Cat's nose is a complex and fantastically precise tool for exploring the surrounding world. Newborn kittens that are still deaf and blind can trust only their smell sense, using it to find the nipples and warm belly of their mother, their siblings and their box. Examining the cat’s nose the owner may decide whether the pet is sick or not: if the cat's nose is dry – it's too hot for the cat in this room, if the nose is hot – the cat has fever, if it is swelling and running – it can be a sign of many infections.
How does cat’s nose work?
To put it simply, the structure of a cat’s nose looks like two nostrils separated by cartilage (as in humans), leading to a maze of so-called lattice conches. Cat, if necessary, can retain a certain smell in the “nooks” of nose maze, getting rid of impurities, to better identify the smell it is interested in. When the nose is dirty, the sense of smell is obtunded, so it is important to make sure cat’s nasal passages aren’t clogged with discharge or litter.
After going through the maze scent molecules irritate certain cells sensitive to smells are connected with the olfactory brain center, where the smell is recognized. Receptors in the cat’s nose are much more sensitive than those in the human nose – cat’s nose works 15 times more precise! That’s the reason why the cat hides its nose or starts uncontrollably sneezing, when inhaling irritating substances – chemicals, perfumes, spices, citrus or vinegar. People may consider such an aroma subtle, but cats physically suffer, so do not use perfumes near your pet and do not wash the cat’s bowl with detergents.
In addition to olfactory function, cat’s nose performs many other tasks. Nasal passages are used for breathing; their mucous membranes warm the air and clean it from the smallest particles, viruses, bacteria. When the cat's nose is hot – it means the thermoregulatory function is disturbed, so it is important to pay attention to the temperature of the nasal plane. The skin on the nose is highly sensitive to temperature changes, so cats can determine the temperature of food or surfaces, even without touching the object of interest.
The nose shape is determined by the structure of the cranial bones and cartilage. Most healthy noses are considered in cats of “natural” proportions, i.e. cats with flattened muzzles are prone to various diseases of the respiratory system, as their nasal cartilages and bones are twisted and squeezed.
The nose color depends on the coat color and often repeats it, but is a few shades darker. Spots on the nose of three-color cats and elderly pets are a common phenomenon. But if the nose of a mature cat suddenly changed its color, it is desirable to have your cat examined by the vet. But there is no need to panic if the nose became black as the cat grew older – the color of coat, paw-pads, eyes and nose may change its color with age. Such changes are common for cats with of the colorpoint coat type (dark face, socks, and tail on the light background). Sometimes the fact that the nose of a colorpoint cat became black is explained by cold: the cooler it is indoors, the darker the color becomes. In light-colored pets there is an opposite tendency: in winter the nose is of light color, but when exposed to sunlight, the color becomes richer and brighter.
How should a healthy nose look like?
It is considered that the cat's nose should be cold and a little wet. Indeed, a healthy cat nose should be quite cool to the touch, smooth and maybe even a little slippery. But after sleeping, active play or experienced stress the cat's nose may become warmer – this is normal. If the nose remains warm and dry for a couple of hours, you need to measure the body temperature of your pet, and if there are any other symptoms of a malaise – immediately contact your veterinarian. Pale and very cold nose of a cat can indicate systemic diseases, colds, shock, a sharp decrease in body temperature or poisoning.
If your cat’s nose is white, any changes in its color can be a signal of circulatory system disturbance, as through the thing light skin the blood color is clearly visible. For example, bluish color may be a sign of a heart disease or lack of oxygen. Reddish inflamed mucous membranes of the nose can be a symptom of rhinitis, infection or mechanical irritation. When the cat’s nose is red – it may be a signal of high blood pressure, fever or allergies. Yellowish nose color is a sign of liver or kidney disturbances. In cats with dark noses such changes are difficult to notice. In order not to miss the beginning of the disease, carefully inspect the lips mucous membranes and the eyelids.
Supervision and care
If the cat is healthy, its nose doesn’t require any additional care – the pet does everything on its own. In the hot weather, when the cat’s nose is dry, the pet is licking itself moisturizing mucous. Despite natural cat’s curiosity and the habit of sniffing everything around, dirty nose in cats is a rare thing – they clean it regularly. However, the owner should regularly inspect the nose and touch it with the back of the hand: if the cat’s nose suddenly becomes hot and dry, it is worth to take a closer look on the pet and to search for other symptoms.
How to clean the cat's nose, if there is such a need? This is a simple manipulation, but the owner should act delicately, so as not to cause aggression and fear in the pet. If your pet got its nose full of flour or it is just stuffy – do not try to get into the nasal passages with any tools to clean it. Clean only the visible part of the nose using cotton swabs for kids. Move from the inner to the outer edge, removing accumulated litter, discharge or dried crust. If the cat's nose is blocked, you should contact your veterinarian. The reason for nasal passages obstruction may be foreign bodies, tumors, gore and much more: do not try to clean the cat’s nose on your own, it may lead to injuries.
In order to prevent rhinitis or bronchitis after cleaning the cat’s nose (if the room is cool), the moisture must be removed with a paper towel. Do not rub the nose – just a light touch. The paper towels shouldn’t be colored (especially if the cat’s nose is white and/or the coat is of light color) or perfumed: chemical dyes and perfumes often cause allergies, local irritation and dermatitis. In addition, sensitive sense of smell in cats may suffer after such care. For this reason, you need to clean the cat’s nose with usual boiled water, if there is no need to use medications and special solutions.
Do not forget that a healthy cat's nose should always be clean, shiny and cool without crusting, scabs or peeling areas. In case you notice any changes, especially if they occur regularly or don’t disappear in one day, be sure to visit the vet. On the other hand, cool wet nose of a cat doesn’t always mean that the pet is completely healthy – it’s not enough just to touch the cat’s nose to find out whether the cat is sick.