There are two things you’ll notice when your cat rubs her nose against your cheek: her nose is cold, and it’s wet. Now, you’ve probably heard the age-old tale that a wet nose in dogs is a sign of excellent health (and a dry nose means something might be wrong). Now you’re curious — why are cats’ noses wet?
Cats’ noses are usually wet because of nasal sweat production, helping a cat regulate her internal body temperature on hot and humid days. A cat’s nose may also be wet because she recently drank from her water bowl, licked her nose, or has an upper respiratory infection (a runny nose).
The good news is that a wet nose in cats is rarely a bad sign, and a kitty’s wet nose isn’t the only indicator of whether or not she’s “healthy.” To learn why cats’ noses are wet, read on!
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It Helps a Cat to Stay Cool on Hot & Humid Days
Nearly all animal species have internal systems that help with thermoregulation (or temperature control). When the weather outside starts getting hot and humid, a cat’s sweat glands — located in the paws and between the toes — will begin secreting a small amount of sweat. A cool breeze will hit the sweat, which will provide your cat with a cool sensation.
Other ways that cats maintain an average 100°F-102.5℉ (37.8°C-39.1°C) temperature include:
- Licking their fur (this brings the cool evaporation sensation to other areas of their bodies)
- Lying down in colder places of the home or finding shade
- Drinking water
A cat’s damp nose also helps her to stay cool when the temperatures outdoors soar. Cats have tiny sweat glands on their noses (and inner tear ducts that produce a little extra moisture). When your cat breathes in cold air with a wet nose, the air coming in will feel cold, and your cat’s face won’t overheat as severely.
Other Logical Reasons Kitty’s Nose Is Wet
Occam’s Razor explains that the simplest answer is usually correct. With that concept in mind, here are three logical reasons your cat’s nose may be wet:
- Enhanced sense of smell: Both dogs and cats have incredible senses of smell, and a cat’s nose could be up to 20 times more sensitive than a human’s. A wet snout can absorb particles and aromas far more efficiently than a dry nose. In other words, your carnivorous cat’s damp nose can better pick up the meaty smell of tuna.
- A recent hydration session: Cats can be messy eaters, but they may be even messier drinkers. When a cat laps up water with her tongue hooked, water may splash onto your cat’s chin or nose.
- Endless grooming: Cats might spend up to five hours a day on grooming. Your cat’s nose might feel a bit damper than usual because she just spent several minutes grooming her fur.
The point here is this: though an anomaly wet nose in cats could make you nervous, there’s usually an innocent explanation.
Have you ever wondered what it looked like for a cat to drink water in slow motion? The video below will show you why your cat may walk away from a drinking session with a wet nose:
When Does a Wet or Runny Nose Become Concerning?
A cat’s nose should be moist (or damp) and cool as often as possible. Suppose you notice that your cat’s nose is dripping unusual discharge (mucus) or seems to be leaking excess fluids. In that case, your cat may be suffering from an upper respiratory infection (URI).
URIs spread rapidly from one cat to another, either through shared litter boxes, food bowls, water sources, beds, or toys. In other words, if one of your cats develops a URI, the other cats in your household will soon begin showing symptoms unless you separate them in time.
Here’s what you should know about feline URIs:
A URI begins when a foreign bacteria or virus gets into your cat’s system, and her immune system cannot fight off this invading germ entirely. It may take your cat 2-10 days to begin showing mouth and nose symptoms like:
- Green, yellow, or bubbling mucus (not clear as it should be)
- Unusual nose and eye discharge
- Lack of appetite
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Enlarged lymph nodes
These symptoms — including the extra wet nose — may persist for 7-21 days before your cat begins feeling 100% like herself.
Cat Wet Nose Kiss
There’s no sweeter feeling than having a cat rub or press her nose against yours. These adorable wet nose kisses are typically a sign of affection from your four-legged buddy — a way of saying, “I love you!” These kisses are also a cat’s way of communicating the comfort and trust she feels while in your presence.
A cat’s face is the most vulnerable part of her body while in the wild, so your cat touching her face to yours displays the incredibly strong bond you share.
Felines may also offer these wet nose kisses for another instinctual reason: scent transfer. Cats have pheromone-producing scent glands on their foreheads, chins, and mouths. When your cat rubs her nose (and her cheek) on yours, she’s depositing her scent onto you. This kiss is your cat’s way of “marking” you as her favorite human and a source of reliable comfort.
Why Is My Cat’s Nose Dry & Cracked?
Most cats have wet and cold noses, but there are a few instances where your cat’s nose might be dry, cracked, and warm. The following medical conditions may cause this state:
A well-hydrated cat will consume 200 ml – 250 ml (6.7 oz – 8.5 oz) of water per day, either by drinking water out of her bowl or eating wet food instead of kibble (80% water content vs. 10%). When your cat doesn’t get enough water (dehydration), her dry nose may be accompanied by:
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
Diarrhea may also cause severe dehydration in cats. When a cat’s intestines quickly push food and water through the gastrointestinal tract, the digestive system cannot absorb enough water. Dehydration may require immediate intervention via IV fluid replacement.
When your cat’s body temperature soars above the upper range of normal (about 102.5℉ or 39.2°C), your cat’s nose may feel dry and warm to the touch. A cat with a fever may also present with signs like a lack of energy, depression, decreased interest in grooming, and rapid breathing. If the dry nose and other symptoms last 24 hours or longer, you should have your cat evaluated.
Some cats develop scabs and sores on their noses after their noses remain dry for an extended period. A dry and flaky nose is typically a sign of an underlying skin condition, particularly if the cracking leads to bleeding or abscesses.
Fortunately, you can treat this condition at home by applying pet-safe balms to your kitty’s dry nose to keep it moisturized. You may notice that this dry and cracked appearance reappears with seasonal changes — which is normal.
Assuming your cat isn’t feeling under the weather, a wet nose is typically “normal.” However, if you notice that your cat’s nose seems wetter or is dripping fluid, your cat may be fighting off an upper respiratory disease or struggling with allergies.
Most causes of drippy noses will clear up on their own, but you should take your cat to the vet if your cat develops symptoms like dehydration, depression, or trouble breathing. Felines with immunodeficiency disorders like FIV or FeLV may also require immediate care or extra precautions to keep them healthy.
- PetMD: Cat Heatstroke Causes – Heatstroke Symptoms in Cats
- SPCA of Texas: Cat Grooming
- Fetch by WebMD: Cat Dehydration: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
- Fetch by WebMD: Fever in Cats: Symptoms and Treatments
- Cats International: The Amazing Sense of Smell
- Fetch by WebMD: Cat FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
- Fetch by WebMD: Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) Symptoms, Vaccine, Treatment
- Wikipedia: Thermoregulation
- VCA Hospitals: Feline Upper Respiratory Infection
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.