Should you be worried if your cat's nose is running? It really depends on the situation. The truth is that while some drippy cat noses can be easily treated, it is sometimes indicative of a larger health issue. Read on to learn what causes runny noses in cats and to find out when you should take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

Why Your Cat's Nose Is Running

A cat with a runny nose might raise concerns for pet owners. When your kitty has a runny nose, it's likely due to inflammation, trauma or infection of the tissues in their nasal cavities and sinuses.

But if your cat is consistently snotty, then they could have an upper respiratory infection. Most upper respiratory infections in cats are caused by viruses, like herpes viruses and caliciviruses are the primary culprits behind runny noses in cats, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Bacterial infections are the second most common cause of cat runny noses, which include Chlamydophila felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Thankfully, if your cat has had their recommended vaccines their risk of contracting these infections is dramatically diminished.

When to Take Your Cat to the Veterinarian

Just because your cat's nose is dripping clear liquid doesn't necessarily mean you need to dash off to the veterinarian. In most cases, a runny nose is part of the normal nasal clearing process and/or the result of an infection that will clear up on its own. If the discharge is green or yellow, persisting for longer then a few days, or your cat seems ill (not eating, lethargic) then it’s time to take your kitty to the veterinarian.

Common signs of an upper respiratory infection in cats include sneezing, nasal discharge, watery eyes, coughing, oral or nasal ulcers, congestion, fever, and hoarseness. These common signs tend to accompany more severe upper respiratory tract infections and often warrant a trip to the veterinarian to ensure you can get your cat back to healthy.

More problematic signs you should be on the lookout for include severe eye swelling, bloody or greenish discharge, extreme lethargy, a high fever, poor appetite and difficulty breathing. Cats with these signs may just have a nasty cold, but they're also more likely to have bronchopneumonia or even cancer. Take your cat to their veterinarian right away if you notice any of these signs. Early treatment can make a big difference.

Cat Runny Nose Treatment

If you have concerns about your cat having a runny nose, then you should always consult your veterinarian. While sometimes a runny nose is just a runny nose, the potential of it being a greater health concern is worth getting an expert opinion to help keep your kitty feeling happy and healthy.

Cat congestion, as with any cat health issue, needs a vet first to first determine the cause before making treatment recommendations. Your cat's vet can attempt to pinpoint what's causing their runny nose by conducting diagnostics tests including blood work, X-rays, and in some cases a CT scan of your kitty’s head. With some cats, more testing may be needed. If the veterinarian determines that treatment is necessary, they may prescribe medications like antibiotics or anti-inflammatories to help clear the nasal passages and alleviate congestion. They may also recommend using a nebulizer machine that delivers medicine through a vapor. In some cases, it takes time to find the right treatment so be patient with the process as your veterinarian works with you and your cat.

While runny noses are often harmless, know that even severely congested cats can often be effectively treated. If ever in doubt, always consult your veterinarian about how to treat a cat with a cold or other nasal concerns.

Dr. Patty Khuly Dr. Patty Khuly

Dr. Patty Khuly is an award-winning veterinarian known for her independent thinking, her spirited pet advocacy, her passion for the veterinary profession, and her famously irreverent pet health writing.

Dr. K is an honors graduate of both Wellesley College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She received her MBA at The Wharton School of Business as part of the prestigious VMD/MBA dual-degree program. She now owns Sunset Animal Clinic, a veterinary practice in Miami, Florida.