cat nose discoloration
Cat Health and Wellness

What Causes a Cat’s Nose to Change Color?

Cats’ noses, just like feline fur, change color due to external elements. Aging, exposure to sunlight, and even staining can alter the shade of a cat’s nose. However, it can sometimes be indicative of a health concern.

The nose of older cats darkens with freckles. This is called lentigo and is completely harmless. Excitement and temperature changes affect the color of a cat’s nose. Medical conditions, including Cushing’s disease and hypertension, can darken the nose. These issues will be accompanied by behavioral changes. If the nose becomes pale, the cat may have poor blood circulation.

A cat’s nose will change color throughout the course of its life. It may appear to do so seemingly at random. Unless your cat is displaying other uncharacteristic behaviors, which can happen, this is rarely a concern.

Why Do Cats’ Noses Change Color?

There is no such thing as a default color of a cat’s nose. Some cats have bright pink noses, others are jet black. It all depends on the color of the fur. The same pigmentations influence the shade of your cat’s nose leather.

This means that changes to the color will be easier to spot in some cats than others. It will be impossible to ignore a pink nose turning black, for example. This is called hyperpigmentation. The darkening of a black nose, of course, will be considerably harder to spot.

A cat’s nose changing color has a range of explanations. These vary from the harmless to the medically concerning. If your cat’s nose has changed color, you should observe its general behavior for other clues.

The reason for your cat’s nose changing color may be a fleeting concern or part of the natural aging process. The way your cat is acting may point to a health concern, though. Pay attention to its general demeanor and assess if the issues could be related.

Staining

Ensure that your cat’s nose has actually changed color. It may just be temporarily stained. Cats explore the world through scent. This means that your cat will frequently put its nose in strange locations. It may have buried its face in food or investigated a liquid spillage on your property.

A cat’s nose can be sensitive, so be gentle while investigating this. Do not attack the skin with a wet wipe. Dab at it with a damp cotton ball. This should be enough to reveal any temporary stains.

If your cat’s nose is stained, it’s not an emergency. Do clean it up, though. Cats lick their noses throughout the day. This is why noses are frequently wet. If the cat has a toxic substance on its nose, it must not be ingested.

Old Age (Lentigo)

As cats grow older, they develop more freckles across the skin. This is referred to as lentigo. The liver spots that occur on ageing human skin are a form of lentigo. In cats, it is likelier to be lentigo simplex. This is the most basic form of lentigo, and completely harmless.

Lentigo begins around a cat’s lips and mouth. It will later become apparent on the cat’s nose. The eyes and gums can also become impacted as the cat continues to age. Cats with orange fur are likeliest to develop lentigo, and at a younger age. Despite this, feline lentigo is unrelated to sun exposure.

why is my cat's nose turning brown?

Lentigo can be initially alarming, as the spots could be mistaken for melanoma. A key difference is that lentigo creates small spots that are barely raised from the skin. Melanoma spots will be larger and more elevated. Lentigo freckles are also typically more spaced out.

Do not worry about lentigo spots on your cat’s nose. At worst, they are an aesthetic imperfection. If your cat has a black nose, you will not even notice them. The International Journal of Science has made it clear that no veterinary intervention will be required.

Bruising (Hematoma)

Sudden darkening of a cat’s nose can be caused by bruising. Cats do not bruise externally. Cat bruises occur under the skin. This is referred to as a hematoma. A hematoma is a minor rupture of blood vessels under the skin.

Collisions are a common explanation for feline nasal hematomas. The cat may have walked into a piece of furniture, garden fence or door. The cat could also have entered a conflict with a neighborhood feline. Fighting cats will target the nose to end the encounter quickly.

Nosebleeds

According to The American Journal of Veterinary Research, not all hematomas are caused by trauma. Sometimes, this can be explained by issues with immunity – often an inflammatory condition. This becomes likelier if your cat is experiencing a nosebleed.

Treat your cat’s nosebleed before anything else. After this, look out for explanations. Blunt trauma remains a possibility. The cat may also have a respiratory issue, such as Feline Herpesvirus (FHV). This will typically be accompanied by nasal and ocular streaming.

Essentially, FHV is the cat equivalent of the common cold. Most cats will make a full recovery with plenty of rest. Pain relief and antibiotics are advisable in older cats, though.

Allergic Reactions

Hyperpigmentation in a cat’s nose can be linked to an allergic reaction. This will only be obvious if your cat has a pale nose. The nose leather will also thicken in the event of an allergy. Your cat will also display other clear and obvious behaviors. These include:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Struggling for breath
  • Itchy
  • Breakouts of hives or lesions
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Food is the most common source of feline allergic reactions. Your cat may be responding to something in its environment, though. If your cat has not recently sampled a new food, consider any other changes in the home. Cats can be allergic to anything.

Common cat allergies include cigarette smoke, different fabric softener or laundry detergent, and changed litter. Consider if your cat could have a plastic allergy, too. The reaction may originate from the bottom of a food bowl while eating.

Temperature Regulation

A cat’s nose is packed with blood vessels. This is why hematomas are so common in this part of feline anatomy. These blood vessels also mean that a cat’s nose color will vary according to temperature.

