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 also 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 also affect the color of a cat’s nose. Medical conditions, including Cushing’s disease and hypertension, can darken the nose of a cat. 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, this is rarely a cause for 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, while others are jet black. It depends on the color of the fur. The same pigments 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 much harder to spot.

A cat’s nose changing color has various explanations, varying from harmless to medically concerning. If your cat’s nose has changed color, you should observe its behavior for clues regarding what might be wrong.

The reason for your cat’s nose changing color may be a fleeting concern or just part of the natural aging process.

Staining

Your cat’s nose may have changed shade because it’s temporarily stained. Cats explore the world through scent. It may have buried its face in food that contains natural dyes.

A cat’s nose can be sensitive, so gently dab the area with a damp cotton ball. This should be enough to remove any temporary stains, if applicable.

The area should be cleaned up. Cats lick their noses throughout the day, hence why their noses are frequently wet. If the cat has a toxic substance on its nose, you don’t want this to be ingested.

Old Age (Lentigo)

As cats grow older, they develop more freckles across their skin. This is referred to as lentigo. The liver spots that occur on aging 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, but will later become apparent on the cat’s nose. The eyes and gums can also be affected 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 tend to be more spaced out.

Lentigo spots on your cat’s nose are just an aesthetic imperfection. The International Journal of Science has made it clear that no veterinary intervention will be required.

Bruising (Hematoma)

The sudden darkening of a cat’s nose can be caused by bruising. Cats do not bruise externally. Bruises occur under the skin, 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 something, such as a branch from a tree or furniture. 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 seeking an explanation. Blunt trauma is a possibility. The cat may have a respiratory issue, such as Feline Herpesvirus (FHV). This will be accompanied by nasal and ocular streaming.

FHV is the cat equivalent of the common cold. Most cats will make a full recovery when allowed to get plenty of rest.

Allergic Reactions

The hyperpigmentation of a cat’s nose can be linked to an allergic reaction, but this will only be obvious if your cat has a pale nose. The nose leather will also thicken. Your cat will also display other symptoms, such as:

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

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

Common cat allergies include cigarette smoke, fabric softeners or laundry detergents, litter changes, and plastic bowls.

Temperature Regulation

A cat’s nose has lots of 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 the temperature.

When your cat is cold, these blood vessels will contract. This will 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 the blood vessels expand.

Do not rely on nose color alone to determine a cat’s body temperature. You’ll need a thermometer to ensure a comfortable temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Excitement And Stimulation

An excited cat will also have a darker nose leather. Blood rushes to the head when the cat is excited or over-stimulated.

Once the cat calms down, the nose should return to a normal, lighter shade. If this does not occur, it may have hypertension (high blood pressure).

Hypertension

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

A cat that grows excited, stressed, or overstimulated may experience acute hypertension. This is a sudden increase in blood pressure. The severity depends on your cat’s overall health.

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. Symptoms to look out for include:

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.

It could point to feline cardiomyopathy. A study in The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery suggests that British Shorthair cats face a higher risk of developing this condition.

If your cat has heart disease, blood will not pump around the body in the way that it should. This will leave your cat feeling colder, which also explains the lighter nose.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where the blood becomes thin. Anemic cats will also experience discoloration to the gums and become 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 suggests that your cat’s diet does not provide the required potassium levels. Potassium-rich foods and supplements will usually correct the problem. If not, intravenous fluids will be required.

cat nose changes from pink to white

Leukotrichia (Vitiligo)

Leukotrichia (vitiligo) is a rare condition that removes pigmentation from a cat’s fur and skin. It often starts at the bridge of the nose. It will then spread throughout the body, leaving white patches seemingly at random.

Vitiligo can be caused and intensified by stress and dissatisfaction. Ensure that your cat’s needs are being met if its nose suddenly turns white. It is not a life-threatening condition.

Sun Damage

Many cats love the sun and will bask in UV rays for hours. Eventually, a cat’s nose can burn in the sun, which 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 crucial if your cat has a naturally light nose. Such pigmentation burns faster and more quickly than darker colors. More importantly, 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 may become sick.

Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)

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

Cushing’s disease is rare in cats, but can occur. Overweight, senior female cats are most at risk, especially if they’re also diabetic.

Hyperpigmentation is considered to be one of the first warnings of hyperadrenocorticism. The Journal of the American Veterinary Association also mentions 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.

Your cat’s nose will not remain the same color over the entire course of its life. A cat’s nose leather will lighten and darken for various reasons.