The Curious Case of the Cat’s Nose

Another day, another feline emergency.

This morning I got up to feed my old moggy Columbo. As usual, he was out and about first thing in the morning, but as soon as I got downstairs he was there waiting for his grub. I put it down for him, gave him a dish of fresh water, and did the usual insulin jab.  He started to scoff the food. As usual, the combination of eating and purring produced a sound like a pig at a trough so I left him to it and proceeded to make a cup of tea.

A few seconds later, Columbo sneezed. Nothing particularly unusual about that so I didn’t pay much attention. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil, however, I noticed something strange. There was blood on the food in the cat’s bowl, and a fine spray of blood on the wall behind it. Columbo had resumed eating, and seemed fine, but there was clearly something very wrong.

As it happens, a trip to the vet’s was on my agenda for today because I needed more of Columbo’s Feline MD, food which is specially designed (and specially priced too, apparently) for diabetic cats. I also needed some more insulin and some more of the tablets he has for his arthritis. Never cheap, these trips to the vet. Since I was going to go anyway, I thought I’d take him in for a check up, and phoned to see whether they could fit in an appointment this morning, which they did.

After completing the not too easy task of persuading Columbo into his travel box, off I went to do the honours. Soon he was sitting on the vet’s table, looking right as rain and showing no ill-effects at all. He was even purring; he seems to like this vet more than any other he’s ever been to. Anyway, I told the (sceptical-looking) vet what happened and she gave him the once over. She said the blood could be a sign of something quite serious, but it could have happened for any number of trivial reasons. Not finding anything wrong in his mouth or nose, she asked me whether I had found anything strange in his dish when he had sneezed. In fact there had been a small piece of a blade of grass, which I’d thought slightly odd but hadn’t mentioned because I didn’t think it was relevant.

The vet smiled and said she thought that was probably it. She went on to explain that cats often eat grass in the summer, sometimes to help digestion but also sometimes to help them produce furballs. It’s not all that unusual for a small piece of grass – which can be quite sharp – to find its way into the cat’s nasal passages from its mouth and when it gets there it can cause a nosebleed. Since the offending grass had found its way out, the problem was probably over. I sighed with relief. Panic over. It must have been unpleasant for the old chap, but better out than in.

The vet mentioned that Columbo has pretty good teeth for a 16-year old cat, although he is missing one long incisor at the front. The end snapped off this ages ago, probably during a fight. It didn’t seem to cause him any problems at the time so the vet said it was best just to leave it. A year or two later, however, he began to experience dfficulty eating and the vet suggested it was probably the tooth causing the bother. He spent a day at the cat hospital and had it removed under a general anaesthetic. Sorted. The rest of his gnashers are in good nick, as he is wont to demonstrate on unsuspecting visitors.

I was a bit worried that he might have developed another dodgy fang or some other mouth problem. I’d be a bit nervous about subjecting him to a general anaesthetic at his current age, as the risk increases markedly for the more senior citizens of the feline world. Thankfully, that’s not an issue. Not for the time being anyway.

After we got back he spent the rest of the day on a rigorous programme of sleeping, interrupted only by an attempt to eat the Travel Supplement of my newspaper.

Nearly time for his supper. I hope this time it’s not to be sneezed at.

15 Responses to “The Curious Case of the Cat’s Nose”

  1. Garret Cotter Says:

    Our Mickey sneezed out an inch-long blade of grass over breakfast only a week a ago. No blood, thankfully, but a lot of, well, green goo. Happily back to his food afterwards. Hope Columbo is suffering neither nasal pain nor loss of dignity!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Talking Cats, Peter Coles. Peter Coles said: The Curious Case of the Cat's Nose: […]

  3. They are indeed a worry. I’m currently considering taking Rickard to the vets. He’s been out-of-sorts for a week and has even stopped physically attacking me if I annoy him. I’m not sure if its the unusual warm weather where I live (which has also knocked me out) or something more serious.

  4. telescoper Says:


    I bet that ‘snot a very nice think to have seen.


  5. Rhodri Evans Says:

    “I’d be a bit nervous about subjecting him to a general anaesthetic at his current age, as the risk increases markedly for the more senior citizens of the feline world.”

    What’s the reason for this Peter? Is it different for humans?

  6. telescoper Says:


    I believe a general anaesthetic is quite risky for older people too, but I’m not sure whether it’s for the same reason as cats.


  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    There are tales in James Herriot of tough farmers preferring to go to the vet than to the doctor for their own ailments. Certainly when I got what I believe were ear mites from my cat I just used the same ear drops I had for him in my own ears, and they worked fine.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’m not sure I’d like to give a urine sample the way the vets usually take one – via a needle into the bladder!

  8. Anton Garrett Says:

    Not easy to persuade cats to drink large amounts of tea (or beer)!

    When I reached 50 my doctor wrote to me offering a battery of tests. Initially I thought I’d rather not know, but then I realised that I was getting thousands of pounds worth of tests for free and I went along. To the general disgust of friends who know how I have lived some parts of my life I got green lights on everything except one test, which was just outside normal limits. At their request I came in with a repeat urine sample. This particular test could be done on the spot, and the result virtually set off the fire alarms in the surgery. The jar I used had previously contained garlic pickle and I hadn’t cleaned the screw-top well enough. After drinking a lot of water it was third time lucky.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’m sure I’ve told you about Columbo’s urine sample business when he was just being diagnosed as diabetic, but I’ll repeat it for those who haven’t heard. I couldn’t see how they could persuade a cat to wee into a bottle so asked the vet how they went about getting a urine sample. The vet said usually they have to take it with a needle from the bladder after taking a blood sample from the neck. However, in Columbo’s case that wasn’t necessary. Whenever they took the blood sample he pissed all over the table.

  9. John Peacock Says:

    Peter, You’re lucky it came out. We have an ex-streetcat called Bertie who got something similar stuck up his nose, and it went septic. 5 years on, the poor chap still produces gunk that your readers wll not want to have described. Once the nasal membranes are damaged by this sort of thing, they never mend.

    As an ex-Con, Bertie is notorious for terrorizing little old ladies in the locality by demanding food with menaces. One of them brought him back to say she’d been awoken at 3 a.m. by him getting into bed with her, having broken in through a disused catflap.

    • telescoper Says:


      Columbo hasn’t had a recurrence so I hope this means he isn’t going to have regular nosebleeds from now on. The only people my cat has ever terrorised was when he was a bit younger and we used to play Bridge at my house in Nottingham. Usually we had curry part-way through the proceedings and it transpired that Columbo is very partial to poppadums, which he would pursue with any means at his disposal, including biting people who tried to protect them from his grasp.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’m told something similar happens to cocaine addicts, although I’m not aware of any cats with that particular habit.

  10. Anton Garrett Says:

    Some people enjoy seducing their neighbours’ cats. When I referred to ‘my’ cat above I was taking certain liberties. Although the idea that cats have owners rather than vice versa is faintly ridiculous.

    A friend got two cats because his wife hated mice invading from the nearby fields. The cats sorted the mice, but a neighbour who kept his dog in the garage overnight complained that the cats were taunting the dog, and asked my friend to control his cats. This request takes idealism to new heights.


  11. […] It’s been a month since I last posted an update about Columbo so I thought I’d put up a quick item.There’s been no repeat of his recent […]

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