5 Remarkable Facts About Cat Nose Freckles

Calico cat with nose freckles.
CC image courtesy growlroar on flickr

Does your cat have freckles on his nose? My Newton does. His freckle is actually in his philtrum, the vertical groove that runs down the center of his nose. It looks like his nose is dirty all the time, but it just that he actually has that freckle that runs right down the middle of his nose. If your kitty has cat nose freckles, it’s good to know a little more about the phenomenon. Let’s review:

1. Cat nose freckles are actually called lentigo

Cat nose freckles.
Photography via jdickert, Creative Commons on Flickr.

Lentigo is a genetic condition in your cat that results in dark, freckle-like spots. The spots are either black or brown, and if your kitty will let you touch them, you’ll find that they are either flat or slightly raised. The freckles have clearly defined edges. Each one is as small as 1 millimeter and as big as 10 millimeter. The skin around them is the normal color.

If your cat just has a few freckles, the condition is called lentigo simplex. If he has lots of freckles that crowd together so much that they merge together into larger patches of big freckles, it is called lentignosis profusa (multiple lentigines syndrome). It’s a lot easier to just call it lentigo… or, easier yet, just freckles.

The freckles are the result of the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes having more melanin than the surrounding skin. No one knows why some cats have the genetic predisposition for lentigo while other cats the same color don’t.

2. If your cat has nose freckles, she’s probably a redhead

Because lentigo is a genetic condition, it appears to be linked to the genes that make cats have red or orange colors. Freckles can be found on orange, calico, tortoiseshell or flame point cats, possibly because these varieties all have the orange coloration. Cream and silver colored cats also occasionally have lentigo, though it’s less common in those colors.

3. Your cat probably has freckles elsewhere

A calico cat with a nose freckle.
CC image courtesy David Saddler on Flickr.

Lentigines (the fancy word for multiple lentigo freckles) usually don’t start on your cat’s nose, but rather on his lips and gums. If you don’t have to give your cat pills or don’t brush his teeth, you might not notice them when the melanocytes started to produce additional pigment on his lips, even though it often starts as early as one year of age.

As your cat ages, the freckles become more widespread, often getting more numerous and larger on his lips and gums. You might even see freckles on the roof of your cat’s mouth. Freckles also spread to other parts of the body, including the nose, where you are most likely to notice them because they’re literally front and center.

As they spread, lentigo freckles might also appear around the edges of your cat’s eyes or on his eyelids. Sometimes you will find them inside his ears and even on the pads of his feet

Newton, now seven years old, has only a handful of very small freckles on his lips in addition to the one on his philtrum. At his age, he probably won’t develop a lot more.

4. Cat nose freckles don’t grow with sun exposure

Redheaded humans quickly learn that their freckles will grow and spread when they spend time in the sun. Lentigo doesn’t work that way, and the freckles don’t appear or grow because of your cat’s exposure to the sunshine. That’s a good thing, because how would you explain to your sunbeam-loving cat that sunbathing is going to give him freckles?

This doesn’t mean you should hand your cat a beach towel and some coconut oil and tell him to go lounge poolside. While sun exposure doesn’t make lentigo any worse, cats can suffer from sunburn. If your cat has freckles on his ears, don’t let him get sunburned ears that can lead to melanoma, because the freckles might prevent your spotting the melanoma lesion immediately.

5. Cat nose freckles don’t hurt

A sleeping orange tabby cat with freckled nose.
Creative Commons image via jdickert, Creative Commons on Flickr

You might wonder whether those spots itch, but unless your cat spends time looking in the mirror admiring himself, he will never know they’re there. As any redheaded human can tell you, freckles don’t itch or hurt. Lentigo is just a cosmetic condition, and it doesn’t require any treatment from your vet.

Lentigo freckles don’t later become melanoma, so you don’t have to worry about it being an early warning sign of anything. If you’re ever concerned about a spot on your cat, especially if it changes in size or becomes raised or tender, see your vet to be safe. To differentiate between lentigo and other conditions such as melanoma, the vet takes a biopsy with a small needle and then sends the sample to a laboratory for analysis.

Does your cat have a lot of freckles? Just a few? Where are they?

Read more cool facts about cats and science on Catster.com:

Thumbnail: CC image courtesy growlroar on Flickr.

About Julie McAlee: Unapologetic geek, Oxford comma supporter, and cat herder. Julie lives in Orlando with her husband and three rescued cats who are clearly the ones in charge. See Newton, Ashton, and Pierre’s feline adventures on her blog, Sometimes Cats Herd You.

14 thoughts on “5 Remarkable Facts About Cat Nose Freckles”

  1. When my kitty is not feeling well his nose gets spot on it and his face turns real great trying to figure out why.

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  6. I have a white cat with a freckle on his nose. It started off small, and now it is brown and bigger! Is that normal for white cats to have freckles??

    1. Impossible. According to the article, only red-haired cats can have freckles. Thanks for posting your thoughts and reading the blog though! Can you believe how varied and special our furry friends are? :-)

      1. Try reading the article again, particularly the part where they list all the other colours of cats that can have freckles. They just say it’s most likely that a cat with freckles is an orange tabby, but most likely is not the same thing as only only orange cats.

    2. my cat has these two as well as on the lips and nose and paws and so does her sister but my cat’s boop button is adorable

  7. We had an awesome huge orange male cat who “belonged” to a house we moved in to several years ago. Everyone in the neighborhood fed him and gave him attention, but our house was his home base. All of our cats are named after cheeses, so naturally he became Cheddar! He had freckles on his nose, so we liked to joke that he had a moldy nose! We’ve had two younger orange cats since Cheddar (Muenster and Gruyere) but they haven’t “grown mold” on their noses yet.

  8. my good buddy, Maynard, an orange Mackerel Tabby, has black freckles on his pink nose, lips and paw pads. I think it’s extremely cute and adds to his goofy character. I have many people comment on how handsome a kitty he is. He is semi long haired with a thick mame that gives him a little lion look.

  9. I have a red Turkish angora who has a bunch of little freckles on his nose, eyelids and bigger ones on his lips. I like to tease him about this because they’re black and kind of remind me of ink splatters. Also black like gangrene so I accuse him of rotting away from gangrene because he behaves badly. Angoras are fun little tyrants who get obsessed with things you give them and demand it daily and will do things that you’ve made it clear you don’t want them doing because they know it will make you act. Mine likes water and likes sink drinks but I felt sorry for him a few months back because he got upset on the way to the vet so I brushed him while he drank. It’s daily and repeatedly and Angoras never forget! Love them and their tyranny. Also have gold EYED pure Bombay who is also a tyrant and a snowshoe who is a giant. Size of a Maine coon but most is skeleton and muscle. Not much fat. He’s tall and appears to be getting taller and his skull is huge. Blue pointed with pale blue huge eyes. He’s about 4 years old & came from a hoarding drug house. All 3 were accidents we came across from someone we know who has a cat rescue thing. Angora is 6 now and didn’t know of the breed but that oily fur got my attention. Every detail physically and personality fits this greaser! Fun cats. I can only find info on adult acromagely over age 6 and nothing on gigantism. I have known and do know quite a few people with gigantism so I seem to run into Giants a lot. This cat is gentle and laid back and loving which is how the people are too. So many won’t adopt black cats and ours was found outside as stray last September at around 7 months old and had they not found him he’d be dead thanks to satanists. We like getting cats from either bad conditions in their past or total abuse and help restore them. Very rewarding.

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