What does it mean when your cat's nose is wet?
Questions About Cats

Why Do Cats Have Wet Noses?

If your cat brushes its nose against you, it may feel damp or wet. A cat’s nose will fluctuate between damp and dry throughout the day. As long as the nose is not dripping, there is no need for any concern.

Cats perspire through the nose, which naturally makes it damp. Cats also frequently lick their nose or get their face wet while drinking water. A cat’s environment will affect its nose. Warm weather creates moisture in the nose, while cold temperatures make the nose run.

A permanently wet nose may be a sign of a health problem. Ensure that a runny nose is not a symptom of a respiratory infection. Your cat may also be living in an environment where the temperature is uncomfortably hot or cold. This can be easily resolved once you identify the issue.

Are Cats Noses Supposed to Be Wet?

The nose of a healthy cat should be periodically damp or wet. A permanent wet nose is as problematic as a nose that is dry and cracked.

Throughout the course of a day, your cat’s nose will fluctuate between wet and dry. As long as the nose does not reach either extreme, your cat is fine.

Healthy, everyday reasons for a cat to have a wet nose include:

  • Sweat from the nose
  • Tear production from the eyes
  • Environmental factors
  • The cat licked its nose
  • Recently drank water
  • Nose is bleeding
  • The cat is being petted

If your cat’s nose is permanently wet, it may have an upper respiratory infection. Nasal cancer is also a risk, albeit an unlikely one. Learn why your cat’s nose is wet. Oftentimes, no action will be necessary.

Why is my cat's nose running?

Sweat

Cats primarily sweat through the paw pads. This is not sufficient to regulate a cat’s body temperature, though. As a result, cats also perspire through other hairless parts of the body, including the nose. The hairless part of a cat’s nose is known as the nasal planum.

Whenever a cat gets too hot, the nasal planum automatically starts to sweat. This makes breathing easier as well as cooling the cat down. If the cat’s nose is regularly sweaty, it suggests the environment is too warm. Offer your cat a cooling pad or drink of ice water.

A constantly sweating nasal planum can also point to tumors within the nose. While nasal tumors are only responsible for 1% of feline cancers, they remain possible. Malignant tumors are hot to the touch. This will lead to constant sweating and your cat’s nose will run.

Tears

Cats do not cry in the conventional sense. It is rare to find tears streaming down a cat’s face. Cat eyes do release discharge, though. Sometimes this is perfectly natural, and sometimes it’s due to a health concern. Either way, the discharge will run toward the nose.

A cat’s lower tear duct constantly produces tears. These tears are used to protect and clean a cat’s eyes. In a healthy cat, they slide down the face toward the nose. If the tears do not evaporate before reaching the nose, they will make the nose wet.

This is more common in longer-faced cat breeds. The shape of the skull of these cats makes the flow easier. Brachycephalic cats often experience a medical condition called epiphora. This prevents tears from leaving the eye. If your cat has a flat face, its wet nose is unlikely to be related to tears.

If your cat’s nose is constantly wet, check its eyes. A number of other infections and problems can create a constant tear flow. This is especially likely if the cat is keeping one or both eyes closed.

Environment

Environmental factors can have a significant impact on a cat’s nose. This includes temperature and humidity.

Cold Temperatures

As the Journal of Neurophysiology explains, temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a wet nose in cats.

The nose will become damp, and potentially start to run. If the temperature drops further, the cat’s nose may become dry and cracked.

Warm Temperatures

Warm weather can also affect the moisture in a cat’s nose. A cat’s average body temperature is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The nose may be warmer or colder than this, depending on other factors.

If the air outside is warmer than a cat’s nose, moisture will develop when the cat breathes. This will make the cat’s nose feel damp to the touch. Unless the nose is also streaming, this is nothing to worry about.

Licking

Cats lick their nose throughout the day. Oftentimes, this is part of the perspiration process. By adding saliva to the nasal planum, the cat will sweat more through the nose.

Wet noses can also be a by-product of grooming. The cat will lick its nose while licking its lips after a meal. Traditional grooming can also cause a wet nose. Your cat will lick fur, then rub the saliva over the rest of its body.

Most often, a cat will lick its nose after eating. This is creating a sense of comfort for the cat. When a cat eats, the scent and taste of the food linger on the tongue. This could last for several hours. When a cat licks its nose, it transfers this scent to the nostrils.

