Runny Nose in Cats: 8 Causes to Consider

Cats can get runny noses, just like people. Usually, it’s not a big deal, similar to when humans have runny noses. However, sometimes it can be serious for cats, and they may need to see a vet. Keep reading to find out why cats might have runny noses, Runny Nose in Cats: 8 Causes to Consider, how you can help your cat, when it’s important to take them to the vet, and what you can do to stop your cat from getting a runny nose.

What Does a Cat Runny Nose Look Like?

If a cat has a runny nose, you can usually tell by seeing clear stuff coming out of one or both nostrils. Sometimes, it might be green, yellow, or even a bit red. The cat might also sneeze a lot and sound like it has a stuffy nose when breathing. Its eyes might have gooey stuff too, making it squint. Some cats might also have a puffy nose.

Cats really use their sense of smell to enjoy their food, so if their nose is runny, they might not feel like eating much. If this goes on for a while, the cat might lose weight.

You may like to read: What Treats Giardia in Dogs? [ 2024 ]

My Cat Has a Runny Nose: 8 Common Causes

There are many causes of runny noses in cats. Usually, these are self-limiting, meaning they will resolve without treatment, but some causes of cat runny noses are more severe.

The most common causes of nasal discharge in cats include:

Upper Respiratory Infections

Cats often get sick with upper respiratory infections (URIs), mainly because of viruses. Sometimes, bacteria can also cause URIs, and in some cases, a cat might get a second bacterial infection after having a viral one. Rarely, URIs can be caused by a fungus. The usual culprits for cat URIs are the feline herpesvirus type-1 and feline calicivirus. These viruses are common in cats that live in crowded places like shelters.


Just like people can get sniffles and sneezes from things that bother them, cats can too. Cats are often allergic to things like pollen, dust mites, mold, scented stuff like candles and perfumes, kitty litter, and even other animals’ skin flakes.

Dental Disease

The teeth at the back of a cat’s mouth, called premolars and molars, are close to their sinuses and nose. If these teeth get really sick, it can cause problems like swelling and irritation in the nose, leading to a runny nose. In severe cases, cats might even have painful openings connecting their mouth and nose because of dental issues.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are non-cancerous growths in a cat’s nose that can cause a stuffy nose and noisy breathing. Cats with this problem might be thought to have a cold that doesn’t get better with treatment.

Foreign Bodies

Sometimes, nosy cats can accidentally get things stuck in their nose, like bits of grass, food, or small sticks. Since cats can’t get these things out on their own, their nose can get irritated and swollen, leading to a runny nose.

Nasal Tumors

Abnormal growths, like cancer, can happen in or around the nose. These growths can change the shape of the nasal passages or nearby structures. The first sign is usually a runny nose from one or both nostrils, depending on where the problem is.

Toxic Irritants

If a cat breathes in things that can bother its nose, like strong chemicals, some indoor plants, or the smoke from cigarettes, it can make their nose red and runny.


If a cat gets hurt on its face or nose, it can lead to a runny nose. Cats often experience facial injuries from falls, fights with other animals, or accidentally getting their face stuck in a door. But any accident involving the head can cause not just a runny nose but also other signs like limping.

You may like to read: How old do dogs have to be to get pregnant?[ Expert Guide 2024 ]

Treating a Cat’s Runny Nose

Treating a Cat’s Runny Nose

If your cat has a runny nose, what to do depends on why it’s happening. If it’s just a little clear discharge and your cat is eating, drinking, and playing normally, you usually don’t need to do anything.

But if the nose stuff is colored, or your cat is not acting like usual (being tired, not eating, swelling in the face, or losing weight), or if your cat is pawing at their face, it’s time to see the vet.

The vet will ask questions and check your cat. Sometimes, they might need X-rays or blood tests. Depending on what’s going on, the vet might give your cat antiviral, antibiotic, or antifungal medicine. If there’s inflammation, they might use anti-inflammatory medicine. If it’s allergies, your cat could get antihistamines.

For dental problems, your cat might need a teeth cleaning or some teeth taken out. If there are polyps or something stuck in the nose, the vet can remove them with anesthesia. But if there’s a tumor, your cat might need to see a special vet who treats cancer with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.

Cat Runny Nose Home Remedies

To help your cat with a runny nose, besides giving them medicine, you can do things at home.

Use a humidifier. It makes the air moist, which helps your cat breathe better. Use clean water, and don’t add oils. If you can’t use a humidifier, make a steam room in the bathroom by closing the door and running a hot shower. But always watch your cat during this.

Clean their nose. Gently wipe away any dried mucus to help them breathe.

Use saline drops. If your cat is okay with it, you can buy saline drops and use them to clear out extra mucus.

Remember, these home tricks are not a substitute for going to the vet. Only use them for mild cases in healthy cats or if your vet says it’s okay.

You may like to read: Why do dogs whine for no reason? [2023]

How to Prevent Runny Noses in Cats

To help prevent your cat from getting a runny nose, there are some simple steps you can take. First, make sure your cat is up to date on vaccinations, as this can reduce the risk of viral diseases. If your cat stays indoors, they are less likely to encounter sick animals and are safer from contagious diseases. Also, keep your home clean to remove allergens, be cautious of any harmful substances, and avoid smoking indoors around your cat.

Regular check-ups with the vet, along with dental cleanings, are important to catch any potential health issues early and prevent your cat from having a runny nose.


By Syed Habib Ahmed

Syed Habib Ahmed is a pet lover and writer having experience with all kinds of animals. Over the years he has cared dogs, cats, horses and other pets. Before writing became his full-time career, he has worked with different vets and organization who rescue animals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *