Exotic shorthair cats have a compressed facial structure. Their noses are pushed in toward their skulls, so Popoki's face is nearly flat, when seen from the side. She just has a tiny little bump or blip of a nose.
But she also has really tiny nostrils. Look closely at that photograph and you'll see what I mean. Her nostrils are about half the size of a normal cat's nostril. If she breathes with her mouth closed, she really has to work to pull air through those tiny nose holes.
Tiny nostrils are endemic in pets with tiny faces. It's a common problem for pugs and Boston terriers, in fact, as they also deal with small muzzles. And since the problem is so common, medical pros have come up with some solutions that can help.
When the nostrils are so small that the pet whistles while breathing or has to open-mouth breathe on a regular basis, veterinarians can go in and snip excess tissues out of the nostril. This nare surgery widens the nasal passages and allows the pet to breathe a little easier. Liam had it done as a puppy, and it was remarkably helpful. He went from wheezing everywhere to breathing nearly silently. And his recovery was a snap. For some cats, this is a good solution.
But not all cats need that surgery. Some can get by with a few day-to-day alterations from their beloved humans.
That protection starts with air conditioning. Cats like Popoki can't pull hot air through inches and inches of wet nasal passages. Their noses just aren't very long. Air conditioning can cool the air before she breathes it, and that could keep her from feeling the need to breathe rapidly through her little nose.
Protection also comes through product selection. Popoki can't handle a lot of dust or contaminants or debris. When she breathes these things in, they irritate her nose yet more. And that makes already small passages even smaller. Low-dust cat litters and perfume-free cleaners can help her to breathe without snorting and sniffing. And that could be a big help, too.
And finally, that protection involves disease control. When I come home from volunteering at the animal shelter, I am careful to wash up thoroughly. I take off my shoes and scrub the soles, and I put all my clothes in the washer. If I head to a veterinary appointment, I do the same when I get home. Cats like Popoki really struggle with the congestion that comes with a cold, so I need to do my part to keep her infection-free.
Is all of this work worth it? You bet. I wouldn't change Popoki for anything.
Do you do anything special to keep your flat-faced cats healthy? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Hit me up!