With such a remarkable sense of smell, a cat can become overwhelmed by new sensations. Licking the nose after eating temporarily blocks unwanted scents. This helps the cat relax. Many cats like to groom and sleep after eating. A comforting smell makes this easier.

Cats also lick their nose to stimulate their appetite. According to The Anatomical Record, cats have around 250 taste buds (or papillae) on their tongue. For comparison, the human tongue can host as many as 8,000 papillae.

A cat’s excellent sense of smell makes up for this. Where humans have around 5million scent receptors, cats have closer to 20million. Cat eyes cannot see something directly in front of the face. Cats decide if food is appetizing by smelling it.

If a cat licks its nose, it clears the nostrils and makes scenting easier. A big sniff from a cat is the equivalent of a tasting session for a human. The cat also enhances its sense of smell for security. The better a cat can smell, the easier it is to detect threats and predators.

cats nose is wet and dripping

Drinking

A cat drinking from a bowl will invariably get a wet nose. Cats lack depth perception, especially at close range. Your cat will dunk its entire face into a bowl to take a drink. Even if your cat is graceful, water will be spilled.

Cats drink by flicking the tongue at the surface of the water. The cat then catches the water in its mouth. If the cat misses, water will hit the nose.

The cat may also lick its nose immediately after drinking. Cats can smell chlorine and other treatment chemicals in the water. Your cat will check that it deems the water safe before drinking deeply.

Some cats outright refuse to drink from a water bowl. Many cats are suspicious of still water. These cats will instead drink from a running tap, toilet bowl, or water fountain. Again, this will lead to a wet nose. The cat will place its entire head under the water source.

Your cat may sneeze after a long drink. This should be a temporary issue, caused by water submersion. If the cat stops sneezing after a short period, no further action is necessary.

Nosebleeds

If the top of your cat’s nose is dry but the nostrils are damp, check for a nosebleed. A bleeding nose will not always immediately obvious in a cat. The signs may be subtle, but it’s a serious concern.

Cats can develop nosebleeds for a number of reasons, including:

  • Stress
  • Excess temperatures
  • Nasal irritation
  • Trauma to the nose
  • Respiratory infections

Treat a cat’s nosebleed by placing ice on the bridge of the nose. This will restrict and shrink the blood cells and stem the bleeding.

Investigate the cause of the nosebleed too. Unless you manage this, your cat will continue to experience nosebleeds.

Petting

The nose of your cat may become moist and wet while you pet them. Your cat’s nose may even start to drip and run.

While this may appear concerning, it’s a sign that your cat is happy. A runny nose can be a reaction to purring.

This is most common in kittens and young cats. Some older cats will retain the habit. When a kitten has a runny nose, its mother will lick it off. This is pleasurable for the cat. The cat will attempt to imitate the experience.

Cats also drool when purring. If your cat is enjoying a petting session, it will release saliva. If the cat then licks its nose, this saliva will be transferred. The nose will remain moist for a while afterward.

Respiratory Infections

A cat’s nose should not be permanently wet. Likewise, it is possible for a cat’s nose to be too wet.

If the nose is cold, wet and running, the cat likely has a respiratory infection. Cats can experience a number of these infections, including:

  • Feline herpesvirus type-1 (FHV-1)
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR)
  • Feline calicivirus (FVC)
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (B. bronchiseptica)
  • Chlamydophila felis (C. felis)

Other than a regularly wet and streaming nose, symptoms of respiratory infection include:

  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Low body temperature (below 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and depression

Respiratory infections are rarely life-threatening, though they are riskier to older cats with weak immunity. The Journal of Small Animal Practice confirms that older cats are prone to respiratory infection.

Your cat will be in discomfort if it has a respiratory infection, though. In addition, a feline cold virus will be contagious to other cats. Your cat should be quarantined and cared for throughout its illness.

The primary method for treating a cat’s respiratory infection is rest. House your cat in a quiet location, devoid of noise of footfall. You must also keep your cat warm. Place a hot water bottle in the cat’s bed. If necessary, seek an antibiotic prescription.

Given time, the cat will recover. This could take days or weeks. It depends on the severity of the infection. Your cat’s nose will be an indication of how well the cat is coping. Over time, the cat’s nose will return to alternating between wet and dry.

Most of the reasons why cats have wet noses are harmless, but it shouldn’t be permanently damp. If your cat’s nose is always wet, you need to find out if it has a health problem, such as a respiratory infection.