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  • Writer's pictureClayton Watkins, DVM

7 Signs Your Cat Has Something Stuck in Its Nose: What To Do Next

Knowing your cat’s habits and behaviors is crucial for detecting when something is wrong. One issue that many cat owners overlook is the possibility of a foreign object getting lodged in their pet’s nasal passages. In this article, we will discuss what a nasal foreign body is, how it might happen, and the signs to watch out for. We will also provide guidance on the following steps to take in terms of diagnosis and treatment.

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What is a Nasal Foreign Body in a Cat?

A nasal foreign body refers to any object that is not naturally supposed to be present in a cat's nasal passage. This could range from food particles and plant materials to small toys and even fragments of bones. When foreign material lodges itself in the nasal cavity, it can cause discomfort, pain, and potentially severe health issues if left untreated. Cats may inhale these items while sniffing around, or they may be pushed into the nostrils during play or fights with other animals.

Can You Prevent Cats From Getting Things Stuck in Their Noses?

While it's not always possible to prevent every accident, there are preventive measures cat owners can take to reduce the risk of their feline friends getting objects lodged in their nasal passages. Below are some suggestions to help ensure your cat's nose stays clear of foreign bodies:

  • Cat-Proof the Home: Make sure small objects that can be easily sniffed up or swallowed are out of your cat's reach. Check the floors and low shelves for any potential hazards like beads, small toys, or food particles.

  • Keep Plants Out of Reach: Some cats are curious about plants, and leaves or small twigs can end up in their noses. Keep plants on higher shelves or in rooms that your cat can't access.

  • Regular Cleaning: Ensure that your home, and particularly the areas where your cat spends the most time, is clean and free from dust and small debris that could be inhaled.

  • Secure Trash Cans: A trash can is like a treasure trove of fascinating objects for a cat. Make sure your trash cans have a lid or are stored in a cabinet.

  • Monitor Outdoor Activity: If your cat spends time outdoors, be mindful of the areas they are exploring. Steer them away from piles of leaves, compost, or any area where there are small objects they might inhale.

  • Teach the “Leave It” Command: While more commonly associated with dogs, the "leave it" command can be useful for cats as well. Training your cat to understand this command can prevent them from sniffing or swallowing dangerous items.

  • Routine Vet Visits: Regular check-ups can help monitor the general health of your cat's respiratory system and catch any potential issues before they become severe.

By taking these preventive steps, you can significantly reduce the risks of your cat ending up with a foreign object in their nose.


7 Signs Your Cat Might Have Something Stuck in Its Nose

Detecting a nasal foreign body in your cat early on can help prevent complications and alleviate discomfort. In this section, we will delve into the seven signs you should be aware of that may indicate your feline friend has something lodged in its nose. For each sign, we will provide guidance on what you can look for and immediate steps you should consider taking.

1. Excessive Sneezing

When your cat starts sneezing more than usual, it could be a sign that something foreign has found its way into its nasal passages. Sneezing is a natural reflex to try and expel irritants.

What to Look For: Repeated, forceful sneezing in a short period, possibly with mucus or blood discharge.

What to Do: If the sneezing persists and is accompanied by other symptoms, consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

2. Pawing at the Face

Cats will often paw at their face when something is causing irritation or discomfort in their nose.

What to Look For: Persistent pawing or rubbing the nose area, sometimes to the point of causing redness or minor abrasions.

What to Do: Stop your cat from pawing to prevent further irritation and consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination.

3. Audible Breathing or Snorting Sounds

When an object is stuck in the nose, it can obstruct normal airflow, leading to unusual respiratory sounds.

What to Look For: Audible snorting or noisy breathing, particularly when the cat is at rest and trying to breathe through the nose.

What to Do: Take note of when the sounds occur and consult your veterinarian. Respiratory distress can be serious and may require immediate attention.

4. Nasal Discharge

A foreign body can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to mucus or even bloody discharge from one or both nostrils.

What to Look For: Clear, cloudy, or bloody discharge from one or both nostrils.

What to Do: If nasal discharge is persistent or worsening, it is advisable to consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

5. Reduced Appetite

A cat with a nasal foreign body may be less interested in food due to discomfort or difficulty in smelling.

What to Look For: Noticeable reduction in food consumption or complete refusal to eat.

What to Do: Monitor their eating habits and consult your vet if the reduced appetite persists.

6. Agitation or Restlessness

Cats are often agitated when something is causing them discomfort or pain, including a foreign object in the nose.

What to Look For: Increased restlessness, irritability, or aggressive behavior.

What to Do: Keep your cat calm and consult your veterinarian for an examination to determine the cause of the agitation.