When your cat is cold, blood vessels will contract. This will potentially make the nose appear lighter in color. If your cat is warm, the opposite will occur. A pale pink nose will become deep red as blood vessels expand.

Do not rely on nose color alone to judge a cat’s body temperature. You’ll need a thermometer to ensure a comfortable temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A changing shade of feline nose can be an early indicator of unsuitable conditions, though.

Excitement and Stimulation

A cat’s nose is packed with blood vessels. This means that an excited cat will also have a darker nose. Blood will rush to the head when the cat is excited or stimulated. This will change the shade of the nose leather.

Once the cat calms down, the nose should return to a standard, lighter shade. If this does not occur, pay closer attention to your cat’s behavior. It may be living with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Hypertension

Hypertension impacts many cats, especially older felines. Overweight and obese cats are at particularly high risk. Left unmanaged, hypertension can become fatal. Darkening of the nose is not a certain diagnosis, but it merits consideration.

A cat that grows excited, stressed, or overstimulated may experience acute hypertension. This is a sudden increase in blood pressure. How serious this is depends on your cat’s general health. A cat with a weak heart will struggle to manage this increase in activity.

As cats grow older, they are likelier to develop systemic, or chronic, hypertension. According to The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, this can arise suddenly. A loss of vision is the biggest warning of hypertension. Other behaviors to watch out for include:

As your cat reaches is senior years, it will need to be regularly assessed for hypertension. If you notice your cat’s nose darkening, it may be worth bringing forward an annual check-up. This darkening may be simple lentigo, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Poor Blood Circulation

If your cat’s nose becomes much lighter, it may be due to poor circulation. Blood is not reaching the vessels in the cat’s nose, so it starts to lose color.

Poor blood circulation should always be assessed by a vet. It could point to feline cardiomyopathy. A study in The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery suggests that British Shorthair cats are at particularly high risk.

If your cat has heart disease, blood will not pump around the body as it should. This will leave your cat feeling colder, which also explains the lighter nose. This will impact your cat’s organs and movement over time.

Medication must be administered for heart disease. Your cat will need to take this medication for life, to control its condition. Regular veterinary check-ups for older cats reduce the risk of cardiomyopathy taking hold.

Anemia

Another explanation for a lighter nose is anemia. This is a condition in which the blood becomes thin. Anemic cats will experience comparable discoloration in the gums and become uncharacteristically lethargic.

The Journal of Virology links anemia to Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). Thankfully, it is equally likely that the cat just lacks potassium. This leads to a condition called hypokalemia, which in turn leads to anemia.

Hypokalemia is serious but can be remedied. Potassium supplements will usually work. If not, intravenous fluids will be required. You should also assess your cat’s diet. Hypokalemia suggests that your cat’s current food does not meet the required potassium levels.

cat nose changes from pink to white

Leukotrichia (Vitiligo)

Leukotrichia, better known as vitiligo, is a rare condition in cats. In essence, vitiligo removes pigmentation from a cat’s fur and skin. It often starts on the bridge of the nose. It will then spread throughout the cat’s body, leaving white patches seemingly at random.

Vitiligo is not life-threatening. In fact, many cats with vitiligo are considered unique and striking. The condition can be caused and intensified by stress and dissatisfaction, though. Ensure that your cat’s needs are being met if it’s nose suddenly turns white.

Sun Damage

Many cats love the sun and will happily bask in UV rays for hours. Eventually, a cat’s nose can burn in the sun. This will deepen the color. The nose leather may also begin to blister and peel.

Restrict your cat’s time in the sun during the hottest months. This is particularly important if your cat has a naturally light nose. Such pigmentation burns faster and easier than darker colors. Prolonged sun damage to a cat’s nose can also lead to skin cancer.

Do not place sunscreen on a cat’s nose to offer protection. Many suntan lotions contain salicylates, which are a byproduct of aspirin. As per Veterinary and Human Toxicology, aspirin is toxic to felines. If your cat licks its nose, it will ingest aspirin and become sick.

Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)

Hyperadrenocorticism, better known as Cushing’s disease, is a problem with a cat’s adrenal glands. A cat with hyperadrenocorticism will generate an excess of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Oftentimes, this condition begins with a tumor in the pituitary gland.

Cushing’s disease is rare in cats, more commonly associated with canines. It can occur, though. Overweight, senior female cats are most at risk, especially if diabetic.

Hyperpigmentation is often considered one of the first warnings of hyperadrenocorticism. The Journal of the American Veterinary Association also pinpoints the following signs:

  • Increased thirst and associated urination
  • Bloated, pot-bellied appearance
  • Panting and shortness of breath
  • Sudden weight loss and muscle wastage
  • Lethargy
  • Poor quality, unkempt fur

There is no cure for hyperadrenocorticism. If possible, a vet will surgically remove the cat’s pituitary gland. If this is not an option, the condition will be controlled using medication.

No cat nose will stay the same color for life. Cat nose leather lightens and darkens for a range of reasons. Watch your cat’s behavior and take it for regular veterinary check-ups. If you do this, there is no need to be overly concerned about a changing shade of nose.