A NOSEY AFFAIR

By Dr. Reeja George P.*

Cats generally have noses that are pale pink in colour, though in many cases other colours are also normal.  Changes in nose colour, as she grows, from black to brown or pink is also a normal feature of her life. These changes are due to breakdown of the pigment producing enzyme, tyrosine.  Generally, cats don’t have as much taste receptors as humans, so it is the smell, not the flavour of food that attracts them. A special organ called the vomeronasal organ (popularly known as Jacobson’s organ) in roof of their mouths that is directly connected to nasal cavity is an additional advantage that helps them sniff odours more deeply by drawing air into their mouths. Your furball’s nose is also her fingerprint! Each cat has a pattern of bumps and ridges on its nose that is unique to her. Besides being an important tool by which she gets to know her surroundings, a cat’s nose is also an indicator of her general health

A Sensitive Sniffer

Cat’s sense of smell is an important tool that she uses as she explores the world around her, identifying people and objects. She is endowed with around 200 million odour sensors when compared to humans who have just 5 million. This makes her sense of smell or odour sensitivity nearly forty times greater than that of humans. This is exactly why she can also be extra sensitive to certain odours that might be quite pleasant to you, her fellow cohabiter! Unfamiliar smells such as certain room refreshers and scented cat litter may be disturbing to her. She also has a strong aversion to certain odours such as all citrus scents and even aroma of freshly brewed coffee! Many odours that are appreciated by humans and form part of perfumes, talcs, soaps, and room fresheners like lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, citronella, and peppermint are also quite obnoxious to a cat. So while making odour choices, it’s important that you keep in mind the interests of your fellow home mate and opt for basil, easter lily, hibiscus, rose, sage, and Indian’s ever favourite, jasmine.  These generally go well with a kitty. On a warm sunny day, filled with intoxicating wafts of catnip (Nepeta cataria), you may have seen your kitty swoon to the tunes of scent of this plant, a perennial herb of mint family.  The Catnip has a chemical compound nepetalactone, basically an essential oil, that can be sedating if cat eats it and if smelt, it just goes crazy!! Not all cats react like this; catnip sensitivity is hereditary and an estimated 50 per cent of cats have no reaction to the smell of this plant.

Sniffer Tales

A cat’s nose is also an important indicator of her general well being. This is also true for most animals. During the day, depending on kitty’s activities, it is quite normal for her nose to go through quite a lot of changes ranging from varying combinations of warmth and moistness to a nose that is dry and cool. This is due fluctuations in temperature and humidity of environment and is quite normal. A normal healthy cat would have a cool, moist nose; if however she decides to bask in sunshine or spend its morning while chasing butterflies in a rather hot and humid outdoor garden, her nose could switch over to a dry and warm state. This situation could be reversed on a cold November morning if she spends too much time watching red and gold leaves dance to the tune of autumn winds; then her nose could be cold and dry. So while judging a cat’s nose, you should also keep in mind what she has been up to. The important thing to check is if her nose returns to its moist and warm state once kitty returns to the confines of her safe home.

Another sign of an impending infection would be a dry and warm nose accompanied by a total disinterest in her normal food and in some cases even her best loved treat.  Accompanying signs such as increased tiredness and a lack of interest in her food when seen along with a dry and warm nose could signal the onset of an impending illness and an underlying fever.  Its opposite could also be the case. Sometimes she could have a rather wet nose that remains so for too long, accompanied by a loss of appetite and tiredness.  This initial persistent moistness may give way to a more fluid discharge with sneezing, coughing, and a teary eyed look in many cases. All these are indications of an upper respiratory tract infection that requires her to see her vet immediately. If you have other cats at home, it is important to keep her away from them as such affection is highly contagious.

Sniffer Tales

A cat’s nose is also an important indicator of her general well being. This is also true for most animals. During the day, depending on kitty’s activities, it is quite normal for her nose to go through quite a lot of changes ranging from varying combinations of warmth and moistness to a nose that is dry and cool. This is due fluctuations in temperature and humidity of environment and is quite normal. A normal healthy cat would have a cool, moist nose; if however she decides to bask in sunshine or spend its morning while chasing butterflies in a rather hot and humid outdoor garden, her nose could switch over to a dry and warm state. This situation could be reversed on a cold November morning if she spends too much time watching red and gold leaves dance to the tune of autumn winds; then her nose could be cold and dry. So while judging a cat’s nose, you should also keep in mind what she has been up to. The important thing to check is if her nose returns to its moist and warm state once kitty returns to the confines of her safe home.

