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Why is My Cat’s Nose Dry? Our Vet Explains if This is Normal

Written by: Dr. Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

nose and mouth and whisker of a cat close-up

Why is My Cat’s Nose Dry? Our Vet Explains if This is Normal


Dr. Joanna Woodnutt Photo


Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

MRCVS, Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We all love it when our cats show us affection, especially when they nudge your hand with their noses or give you a little head bump. You may have noticed when they nuzzle you that their nose feels dry or wet. Have you ever wondered what this means about your cat’s health? Well, contrary to popular belief, a wet nose or dry nose isn’t always linked to your cat’s health. So, what do our cats’ noses tell us about how they are feeling?

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Is a Healthy Cat’s Nose Dry or Wet?

A healthy cat’s nose may be wet or dry depending on several factors, and his nose may feel wet or dry at different times of the day. Some cats naturally have drier noses than others, so what is normal for your cat may not be normal for someone else’s. We’re going to look at both of these in more detail:

Why Is My Cat’s Nose Dry?

Your cat’s dry nose may not be a cause for concern. There are several reasons why your cat’s nose may be dry:

  • He is warm. Most cats love to lie somewhere warm to snooze the day away, whether it be in a sunny spot in summer, or by the fire in winter, cats love warmth. The heat will cause moisture from your cat’s nose to evaporate, resulting in a dry nose.
  • He has been licking his nose. Saliva will dry out his nose, and licking his nose removes any natural moisture that might be present. Cats are fastidious about keeping themselves clean and will spend a lot of their time grooming, so a small amount of nose licking is normal. However, if your cat is licking his nose a lot, then it might be a sign that he is feeling anxious or that his nose is running.
  • He is slightly dehydrated. Most cats will drink what they need, but if you are concerned about your cat’s water intake, you could try buying him a pet fountain. Research has shown that cats prefer to drink from moving water sources. They are also more likely to drink from larger water sources where their whiskers do not touch the edges. That is why you may see your cat choosing to drink from your dog’s larger water bowl or puddles outside.

When Should I Be Worried if My Cat’s Nose is Dry?

If your cat’s nose is dry and he is showing signs of lethargy or has sunken eyes, it is likely that your cat is dehydrated and needs veterinary treatment. Dehydration can often occur if your cat has been vomiting, has had diarrhea, or has had a poor appetite for a while. Your cat may also have a high temperature if he has a dry nose.

Dehydration and fever in cats often go hand-in-hand, so contact your veterinarian straight away if you are concerned that your cat is dehydrated or unwell. Some cats are prone to sunburn on their noses, particularly if they are white or have a pink nose. A sunburnt cat’s nose may be dry, red, flakey, or even sometimes swollen.

If your cat loves soaking up the rays, you can protect his nose by applying a small amount of cat-safe sunscreen throughout the day. Ask your veterinarian for further advice, and never use human sunscreen on your cat since it could contain potentially toxic ingredients should your cat lick it off.

If your cat’s nose is dry and flaky or even cracked, he could have a skin condition. You may also notice that the rest of your cat’s coat is dry and flaky, or the underlying skin may be red. If he’s showing any of these signs, or if he’s itchy, book an appointment with your veterinarian to get him checked over.

cat nose
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

How Do I Fix My Cat’s Dry Nose?

If you are concerned that your cat has a dry nose and is unwell, the best thing you can do is take him to your veterinarian to check whether he has an illness that needs treatment. If his nose is dry to touch, but he is otherwise well, it is unlikely that your cat’s dry nose is anything to worry about.

It is best to avoid putting anything on your cat’s nose, such as Vaseline, unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian. It could encourage your cat to lick his nose more frequently, which may dry it out further.

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Why is My Cat’s Nose Wet?

The moisture on your cat’s nose is usually a mixture of sweat, nasal mucous, and tear drainage. Cat’s noses are amazing, and their sense of smell is over 10 times better than ours! Moisture on their noses helps to trap scent particles so cats can better smell their environment.

When Should I Be Worried if My Cat’s Nose is Wet?

It is essential to distinguish between a normal wet cat nose and a nose that is wet because it’s runny. Any nasal discharge can be a cause for concern, but discolored snot in cats is particularly worrying because it may be a sign that your cat has an upper respiratory tract infection or other underlying illness. If the discharge from your cat’s nose is yellow or green, then an infection is likely.

close up cat with green eyes
Image Credit: M_Light, Shutterstock

If your cat has a runny nose with a clear discharge, it could be a sign that he has allergies. An allergic cat might also have watery eyes. Either way, it is vital to get your cat checked out by a veterinarian if he has a nasal discharge of any kind.

Nasal discharge is likely to make your cat sneeze more frequently to try and keep his nasal passages clear. Cats breathe primarily through their noses, so if their nasal passages become blocked, they can have difficulty breathing. It is not normal for a cat to pant in the way that a dog does, so if you see your cat panting, this is an emergency, and you should contact your veterinarian straight away for further advice.

Can I Clean My Cat’s Nose?

A cat’s nose and his sense of smell play an important role in stimulating his appetite because cats don’t have many taste receptors. So, if your cat’s nose is stuffed up because he’s sick, he is less likely to eat his food.

Your veterinarian will be able to offer treatments to help alleviate his signs but you can also help him by gently wiping his nose with a damp cloth to  his nostrils clear from discharge.

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So, Why is My Cat’s Nose Dry

The short answer is, it can be completely normal for your cat to have a dry nose! Just make sure he doesn’t have any other symptoms of illness. It can also be normal for your cat to have a wet nose, and they may go from having a dry nose to a wet nose and back again several times in a single day! You will come to know what is normal for your cat, but if you are concerned about your cat’s nose, the best thing to do is contact your veterinarian for advice.

Want more free vet advice? Check out some of our other Ask-a-Vet posts:

Featured Image Credit: Photographerivanov, Shutterstock

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