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Why Do Cats’ Noses Get Wet When They Purr?

Why Do Cats’ Noses Get Wet When They Purr?

✔ This article was written by a licensed veterinarian.

As a vet, I get this question a lot from new cat owners. “Why does my cat’s nose get wet when it purrs?

Before I dive into the scientific details that lead to a wet nose, I want to note that this is healthy behavior and it is common for a cat’s nose to be wet. A cat’s nose has sweat glands on its surface. These glands are activated when a cat purrs. Because a cat’s nose is hairless, it can become wet and cool due to the purring. 

Additionally, a cat’s nose can be wet before it purrs, but you may not have noticed prior to the purring. Like dogs, a cat’s nose is supposed to be wet.

It should make you happy that your cat is purring, which may very likely indicate that they are expressing bliss and contentment

Not everyone likes to wake up in the morning with a wet nose stuck to their face or mouth. But this is the way our beloved fluffs like to say “Good morning!” to us and impatiently wait for their breakfast! For me, there are few feelings better than this.

We cover the following items in this post:

Is It Normal For Cats’ Noses to Be Wet?

Why do cats noses get wet when they purr?
Could you please pass the tissues?

Most cats have wet and sometimes cool noses. A cat’s wet nose improves its sense of smell. The moisture assists in retaining the scent, enabling the cat to really sniff things out! 

Cats are widely known for their keen sense of smell. A cat’s smell is over 10 times more sensitive than a human’s, with well over 50 million olfactory scent receptor cells, compared to humans who have roughly five million.

Cats can sometimes have a better sense of smell than some dogs!

In addition to a wet nose assisting with a cat’s sense of smell, it should be noted that cats have Jacobson’s organ (also known as the vomeronasal organ). This organ is inside the naval cavity and it assists in uncovering odors that are undetectable to humans. Specifically, this organ helps with detecting chemical substances. 

So, how is it used by cats? They use this organ to help in determining if the opposite sex is available to mate, and kittens use it to locate milk from their mothers.

Why Do Cats Get Wet Noses?

There are many reasons why cats have wet noses. As each cat is unique, so is its nose. Some cats have a drier nose than others and vice versa.

Environmental changes, such as temperature and humidity, also play an important role. On days with low humidity, your cat’s nose may be drier.

Other factors to consider when thinking about your cat’s wet nose are grooming and drinking. 

  • A bowl of clean, still water can cause some cats to have difficulty finding depth. While going for a drink, your cat can stick its snout into the bowl, leaving it with a revealing wet nose and whiskers.
  • If your cat has just finished grooming, a wet nose is guaranteed… and hair on its tongue as well!

Is A Wet Cat’s Nose Helpful?

Yes, it is. A wet nose is considered healthy and it assists in identifying odors.

If you feel your cat’s nose throughout the day, you will be amazed because it can be wet and dry at different intervals. That is if your cat even allows you to touch its nose.

It is true that a wet and cool nose indicates good health, but this does not mean that if your cat has a dry nose, it is sick.

Wet Noses Help Regulate Body Temperature In Cats

Body temperature is regulated through sweating. Cats do not have sweat glands all over their bodies as humans do. 

They sweat through their nose and the pads of their feet. The most visible is through their feet. On hot days, when they are stressed, or scared, cats can leave wet marks on the floor. If their nose is sweaty, we often confuse it with just a “wet nose”.

A Wet Nose May Help With Sense of Smell

A cat smelling a plant. Why do cats noses get wet when they purr
This smells like something that wants to be eaten.

Despite their big eyes, cats do not see very well at times as they are nearsighted, which is why they heavily rely on their smell and hearing. Therefore, the nose is one of the most important organs for cats.

With such a keen sense of smell, a cat can identify and separate odors into their constituent elements, which helps them orient themselves in space.

In other words, cats’ wet noses help them pick up scents and determine where they come from. A wet nose enhances smell. Nose moisture captures the smell, amplifying it. This is how cats can perceive odors as dangerous, tasty, or suspicious.

The Reasons Your Cat’s Nose May Be Wet

Reasons why your cat’s nose may be wet include:

  • Environmental changes
  • Grooming
  • Sweat
  • Drinking
  • Various health conditions

The medical conditions in which a wet nose can occur are generally represented by upper respiratory diseases, where in addition to a wet nose you may observe:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing

A wet nose can also occur in nasal tumors in cats. Due to the nasal discharge, the cat can lick its nose excessively and continually keep the nose wet. In addition to a wet nose, you may also notice:

  • Bloody nose
  • Excessive sneezing
  • Loud snoring
  • Pawing at their face
  • Facial deformity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures

If you notice one or more of the mentioned symptoms, consult your vet as soon as possible.