Another sign of an impending infection would be a dry and warm nose accompanied by a total disinterest in her normal food and in some cases even her best loved treat.  Accompanying signs such as increased tiredness and a lack of interest in her food when seen along with a dry and warm nose could signal the onset of an impending illness and an underlying fever.  Its opposite could also be the case. Sometimes she could have a rather wet nose that remains so for too long, accompanied by a loss of appetite and tiredness.  This initial persistent moistness may give way to a more fluid discharge with sneezing, coughing, and a teary eyed look in many cases. All these are indications of an upper respiratory tract infection that requires her to see her vet immediately. If you have other cats at home, it is important to keep her away from them as such affection is highly contagious.

On Runny Noses

The most common sign of nasal infection is a runny nose – referred to as rhinitis in medical parlance – that persists for several hours without any interruption. Colour of the discharge from nose could indicate nature of the problem and it may vary from a clear watery one to a thick slimy discharge and in some cases a malodorous thick yellow discharge.  The first case with a clear runny nose and some sneezing could be due to some agent that kitty is allergic to. It could be anything from certain grasses, weeds or tree pollen to moulds and mites. This is allergic rhinitis. This condition is easily relieved once the allergen is removed from her surroundings.  She could also see her vet who would prescribe appropriate anti-allergic medicines for her. The second case is where she has a thicker and slimier discharge, which could be self limiting or could progress to a thicker yellow foul smelling one indicating in both cases, a more serious condition caused by an infectious agent.  In this case, she should see her vet immediately.

A Young Cat

Viral infections are the most common causes of affections of nose in a young cat.  Usually these infections are self limiting and are not a very serious problem but in some cases, if she shows signs of excessive tiredness and goes off her feed that could be an indication of the onset of some complications, which could affect sinuses and inner parts of its ear. 

An Older Cat

Generally, the most common disease of nose in an adult cat is a condition referred to as Snuffler cat or Snufflers in common usage. This is actually a fall out of viral infections in an adult cat where the culprits most often are Herpes and Calci viruses. These viruses are problematic because they could affect turbinates – small structures inside the nose that cleanse and humidify air on its way through nostrils, and cause infections that have a tendency to persist for a long time.  In addition to viruses, fungi such as Cryptococcus can also cause rhinitis in an adult cat, resulting in sneezing and discharge from nose and in some cases even bleeding. This should be attended to by her vet immediately since fungi can be very invasive and can cause permanent deformities of Nose Bridge and nearby structures. 

Other Problems

In some cases, affections of nose are not presented or accompanied by nasal discharge or sneezing. Usually, these are cases where back of nasal cavity is involved.  Instead, she will snore and breathe through her mouth, and sometimes have bad breathe.

Ensuring Nose Health

It’s a good habit to examine your furball’s nose as part of your normal home wellness check.  In addition to changes in moisture and temperature, also look out for changes in discharge and any swellings and in case you spot any issues, be thoughtful enough to take her to vet. Always remember that, generally, a cat’s nose is extra sensitive to sunburns so keep her away from the sun during peak hours of the day.

*Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary and AH Extension, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Thrissur, Kerala 680 651

Must-Have Pictures/Poses With Your Pet

By Karthik Nair* We all love clicking pictures of our pets, don’t we? Today with Instagram and other social platforms just a click away, pets are a source of content for every pet owner! Whether it’s a cute puppy face, or that embarrassed look right after they’ve been...

Phelenx Healthcare LLP

For this month’s edition, Creature Companion interacted with Phelenx Healthcare’s founder duo, Darshan & Rucha Govani. Both of them come from a pharmaceutical background and have worked in some of the most reputed healthcare companies for developed markets....

Things You Need To Know While Setting Up Your Plantation Aquarium

By Shahu V. Sardar* When we think of a fish aquarium, we think of an artificial setup of marine world. But trending now is ‘plantation aquarium’! Every hobbyist now owns at least one plantation aquarium: the real aquarium hobby is all about plantation aquariums. A...