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Cat Nose - All About Your Cat's Nose

Cat noseThe nose is a part of your cat's respiratory system and its role is to take in (inhale) and push out (exhale) air. It is composed of the external nares (nostrils) which are separated by the bony septum, the nasal planum (where the nose leather/nostrils are located), philtrum, the line that runs from down nasal planum and between the lips, nasal cavity and the turbinates, which are thin, scroll-like bones within the nasal cavity that filter out dust and warm and humidify incoming air. These bones are lined with a mucous membrane known as the mucociliary blanket which contains blood vessels and nerves. This traps bacteria and irritants and is your cat's first line of defence against infection.

The sense of smell is already developed when the kitten is born. Each kitten is able to distinguish not only the smell of their mother but also locate the nipple by scent. Most kittens have a preferred nipple they will nurse from.

Smell is extremely important for your cat's appetite. If he can't smell, he will not eat. Upper respiratory infections which have a tendency to block the nose can cause your cat to lose his sense of smell. It is important to keep the nose clean of discharge and if he is off his food, try warming it which makes the smell somewhat stronger.

Cat nose shape:

The shape of cat's noses varies. From the snub of the Persian and Exotic to the long "Roman nose" of the Birman cat. You will often see the term "nose break" used to describe the shape of the nose on certain cat breeds, nose stop is another description commonly used in the cat fancy.

Your cat's sense of smell:

The cat's sense of smell (also known as olfaction) is considerably better than that of humans, but not as good as the dog's. Smell plays a number of roles for your cat.

  • It is used to communicate, two cats meeting will sniff each other face to face and then face to anus.

  • Cats also use scent glands to mark territory.

  • A female in heat will give off odours to let males in the area know she is receptive to mating.

  • Enhances the sense of taste.

  • Serves to warn the cat if food is off.

Should a cat's nose be wet or dry?

A cat's nose may be wet or dry depending on many factors such as humidity, temperature etc. A dry nose can be an indicator your cat isn't well and may be dehydrated or running a fever, but it's not a definitive diagnosis. A perfectly healthy cat may also have a dry nose under the right conditions (low humidity for example). If you are worried your cat's nose is dry and he may be sick, look for other signs such as loss of appetite, lethargy etc. These are better indicators.

What smells don't cats like:

As a rule of thumb, cats don't like strong odours, which is why it's not recommended to use strong smelling cleaning products in their litter trays as the residual smell can put cats off using the trays.

It is said that cats have a strong dislike of the following:

  • Citrus

  • Mint

  • Lavender

  • Eucalyptus

  • Tee tree

Nasal discharge in cats:

Cats are prone to nasal discharge. It may be thin and watery, thick and mucoid or bloody.  There are a number of possible causes, including:

Examining the cat's nose:

Sometimes it will be necessary for your veterinarian to examine your cat's nose internally. Examination of the nose requires the use of a fine tube known as an endoscope which has a light and a video camera. Naturally, due to the somewhat invasive nature of the test, general anaesthesia is required to perform this procedure.

Your cat's nose leather:

The nose leather is the naked skin around the nostrils. In the cat is as unique as our fingerprint, no two noses are the same. The colour of the nose leather depends on your cat's colour, and may be pink, brick red, black, blue, lavender, chocolate or brown. In some breeds, such as the Chinchilla, the nose leather is outlined by a pencil coloured grey. As you can see in the image at the beginning of this article, some cats even have freckles on their nose. 

Also see:

Cat whiskers   Cat tail   Cat eyes  Cat teeth   Cat tongue