Should a Cat's Nose Always Be Wet?

Admit it. You kiss your cat on the nose. A LOT. And, chances are, that nose is wet and cool (which, of course, doesn't get in the way of the smooches!). However, have you ever wondered why the vast majority of cats' noses are always wet while a few have noses that are dry as a bone? You may have heard that a dry nose signifies ill health in felines, but is this true? Since one of my cats, Riley, has a perpetually cold and wet schnoz while his brother, Murphy, has one that's consistently warm and dry, I was curious to know if this was a benign difference or whether there was any cause for alarm. So, I researched and turned up some pretty interesting info. Intrigued? Read on!


Because most healthy cats have consistently wet noses, it became popular opinion that a dry nose is a marker for illness. For this reason, many cat parents become alarmed and immediately dial the vet the moment they notice that their cat's sniffer is dry. Though a dry nose can certainly be a sign of dehydration or disease, it isn't always the case. Instead, it may have been caused by a number of harmless factors like:

• He may have just been basking in the sun or spent a little too much time curled up in front of the fireplace or heater (as they love to do!).
• He may have just recently groomed himself, or gotten a grooming from another kitty. Saliva on skin evaporates quickly, leaving the skin dry to the touch.
• It's a hot, low-humidity day.
• He's in (or just left) a room with poor air circulation.

If any of the above applies, you've probably got nothing to worry about. BUT, to be certain, you should also check for the following:

• A thick, foul-smelling, and/or colored nasal discharge (either yellow, green, or black). This may be a sign of Upper Respiratory Infection (URI). A discharge, though, is different from clear, watery mucus—which is normal.
• If you notice more mucus than normal, it may be a sign of allergies.
• Flaking skin on the nose may indicate a dermatological issue.
• Excessive thirst and diarrhea.
• Lethargy, lack of appetite, and weight loss.

Now, if you notice any of these symptoms, you'll probably want to book that visit to the vet. In the meantime, you can also take your cat's temperature using a rectal thermometer to make sure that he isn't running a fever. A body temperature between 100 - 102 F is normal. If you aren't comfortable taking your cat's temperature, (don't feel bad--many pet parents aren't!), just leave the temperature-taking to the vet.

In general, you shouldn't quickly jump to conclusions if your kitty has a dry nose. If that nose has been mostly dry since kittenhood, then there's even less to worry about; it's probably just the way your particular kitty has been genetically programmed. Even a drastic change in dryness isn't necessarily a cause for panic unless you've ruled out the myriad harmless reasons that may have caused the sudden change.

By Maya M.