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Home > Cats > 10 Fascinating Facts About Your Cat’s Nose: Senses, Signs & FAQs

10 Fascinating Facts About Your Cat’s Nose: Senses, Signs & FAQs

close up of a gray tabby cat's nose

Cats are endlessly captivating — and gorgeous! If you’re a big cat lover, you probably love learning fascinating facts about these feline friends.

All of a cat’s senses are essential to their survival, and their nose is no exception. So, read on to learn 10 facts about your cat’s adorable boopable nose.


The 10 Most Fascinating Facts About Your Cat’s Nose

1. A cat’s nose is one of the most essential sense organs

person pointing at cat's nose
Image By: Daniel Voloshyn, Unsplash

Cats have at least 200 million scent receptors in their noses. To put that in perspective, humans only have 5 million.

Those sensitive noses help cats locate prey, find their way home, determine if their meal is toxic or edible, and even tell them where you’ve been and who you’ve met. Their nose can make all the difference in a cat’s survival.

2. The scent of their meal stimulates a cat’s appetite

You might be surprised to learn that cats don’t have that many taste receptors on their tongues — much fewer than we do! So, cats aren’t drawn to their food for the taste, but rather for the smell.

This is why cats lose their appetite when they have an upper respiratory infection that blocks their sense of smell. If your cat doesn’t seem interested in eating, try warming up their food, as this can help stimulate their appetite.

3. A cat’s nose gives them information about other cats

two cats in boxes
Image By: Chris Boyer, Unsplash

Outdoor cats can learn about other cats in their area by smelling around. Cats will spray, scratch, and rub on surfaces as a way to mark their territory.

When your cat is roaming the neighborhood, they learn about these other cats that have potentially encroached on their own territory. Additionally, intact male cats will be able to track down any female cats in heat with their noses.

4. Cats have “nose prints” like how we have fingerprints

The nose has distinctive ridges and tiny bumps that are unique to each cat. Like our fingerprints, no two “nose prints” are alike. Technically, they could be used to identify cats, but microchipping is much easier!

5. Nose color is determined by fur color

orange and white cat
Image Credit: Zoë Gayah Jonker, Unsplash

Most black cats have black noses, but many other cats, like white cats or orange and brown tabbies, tend to have pink noses.

Interestingly, orange tabbies tend to develop little brown freckles on their noses, lips, and gums. Some gray cats will also have gray noses, and brown or black tabbies might have black noses. Calicos’ noses can be pink, black, or a combination of both!

6. Cats love an interesting scent

If you’ve ever noticed your cat smelling your odorous shoes and then looking up with their mouth partly open, they are essentially smell-tasting. This is called the flehmen response.

The Jacobson’s organ is located on the roof of the cat’s mouth. When a cat finds an intriguing smell, they inhale it through their mouth and nose, which enables the organ to gain information about it.

7. Cats dislike certain smells

black cat going out from a litter box
Image Credit: Litter Robot, Unsplash

As much as cats love an interesting scent, they have a big dislike for many smells.

Since they have such sensitive noses, they can find certain strong odors uncomfortable, such as scented cat litter or a litter box that hasn’t been emptied in a while.

There are also scents that are just off-putting, such as citrus and anything with a menthol scent, like peppermint and eucalyptus.

Many undiluted essential oils can be quite toxic to cats, even just by inhaling them, so be careful with air fresheners around your cat.

8. Cats greet each other by sniffing each other

When cats approach each other, they will usually greet each other by smelling each other’s noses and even rear ends. Then, they’ll typically carry on with their business. This sniffing is them saying hello and figuring out where the other has been.

9. Kittens are born with an advanced sense of smell

orange tabby kitten smelling mother cat's ear
Image By: Prasad Panchakshari, Unsplash

Newborn kittens have a highly developed sense of smell that enables them to find their mother for nursing. This comes in handy because they are born blind and don’t open their eyes until they are about 10 days old.

10. A cat’s nose can indicate a health problem

There are many ways that you can tell that a cat is ill, including by looking at their nose. How the nose looks, such as any color change, how moist or dry it is, and any discharge, can all be indications of a problem with the cat’s health.


What Should You Watch For?

Veterinarians will check a cat’s nose in addition to everything else during a wellness check. They will check for any potential obstruction or discharge.

Blisters and sores appearing on a cat’s nose can be an indication of an autoimmune disease, trauma, or a viral infection.

Look out for:
  • Nasal discharge, particularly if it’s discolored
  • Nosebleed
  • Open sores
  • Dried and cracked nose

Nasal Discharge

Discolored discharge accompanied by coughing and sneezing could be an upper respiratory infection. General nasal discharge can be several things, such as dental disease, infection, or a foreign body stuck inside the nose.

It’s important to see the vet if your cat appears to be struggling to breathe or if there’s another issue with their nose and health in general.

Dry Nose

Some cats might naturally have dry noses. But if the nose seems drier than usual, it might be because the cat has been spending too much time next to a heat source, or it could be a sign of dehydration or fever.

Change in Color

white cat with its nose up
Image Credit: cottonbro studio, Pexels

A change in a cat’s nose color should be taken quite seriously, particularly if it looks paler than usual, which could be an indication of anemia. Some ginger cats might get freckles on their nose, which is normal. But if there’s a sudden and inexplicable change in the color of your cat’s nose, it’s best to see your vet immediately, as something could be wrong.

Other Signs That Something Is Wrong

If your cat is panting (unless they are a new mother) or just breathing through their mouth, this might indicate a problem. Cats only breathe through their nose, so if they appear to be using their mouth to breathe, there’s likely an issue.

Additionally, cats that seem to be excessively licking their noses might need help. If a cat doesn’t seem to be grooming themselves as often, there might be an issue like arthritis.

What Is a Healthy Cat Nose?

Sometimes the best way to judge that something might be wrong with your cat is to be familiar with what their nose is like when they are in good health.

Not every cat’s nose will be the same, but the average cat should have a slightly moist and cool nose, though this will change from time to time without it being a health concern. Overall, you know your cat best, and if something seems off, see your vet.



Cats are endlessly amazing — their noses alone made an entire article! Now that you know more about your cat’s nose, enjoy those boopable moments.

But don’t forget that they have super-sensitive noses, so try not to use strong scents around them. We all want to ensure that our cats stay healthy and happy so we can continue to enjoy their company every chance that we get.

Featured Image Credit: Kevin Knezic, Unsplash

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