Cat Nose Leather

The phrase “nose leather” is used by cat breeders and the cat associations. It is not a phrase that you would normally bump into as a cat guardian because we would call the area that it describes as the tip of the nose. The scientific name is “rhinarium“. This is Latin which means ‘belonging to the nose’. As we all know, this small area of the cat’s anatomy is hairless.

Cat nose leather
Cat nose leather. Photo in public domain.
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There is a mid-line groove down the middle of the nose leather. The surface is crenellated or embossed (having square indentations). The photograph above is a really beautiful example of this crenellation. The wrinkle surface is said to increase its sensory area.

The nose leather is part of the cat’s olfactory system. It’s useful in one respect in that it can help detect the origin of a smell. A cat is able to sense the area on her nose leather where evaporation of liquid is at its highest because that area is cooler. This allows the cat to judge the direction of the wind which in turn helps the cat determine the source of a particular smell.

Mammals with a nose leather are said to have better senses of smell. Where it has been lost in evolution these animals have a decreased reliance on olfaction.

The nose leather can be dotted with dark pigmentation which is quite normal.

Cat Associations usage

Cat associations refer to the nose leather in a technical way. For example the Burmese Cat Association say this about colours:

“The colour of the Burmese is determined by the colour of the coat, the nose leather and paw pads.”

The nose leather of the Burmese should be a “rich brown”.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association tell us that the nose leather can be used to determine a cat’s colour. For example in discussing tabby colours they say:

“If a cat has patches of red and/or cream or has two different colours on its nose leather and/or paw pads, the cat is probably a patched tabby (silver, blue or brown).”

In respect of pointed cats they say for example:

“Blue Point or Lilac Point? – Check the nose leather and paw pads. A blue point has slate grey, a lilac point has lavender pink.”


Some time ago there was a discussion about whether the nose leather should be dry, wet or moist. If a cat is healthy, in my view, the nose leather should be dry but not overly dry. It should be flexible with perhaps a fraction of moisture within it. Obviously if a cat is ill with a cold the nose leather will be wet because of the discharge from the nose.

In Bengal cats there is a mysterious and troubling health problem which I argue is inherited due to breeding practices and which causes the nose leather to be cracked. I wrote about this some time ago and you can read about it by clicking on this link. See photo below:

'Bengal nose'
‘Bengal nose’. Photos: Helmi Flick (believed).

Sources: Instagram, myself, Wikipedia, CFA and Burmese Cat Association.

1 thought on “Cat Nose Leather”

  1. Extremely interesting, Michael. I was unaware that the nose leather is actually part of the olfactory system, or that it helps felines judge the direction of the wind.

    Quote: “The Cat Fanciers’ Association tell us that the nose leather can be used to determine a cat’s colour. ” I always take note of the color of a cats nose and paw pads, but I never knew that it was literally used to grade coat color. This pertains to genetics. I love the study of genetics. πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸΎ


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