7. Asymmetry of the Nostrils

In some cases, a foreign object may cause visible swelling or asymmetry in the nostrils.

What to Look For: One nostril appears larger or more swollen compared to the other.

What to Do: Any visible change in the shape or size of the nostrils should be evaluated by a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


How Nasal Foreign Bodies Are Diagnosed in Cats

Diagnosing a nasal foreign body in cats is an important step toward effective treatment and relief for your feline companion. Accurate diagnosis typically involves a combination of clinical history, symptoms, and specialized diagnostic tests. Here, we’ll explain the various diagnostic techniques veterinarians commonly use to confirm the presence of a foreign object in a cat's nose.

Physical Examination

The first line of diagnostic approach often involves a thorough physical examination. Your vet will look for obvious signs such as nasal discharge, asymmetry of the nostrils, or visible foreign material. Sometimes, a foreign object may be visible just by manually opening the cat's nostrils. However, some cases may require further diagnostic techniques for confirmation.


Rhinoscopy is a procedure where a small scope is inserted into the nasal passages to visualize the area and identify any foreign bodies or abnormalities. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. High-definition images provide a detailed view of the nasal passages, allowing your vet to locate and assess the foreign body and any associated inflammation or infection.

Radiography (X-Rays)

X-rays are another diagnostic tool that can be useful for detecting nasal foreign bodies, especially if the object is radiopaque. Radiographic images offer a two-dimensional view of the skull, including the nasal passages. Although not all foreign objects will show up on an X-ray, this test can be valuable in ruling out other conditions or revealing the location of certain types of foreign material.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

For more complex or elusive cases, a CT scan may be necessary to provide a detailed, three-dimensional image of the nasal passages. CT scans are often reserved for situations where other diagnostic tests have been inconclusive. The 3D imagery can help veterinarians pinpoint the exact location and nature of the foreign object, as well as assess any possible complications such as infection or tissue damage.

Culture and Biopsy

In some instances, a sample of the nasal discharge for bacterial culture or a biopsy of a mass for histopathology may be obtained. Bacterial culture is helpful to to identify the type of bacteria and determine the correct choice of antibiotic to use.

Treatment Options For Nasal Foreign Bodies in Cats

When it comes to treating a cat with a foreign object lodged in its nasal passage, time is of the essence to prevent further complications. Here are some of the commonly employed treatment options.

Manual Removal

This is often the first step if the foreign body is visible and easily accessible. Under sedation or anesthesia, your veterinarian uses forceps to grasp and carefully remove the object. This procedure is generally quick but requires a steady hand to ensure no further harm comes to the sensitive nasal tissues.

Endoscopic Retrieval

If the foreign body is lodged deeper within the nasal cavity and not visible from the exterior, an endoscope may be used for retrieval. The procedure is called rhinoscopy. An endoscope is a long, small diameter tube attached to a camera and light source. Under general anesthesia, the veterinarian inserts the endoscope into the cat’s nasal cavity through the nostril to locate the object and remove it using specialized tools guided by the endoscope. This is the preferred non invasive method that VetMed specializes in.


Sometimes, especially for smaller or softer objects, the foreign body can be flushed out using a saline solution. Under general anesthesia, the veterinarian will use a syringe to inject the saline through the nostril hoping the pressure will flush the foreign body out. This may be successful only if the object is not lodged tightly and there's minimal risk of pushing it further in.

Antibiotics and Anti-inflammatory Medication

After any form of physical removal, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to prevent infection and reduce swelling in the nasal passage. It's important to follow the medication schedule precisely to ensure a full recovery.

Each treatment option has its own set of risks and benefits, and the best course of action will depend on the specific circumstances of your cat's condition. Always consult with a qualified veterinarian for the most accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

VetMed Treats Nasal Foreign Bodies in Cats

When it comes to treating cats with nasal foreign bodies, VetMed is your go-to specialty clinic. With our state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, including advanced rhinoscopy, we're equipped to handle even the most complicated cases with precision and care. We specialize in minimally invasive techniques, ensuring that your feline friend receives the safest, most effective treatment available.


Questions You've Asked Us About Nasal Foreign Bodies in Cats

Still have questions? Contact us here - we promise we'll answer them.

How do you clear a cat's nose?

Clearing a cat's nose generally requires veterinary intervention, especially if a foreign object is suspected. Techniques can range from flushing the nasal passages to using specialized tools for extraction.

Why does my cat have something in her nose?

Why does my cat sound like he has a blocked nose?

How much does it cost to scope a cat's nose?

How do you tell if my cat has something stuck in his nose?


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