites. If you notice the sudden appearance of bumps, redness, swelling, or other abnormal changes, it might mean your cat was injured. Do not delay; bring your cat to the vet for an exam.
Sunburn/Solar Dermatitis: Cats love to sunbathe, but harmful UV rays can cause damage to the sensitive skin of the nose. Both outdoor and indoor cats can get sun damage from excessive exposure to UV rays, leading to blisters, scab, crusting, redness, or swelling. Over time, damage from the sun can lead to skin cancer. Minor sunburn may resolve on its own. However, contact your vet if your cat's nose does not show improvement within a few days.
Cancer: There are a few types of cancer that may affect a cat's nose. This is why it's so important to bring your cat to the vet when there are any signs of illness. The sooner cancer is detected, the better the chance of successful treatment.
Lappin, M R et al. Antimicrobial use Guidelines for Treatment of Respiratory Tract Disease in Dogs and Cats: Antimicrobial Guidelines Working Group of the International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Diseases. Journal of veterinary internal medicine vol. 31,2 (2017): 279-294. doi:10.1111/jvim.14627
Bizikova, P., Burrows, A. Feline pemphigus foliaceus: original case series and a comprehensive literature review. BMC Vet Res 15, 22 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-018-1739-y
Squamous Cell Cancer: Dangerous. Cornell Feline Health Center