It's a common belief that a healthy cat has a cold, wet nose. Many people believe that a warm or dry nose in cats is a sign of a problem. If your cat's nose is dry or warm, does this mean there is something wrong? The short answer is no. It's not possible to use your cat's nose to determine his overall health. It can be normal for a cat's nose to be wet or dry or warm or cold. However, there are certain conditions that can affect a cat's nose.
Your Cat's Nose
You're probably used to your cat's nose being cold and wet when you interact with him. This is because cats lick their noses out of instinct and have normal secretions from the surface of their nose. A wet nose improves a cat's sense of smell and helps determine the direction from which scents are coming.
It's a commonly repeated myth that dogs and cats are healthy if they have cold, wet noses and unhealthy if their noses are dry or warm. Like many myths, the origin of this one is not quite known but is commonly cited as a cause of concern among owners. One theory is that it may have started at a time when Canine Distemper was common since one symptom of Distemper is hyperkeratosis (thickening) of the nose and footpads which can make them appear dry and cracked. Back when Distemper was more widespread, a cool, wet nose may have been considered a good sign that the dog did not have Distemper and this may have been generalized to cats as well. While there is a feline virus called Panleukopenia that some people refer to as Feline Distemper, it is caused by a different virus and does not typically cause the same thickening of the nose or foot pads. In any case, these diseases are far less common today thanks to vaccines.
Why a Cat's Nose May Be Dry or Warm
It's normal for a cat that has just woken up to have a dry nose. This is simply because the cat was not licking his nose in his sleep. In addition, a cat's nose may be warm or dry if the cat was lying in the sun, near a heat source, or next to a fan or an air vent.
If you have a generally healthy cat with a warm or dry nose, there is probably nothing to worry about. Check to make sure the nose is not flaky, crusty, raw, swollen, or oozing. If the skin on the nose looks normal and your cat is acting like himself, then everything should be fine
Sometimes, a dry or warm nose will be seen along with other signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, decreased appetite, or others. Be sure to contact your vet if you notice any abnormal signs, regardless of how your cat's nose feels.
Nose Problems in Cats
Your cat's nose may be abnormal if you notice flakiness, crusting, swelling, redness, discharge, bleeding, or abnormal growths. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you notice any nasal problems with your cat. There are several potential medical reasons for a cat's nose to become unhealthy.
Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are fairly common in cats. URIs and other respiratory problems may cause redness and crusting of the nose as well as nasal discharge, swelling, congestion, and sneezing. Respiratory conditions may also cause cats to lose their appetites and become lethargic.
There are many types of respiratory diseases that can affect cats. Some are mild and go away on their own, but others require veterinary attention. Many respiratory illnesses are even contagious to other cats. Contact your vet if your cat is experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness.
A dehydrated cat will often have a dry nose. However, dehydration is typically accompanied by other signs of illness, such as lethargy and loss of appetite. Don't assume your cat's dry nose is related to dehydration if it is otherwise acting normal, but don't totally ignore it either. If your cat has a dry nose constantly for a day or two and also seems ill, including eating and drinking less than usual, contact your vet for advice.
A number of skin conditions can affect cats' noses. Pemphigus foliaceus is a rare but serious autoimmune disease that causes crusty lesions to appear on the skin, especially on the face and paws. Less serious skin conditions that can affect the nose include fungal or bacterial infections and allergic dermatitis. Any abnormal appearance to your cat's nose warrants a visit to the vet.
Just like people, cats can get sunburn. Many cats enjoy lounging in the sun. Prolonged sun exposure can cause sunburn, leading to redness, dryness, scabbing, or peeling of the nose. Over time, damage from UV rays can cause pigment changes and even skin cancer. Contact your vet if you think your cat's nose has been affected by sun damage.
Cats can easily become injured while they are exploring their environments. Outdoor cats have more risk of injury in general including being hit by a car, attacked by another animal, or hurt in a fall. They are also exposed to toxins, harsh weather, and rough terrain, any of which can cause injury. Both indoor and outdoor cats can experience insect bites, burns. or other unfortunate accidents. You may notice the sudden appearance of redness, bumps, swelling, bleeding, or discharge from the nose. Be sure to contact your vet if you notice any of these signs in your cat.
Several types of cancer can occur in cats. A few of these may even affect a cat's nose, including lymphoma, sarcomas, and carcinomas. It's important to see your vet right away if there is a sudden and unexplained nasal problem in your cat. Small changes may even be detected during routine wellness exams, so be sure to take your cat for annual or biannual check-ups as recommended by your vet.