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Why Is My Cat Sneezing

by Dr Pippa Elliot, BVMS, MRCVS, Mar 24, 21
Table Of Contents

Cats are such dignified creatures that a sudden sneeze can leave them looking startled. But aside from having their dignity ruffled, do you are their pet parent need to worry? The answer depends on how much the cat sneezes and if they have other symptoms. 

Cat Sneezing

How many sneezes a day is normal for a cat?

Just as we might sneeze from time to time, so might a cat. Sometimes the line between what’s normal and what’s not is a  blurry one, but if Kitty sneezes a couple of times a day then there’s unlikely to be anything to worry about. 

Be alert for  repetitive sneezing, so repeated sneezing episodes several times a day or the cat that sneezes hourly or more. If this happens, try to work out if there is a trigger. For example, the cat sneezes a lot after visiting the litter box, then dusty or fragranced cat litter may be the reason. 

Causes of Cat Sneezing

The two most common causes of cat sneezing are nasal irritation and infection. 

Our feline friends have narrow nasal passageways that are lined with sensitive mucosa. Breathing in dust or other irritants is a sure fire way to cause a cat to sneeze. However, other problems are also common, such as infection with respiratory viruses or bacteria. 

Here are some of the reasons that would cause a cat to sneeze a lot. 

  • Viral Infections: Two viruses in particular (herpes and calici viruses) might be better known to you as cat flu. However, depending on the individual cat the symptoms can be mild (such as a head cold) or cause problems such as sore gums, with sneezing as just one of the symptoms. 
  • Bacterial infections: There are a variety of bugs that infect the upper respiratory tract, which cause sneezing as a sign. Happily, these infections usually respond to antibiotics
  • Rhinitis: Some cats can suffer from an inflammation of the membranes lining the nose. This is a form of nasal irritation, sometimes with infection present, which can cause sneezing. 
  • Allergies and Irritants: Breathing in fine dust particles, scents, or air-borne irritants is a sure fire way to cause sneezing. Smells that we find appealling, such as scent candles, aren’t always so agreeable to cats.
  • Foreign bodies. Cats are less likely than dogs to inhale a grass awn up their nose, but it can still happen. A curious Kitty may sniff a small piece of lint and it gets sucked inside to cause irritation and sneezing. 

When to Take a Sneezing Cat to the Vet

Always respect your intuition. If you are worried then check in with the vet. It’s better to pick up the phone for advice, than risk a problem going untreated. However, if things aren’t clear cut, these general rules can help decide if a vet trip is a necessity. 

An occasional sneeze is no big deal, especially if the cat is otherwise well. But if the sneezing becomes excessive or has other symptoms, then a vet check is a good idea. 

Signs that the problem may need veterinary attention include: 

  • A runny nose: Especially if the discharge is yellow-green, snotty, or blood stained. Also, if the discharge is only from one side of the nose a check-up is advisable as this can be a sign of a foreign body.
  • Sticky eyes: Weepy, crusty, or sticky eyes are a sign of infection which may need treatment to help it settle down.
  • Poor appetite: Sneezing and a loss of appetite may mean Kitty feels unwell and  so a trip to the vet is advisable
  • Heavy drooling or smelly breath: This can indicate mouth ulcers that accompany some viral infections that cause sneezing
  • Sneezing blood
  • A fever: In itself, a fever is a reason to seek veterinary attention

Also, if your cat has a weakened immune system, for example they are FIV positive, then get them checked by the vet. Early treatment of these fur friends can stop a simple infection taking a worrying turn. 

Cat Sneezing

Treatment of the Sneezing Cat

First the vet will want to work out why the cat is sneezing, because different causes need different treatments. 

Sometimes, such as the cat sneezing a lot because of dusty cat litter, the answer is easy. Simply switching to a dust-free, unfragranced litter should hit the spot. However, if the vet suspects Kitty has something stuck up their nose, then endoscopy or nasal flushes may be in order. 

An important consideration is whether the cat has an infection or not. Viral infections are a common cause of sneezing, and antibiotics don’t work to kill viruses. But if Kitty develops a secondary bacterial infection (an infection on top of an infection) then antibiotics may be required. Likewise, for our FIV positive feline friends, antibiotics are an important tool to stop a minor infection turning into pneumonia. 

Another helpful way to deal with sneezing and recurring runny noses is to support your cats immune system with some immune boosting Lysine Support - which you can find here.

Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS
Veterinary surgeon, Linkedin

Dr. Elliott graduated from the University of Glasgow, UK, with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. She has over three decades of experience working in companion animal practice and is the designated veterinarian for the Cats Protection rescue center, Harrow.

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