Why Does My Cat’s Nose Change Color?

Have you ever noticed that your cat’s nose seems to change color? I certainly did when I first noticed my calico cat Merritt’s nose turning a brighter shade of pink. At first, I brushed it off as my imagination, but when it kept happening, I became curious and a little concerned. So, why does my cat’s nose change color, and is it normal?

Merritt as a kitten, at rest with a very light pink nose. Her cute little nose freckle (more on that later!) wasn’t there yet! Photography courtesy Cait Rohan Kelly.

Why does your cat’s nose change color?

If you, like me, have noticed your cat’s nose becoming brighter and more vibrant, you’re not alone. According to Jenny Kistler, DVM at Brandermill Animal Hospital in Midlothian, Virginia, cats’ noses can change color from light pink to darker pink during times of excitement or stress. This change occurs due to a temporary elevation in their heart rate and blood pressure. The good news is, this is a normal occurrence and usually nothing to worry about as long as it’s short-term.

Dr. Sasha Gibbons of Just Cats Veterinary Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, adds that temperature also plays a role in a cat’s nose changing color. The nose is highly vascularized, meaning it has numerous small blood vessels throughout it. These blood vessels can grow or shrink with different variables like heat, cold, and high or low blood pressure. As a result, variations in the pink coloration of the nose can occur. When a cat is cold, the blood vessels are smaller, making the nose appear light pink. Conversely, when a cat is hot or has high blood pressure, the vessels expand, causing the nose to appear darker pink or even red.

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Do cat nose color changes only happen in certain kitties?

In my two-cat household, I’ve noticed that only Merritt’s nose changes color. My other cat, Gabby, has a pink nose, although it’s a darker, more pigmented pink. This phenomenon is more noticeable in cats with light-colored noses, explains Dr. Gibbons. Although cats have the same nose anatomy, the variations in color changes are easier to see in cats with lighter noses.

How are these nose color changes different from nose freckles? Should you ever worry about those?

You might be wondering about those little dots on your cat’s nose. Fear not! Those spots, known as nose freckles or lentigo, are normal too. They usually appear on certain kitties just like a cat’s changing nose color. Dr. Jane Brunt, CATalyst Council executive director, and American Association of Feline Practitioners’ past president, explains that freckles can appear in cats carrying the gene for red color, such as orange- or cream-colored tabby cats and calicos. These freckles, also known as “age spots,” are usually harmless and tend to increase with age. It’s a good idea to have your veterinarian take note of them during each yearly exam and even take photos to monitor any changes over time.

Merritt excited to take possession of my purse as you can tell by her bright pink nose. Or, maybe she’s anxious about dad folding his laundry in the background! Photography courtesy Cait Rohan Kelly.

Should you ever be concerned about your cat’s nose changing color?

While a cat’s nose changing color during playtime is usually nothing to worry about, there are times when you should consider seeing your vet. Dr. Brunt advises cat owners to be mindful of the following:

  • If your cat’s nose is usually pale pink and now it’s white, it could be a sign of anemia or circulation problems.
  • A bluish or dusky hue to your cat’s nose may indicate decreased oxygenation of the tissues, potentially caused by internal organ failure, low-blood hemoglobin, or toxins like acetaminophen (Tylenol), which should never be used in cats.
  • If the color change is associated with an increase in your cat’s activity level and you notice signs of respiratory problems, such as rapid breathing or panting with an open mouth, it may be an emergency. In such cases, it’s best to take your cat to the veterinarian or an animal emergency center.
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Dr. Kistler also advises contacting your veterinarian if you notice any raised, discolored areas on the nose, as well as ulcerations, erosions, swelling, or bleeding, as they could be signs of more serious problems.

When should you be concerned about your cat’s blood pressure? What are the signs?

Let’s talk about how changes in a cat’s nose color can sometimes be linked to blood pressure changes. Does this mean that a cat’s nose color change could indicate blood pressure problems? According to Dr. Brunt, high blood pressure or hypertension in cats can be a serious health problem, often presenting silently. Therefore, regular screenings are essential, especially for adult and senior cats. Signs of advanced hypertension may include yowling, pacing, and even blindness. On the other hand, low blood pressure (hypotension) can occur due to illness or injury, leading to lethargy or excessive sleep. In summary, cat nose color changes are generally nothing to worry about unless accompanied by other abnormal symptoms. As an observant cat parent, keep up the good work!

Top photograph: Runis/Thinkstock.

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