This video by AnimalWised does a great job explaining more about cats and wet noses:

A Cat’s Nose May Be Wet While You Pet It

A person petting a cat. Why do cats noses get wet when they purr
That’s the spot, Susan. Don’t stop until I lunge off of your body.

Cats react differently when they are touched. Some run away or try to remove your hand, while others purr, salivate, or get their noses very wet. Some cats’ noses may even drip when petted. 

But this is not a cause for concern. It’s just their way of showing us that they are relaxed and happy that we love them and take care of them!

Purring is generally a very positive experience for a cat, and it can even help their human companions. So, a healthy wet nose plus some purring and petting is a recipe for success!

A Cat’s Nose May Be Wet While It Kneads

Kneading usually appears in cats that are not fully weaned, meaning transitioning from a mother’s milk to an adult diet, but it can also occur from a state of well-being and relaxation that the cat is experiencing at the time of kneading. I know my cat is fully weaned, and she started kneading me before bedtime years ago!

Adult cats that knead also tend to suck the blanket or whatever is close to their mouth. When I was in grade school, I had an adult or “unweaned” cat that liked to suck on my skin. Not knowing what that would lead to at the time, I found out the hard way that a cat can give you a hickey. I don’t recommend it!

If a cat is sucking while kneading, the blanket or clothes will get wet from their saliva, and so will their noses.

If your cat just kneads, a wet nose can come from a state of relaxation.

A Cat’s Nose May Be Wet When It’s Happy

Happiness for cats means feeling calm, safe, and relaxed. Some cats, when they are happy, drool. If your cat drools when happy, a tiny quantity of saliva may get on its nose, making it wet. 

Also, drooling makes cats lick their lips, whiskers, and noses.

When Should I Be Worried About My Cat’s Wet Nose?

You should be worried when, in addition to a wet nose, you notice:

  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting, etc.

Also, make sure your cat hasn’t eaten any house plants as they might be toxic. Toxic plants usually make a cat hyper salivate, and because of this, a cat’s nose may be wet due to excessive licking.

Some FAQs About Cats and Wet Noses

How Can I Stop My Cat’s Runny Nose?

If your cat has a runny nose and no other symptoms, you can wipe it with a tissue or clean cloth. You can also use saline drops if your cat tolerates them. The drops will help your cat clean its nasal passages.

However, if it doesn’t seem to be a major issue, there is no need to intervene. Your cat is more independent than you give it credit for, especially when it comes to taking care of itself. 

Is It Normal For a Cat’s Nose To Drip a Lot?

A cat’s nose can drip from time to time, and there is nothing to worry about! 

If your cat’s nose seems to be dripping an excessive amount, contact your veterinarian to understand the cause and implement treatment.

Why Do Cats Put Their Wet Nose On You?

A cat smelling a hand. Why do cats noses get wet when they purr
It smells like you had a snack without sharing it. You’re a cold-hearted person, Susan.

If your cat is putting its wet nose on you, chances are it also does this when its nose is dry. Since your cat loves you and is comfortable with you, they don’t think whether their nose is wet or not before putting it on you. They simply act out of love and comfort!

Aside from the above, a cat does this because it wants to sniff and identify a scent. Maybe you got a little too comfortable with a friend’s dog and your cat is investigating the scene of the crime. 

Is It Normal For Cats To Drip Clear Liquid From Their Nose When Purring? 

If the transparent liquid is not excessive and only drips when it purrs, it is normal. 

You should consult your veterinarian if your cat’s nose is constantly running. The cause can be an infection, inflammation, irritant substance, or another medical condition.

Can a Dry Nose Be a Problem For Cats?

There is a misconception when cat owners notice a dry nose in their pets. A dry nose is perfectly normal. It can be a problem if your cat has a stuffy nose, fever, coughs, or other symptoms.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Cats Noses Get Wet When They Purr

There is nothing to worry about if your cat has a wet nose when it purrs! Wet noses are typical for cats. Most cats have their noses wet throughout the day – similar to dogs.

And purring is one of the purest things a cat can do. So, the combination of a wet nose and a cuddle with purrs is generally a great thing!

A wet nose indicates the cat is healthy, but excessive mucus or dripping may mean the presence of certain diseases, such as upper respiratory infections, cancer, plant poisoning, and others.

Contact your vet if your cat presents any of the symptoms above.

If you’d like to learn more about why cats purr, check out our article explaining the phenomenon of purring!