You’d do anything for your cat – even something as absurd, embarrassing, and otherwise unthinkable as Googling “why does my cat have black boogers”?

It’s an awkward question, to say the least, all the more so because it doesn’t come with an easy answer. For one thing, what you call “black boogers” may be any number of things, from nasal discharge to discoloration. Because a cat’s “black boogers” can be hard to identify, they can be hard to treat.

But even if the answers aren’t as forthcoming as you might like, the question is certainly valid. Googling around for “black boogers” for cats brings a whole host of different theories on different forums, but what about a more authoritative, medically-sound answer?

Let’s take a look at some of the potential medical explanations for your cat’s “black boogers” and what, if anything, you can and should do about it.

Explanation #1: Nasal and Respiratory Issues

The first thought that probably comes to mind when faced with something that looks like “black boogers” is that it results from some nasal condition. While discoloration is a more complex question we’ll tackle later, there is definitely the truth that, if you see these “black boogers” hanging out of or leaving your cat’s nose entirely, this likely constitutes nasal discharge and is indeed a nasal issue.

What are some possible reasons for this?

In cats and humans, the cat’s throat and nose are connected by nasal cavities covered in pink tissue called mucosa (hence “mucus”). As air passes through these cavities, it becomes warmer as it filters through to the lungs. If this area becomes infected, irritated, or otherwise negatively affected, either directly or as a symptom of a larger condition, extra secretions may filter into the nasal and postnasal area.

This is what causes stuffy, runny, and booger-laden noses.

In the case of stuffy noses, that nasal discharge builds up and blocks the pathways. On the other hand, a runny nose is likely the result of the immune system trying to force out those secretions because they contain germs.

The nature of the nasal discharge can also point to what the problem may be and brings us back to discoloration. Nasal discharge can range in consistency from watery to thicker and more mucus-like to the consistency of blood – which may be what those “black boogers” are, blood dried black or brown. Unfortunately, blood-colored dark discharge could indicate a blood disorder.

Symptoms of nasal discharge include:

  • Inflamed eyes
  • Reduced airflow in your cat’s nasal cavities; difficulty breathing through their nose
  • Facial swelling
  • Discolored teeth
  • Polyps

Potential causes for nasal discharge include:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Fungal infection
  • Viral infection
  • Vomiting
  • Pneumonia
  • Ear inflammation
  • Cancer

Before you panic, however, it is important to underscore what a broad range of possibilities that covers. A few dark boogers is not a telltale sign your cat has cancer. It could be as serious as that, as mild as a slight infection or cold, or anything in between.

It is, therefore, highly advisable that you take your cat to see a vet. They will be able to do a more thorough checkup and see what’s really behind your cat’s nasal troubles.

The same goes for respiratory infections. These are not uncommon among cats, and they too can give rise to nasal discharge that looks like “black boogers.”

Explanation #2: Herpes

On the other hand, while a crusty, dark, reddish-brown, nasal substance is a potential symptom here, the culprit may not be blood. If the discharge is more watery before it crusts over, it could be a type of nasal discharge that darkens when it oxidizes.

The bad news is that, while this may not be blood, this may point the way toward it being herpes.

The good news is that herpes doesn’t typically bother cats and you cannot catch herpes from them.

Your cat’s “sex life” is probably kaput, but other than that, herpes are not typically anything too serious for cats. Simply take a warm compress and wipe the discharge away. If this is the diagnosis, your vet may also be able to prescribe cleaning agents or medications that can manage the nasal discharge.

Explanation #3: Lentigo

Then again, those “black boogers” may not be what they seem. The answer to that question of “why does my cat have black boogers” may be that they don’t. This may seem hard to believe. After all, they’re crusty-looking spots near your cat’s nose – if they’re not ominously-colored boogers, what could they possibly be?

The nasal location and discoloration can actually potentially be explained away by a condition called lentigo.

One thing to note about lentigo is that it is not restricted to the mouth. These black spots can also occur near your cat’s mouth. Obviously, nasal discharge is a strictly nasal issue, and not one you would expect to be popping up in your cat’s mouth and lip area. If you see black spots in both locations, therefore, it may actually be good news insofar as it probably means your cat isn’t suffering a nasal or respiratory infection, and lentigo may be more likely.

Why is that good news? Because unlike a respiratory or nasal condition, lentigo isn’t dangerous, and unlike herpes, it isn’t something that you’ll need to wipe away. These spots are essentially the cat equivalent of freckles or age spots. They typically do not cause cats pain, and they are usually comfortable with them.

The exact cause of lentigo is unknown. While we tend to associate freckles with sun exposure, there is no known correlation between that and lentigo in cats.

Lentigo is benign and does not need to be removed. The only real concern with them is that, given how dark the spots are, they may inadvertently mask melanoma or other medical conditions, so you’ll want to have your vet check them out.

Of course, while this guide can help, you should take your cat to the vet no matter what and let them examine your feline friend. Their expertise can help determine what those “black boogers” really are and what, if anything, needs to be done about them.


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