The Tip of a Cat’s Nose

tip of a cat's nose
The tip of a cat’s nose
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This is a discussion about the tip of the cat’s nose and a follow up to my page on a condition called “Bengal Nose”. The tip of a cat’s nose is a triangle of skin and is made up of nostrils, the nasal plane (planum nasale) and the philtrum (a groove). This area is called the “nose leather” by breeders. I don’t like breeder’s jargon. It varies in color. The color depends on the cat’s genetics. A cat’s coat also depends on the cat’s genetic makeup.

The color of this area of the nose varies. The color can be:

  • pink
  • salmon
  • slate blue
  • brown
  • black
  • freckled

Pink skinned cats are are more susceptible to squamous cancer of the nose and ears if they are outdoor cats. Pink noses can turn white temporarily if the cat is excited or in the cold. An anaemic cat may have a white nose.

A healthy cat’s nose can be warm and dry or wet and cold. I don’t think you can say the tip of a cat’s nose (when the cat is healthy) should have specific characteristics.

Right now my cat is sleeping next to me in my home and his nose is dry and warmish (room temperature). Sometimes his nose is damp. This may be because he has just licked it or perhaps it is because the warm air of his breath has condensed on the tip of his nose. This happens to us when we go out in the cold. Our nose can run. That is just plain water from our lungs condensing when it hits the cold surface of the end of the nose.

So the environment in which the cat finds himself has an influence on whether the nose is moist or dry, cold or warm.

There are other factors, however. A warm dry nose can be fine but it may also signal a dehydrated cat or a cat that has a fever. A sick cat may have a runny discharge making the nose wet and cold.

If cat is known to be healthy the nose could be moist or dryish and cool or warm depending on conditions. That is my assessment. I’d be careful about reading signs of health by observing the tip of a cat’s nose unless it is the obvious: the URI – upper respiratory infection that people know well from personal experience (the common cold).

Bengal Nose

I have addressed this mysterious condition in a page I wrote years ago. The condition causes the tip of the nose of a Bengal cat (a popular purebred, pedigree cat and a wild cat hybrid) to become chapped and dry.

Veterinarians don’t know how to fix it. The only useful page on the internet on this condition is the one I wrote that I mention above. That is not a boast. It is just indirectly stating that there is almost nothing on it on the internet or in books. Clearly almost no research is being carried out despite it being a fairly common complaint. Breeders should be speaking up but as usual they are silent.

Because there is nothing available on “Bengal Nose” I’ll speculate. The condition looks somewhat similar to eczema or psoriasis or chapped lips. The nose “leather” – the skin at the tip of the nose is dry and chapped. Cells break off.

There is a lot of information about eczema, psoriasis or chapped lips in humans. My research indicates that the causes are often unknown and linked to the immune system and genetics. In my opinion, Bengal nose, is an inherited condition and a genetic disease. These sorts of diseases are hard to pin down.

I believe Bengal Nose is an immune response that has gone wrong. Ultimately it is due to poor, or less than good, breeding practices. Perhaps a cat was introduced into the breeding program that carried a defective gene or it may be linked to the fact that the there are very few foundation cats for the entire population of Bengal cats. Inbreeding can cause a depressed immune system resulting in general illness and hard to diagnose conditions.

Perhaps the immune system of some Bengal cats responds to an inhaled allergen in the air and overreacts causing the skin on the nose to become inflamed and chapped; pure guesswork but we are reduced to that by the lack of research.

The International Cat Care website (formerly Fabcats) has no information on this condition judging by a site search I made.

Bengal cat caretakers will be reduced to treating symptoms in various ways. There are a lot of homespun treatments on the internet. Vets struggle with it. It is a shame that people can only treat symptoms and I have feeling that in doing so the cat may suffer discomfort that is equal to the discomfort suffered because of his chapped nose.

One last stab in the dark: could transfer factors help to ameliorate the condition of Bengal Nose?

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13 thoughts on “The Tip of a Cat’s Nose”

  1. I have Flame Point Domestic Shorthair (He’s in no way purebred in any breed). He’s only about a year old, maybe a month younger.
    I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong with his nose since I got the little guy. He came from poor breeding, was underweight and highly stressed when I received him.
    His nose leather is dry and flaky, the temp changes but the flakes and cracks remain. Recently the flakes (to me it resembled a scab) came off and his nose was perfect and smooth. But it is coming back.
    Does Bengal nose happen in cats other than Bengals? I plan on taking him to a vet for a diagnosis, but the symptoms of Bengal Nose fit exactly with what he has.

  2. I meant to say his nose dripped on me, not dropped. That sounded like his nose fell off, ha, ha. It was just a big drop of liquid.

    I know cats usually can’t get a rhinovirus that affects a human. But what about if I have a bacterial sinus infection? Can that be passed on to Monty?

    • I think a bacterial infection is non-contagious. Some diseases are zoonotic as you know (transmittable between human and cat) but bacterial infections are not in that category. I think you’ll find that the viral infection that causes a cold (URi) in humans can’t be transmitted to cats and vice versa.

    • Cats infections are different strains to humans and it’s so very very rare that a human can pass any sinus or respiratory infection on to a cat that it’s almost impossible.

  3. Monty’s nose runs when he comes in from outside, just like mine does. He was up above me , in his suspended box above our computer, and his nose dropped on me. It was very wet. I was afraid he had a URI. But he had just come in from outside, so I’m chalking it up to that. He seems otherwise healthy and his eyes are clear. His nose has seemed very wet lately. Maybe it does have to do with our being in the middle of a very cold winter.

    • My guess, as stated in the article, is that his warm, moisture laden breath, condenses (turns from a gas to a liquid) at the end of his nose because his nose is very cold. The water then drips off onto your computer keyboard… 😉 Water in breath is very pure I believe if the cat is healthy.

  4. It’s, usually, said that a dog’s nose is most always cold but warm when sick.
    So, it seems that we can’t apply this to cats. The nose isn’t a good indicator for sickness. Good to know.

  5. Interesting. Just recently Gigi’s nose has gotten more wet and she’s drooled a couple times. I’ve never seen her drool before. Some cats do drool alot and some not – but Gigi just started doing it. If this is another hereditary thing they have to stop immediatley.

    There has to be an independant animal welfare branch of government which is funded by tax payers and in this particular case they would likely need a department for breeding issues – a couple of well trained experts to look out for the cats well being throughout this ‘industry’.. Sounds like more control and in a way it is. But clearly it’s needed.


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