Should cats have wet noses?

I have seen this question asked quite a lot. Actually, I’ve seen various questions about whether a cat’s nose should be wet or dry. I think they are all questions that should not necessarily be asked in the context of a cat’s health. When checking a human’s health do we focus on the wetness or dryness of his/her nose? No. And by the way I presume we are discussing what breeders call the “nose leather”, the end of the nose where there is no fur.

Clearly, if a cat has flu his/her nose may well be wet because there may be mucus on the end of their nose. That is common sense. However, when a cat is healthy you don’t check the end of a cat’s nose to confirm whether your cat is healthy or not. One reason why you shouldn’t do it is because environmental conditions may well have an impact upon whether your cat’s nose is wet or dry. What if, for example, your cat has gone out in very cold weather.

Condensation from the breath passing through your cat’s nose will probably result in moisture condensing out on the end of the nose. Therefore the nose will be a bit damp but this has nothing to do with the cat’s health. Or what if your cat had, a few moments before you checked it, licked his nose as a displacement behavior response. It may be a bit wet but you can’t diagnose health on that.

Having lived with domestic cats for a very long time, and having just this minute checked the nose of my extremely healthy cat (thankfully) I can confirm that his nose is dry. That does not mean it is parched or overly dry. What I mean is that it is not wet. It is neutral. There is no moisture on the end of his nose. And that, I conclude, is the state of a normal nose on a normally healthy cat.

If a cat’s nose is wet and dripping or dry and crusty then there may well be something wrong healthwise. For example, the Bengal cat sometimes has a crusty, dry nose (called “Bengal Nose“). The reason for this is not known with great clarity but I suggested my page that it was due to an immune system response due to a genetically inherited condition.

A wet and dripping nose may well indicate cat flu, as mentioned. It depends on how long the nose goes on being wet and dripping. If a nose is wet and dripping for a short period time after a cat comes in from the outside then as mentioned it might be condensation. But if it goes on for a long period of time then it is likely that there is something wrong such as cat flu caused by a virus and then added to possibly by a bacterial infection.

Sometimes, too, people ask whether a cat’s nose should be cool and dry. Frankly, I think this is a silly question. A cat’s nose will be the same temperature as the air around it more or less except the warmth of the cat’s breath may warm it up somewhat. You can see that I’m taking a common sense point of view on this. And I believe that that is the right thing to do.

I don’t know of any disease or illness other than cat flu, and/or conditions or illnesses causing mucus buildup in the nasal passages, which causes the nose to be dry or wet or crusty or anything else. No doubt someone will correct me and that’ll be fine.

The conclusion is that the nose of a healthy cat is neither dry nor wet, it is neutral without any moisture on it.

Do you have any thoughts about this?

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. Sarah Hartwell says:

    The nose should be “moist” rather than “wet”. In our centrally heated homes the moisture tends to evaporate. When mine come in from outdoors, they generally have cool, damp noses (which they use to wake me up!)

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