Why does my cat keep sneezing?

A sneezing cat isn’t an uncommon sight or sound.

However, if they have started sneezing more regularly there could be an underlying problem that needs identifying.

The most common reason for a cat sneezing is infection.

An upper respiratory infection is similar to a cold in humans, and is often referred to as ‘cat flu’.

It is caused by different viruses or bacteria, and targets the nose, throat, and sinuses.

Symptoms include sneezing, fever, runny nose and eyes, coughing, loss of appetite and lack of energy.

The majority of infections are viral, with feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus the two main culprits.

Vaccinations against both are commonly given at an early age, and while this does not completely rule out disease it does reduce the severity.

If your cat is continuously sneezing, and you suspect they may have an upper respiratory infection, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible.

What sneezing could mean

Cats sneeze for the same reason humans do…because something has tickled the inside of their nose.

It’s a reflex designed by the body to clear the nasal passages of irritants.

The odd sneeze here and there is definitely nothing to worry about.

More often than not, it will just be a bit of dust that has gone up their nose.

You can say ‘bless you’ and carry on about your day.

However, if the bouts of sneezing do continue it may be a sign of something more serious, so it’s important we look at what could be behind the irritation.

Sneezing both frequently and infrequently could mean a range of different issues or problems, some significant, some trivial.

It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause.

But here are a few potential reasons:


  • Sinus issues. Cats can suffer from an inflammation in the lining of the sinuses called sinusitis. It’s a condition that commonly occurs alongside the stuffy nose-causing rhinitis, both of which can give your cat cause to sneeze. Other symptoms of sinusitis include pawing at their face, snoring and nasal discharge. Contact your vet who will examine them thoroughly before suggesting treatment.
  • Allergic reaction. Allergies are much less common in cats than in people, but outdoors allergens like pollen can still be pesky irritants for felines. And sneezing accompanied by itchy skin could be the result of an allergic reaction. There is no cure for cat allergies, so you will need to find out what it is that’s annoying your cat’s nostrils and keep them clear of it.
  • Inhaled irritants. Potential irritants can be found all around the house. Is your cat sneezing after using a new litter box? It could be the new scent. Are you using different household products? Maybe you’re using an air freshener your cat hasn’t smelt before. Candles, perfume, cigarette smoke, general dust. Cats and their noses get everywhere. Even blades of grass can sometimes become lodged in their throats leading to bouts of sneezing. Pay attention to when and where they are sneezing; the clues could be right in front of your nose.
  • While a cat sneezing is almost always innocuous, it can sometimes be brought about by an underlying medical condition. Tumours in a cat’s nose are rare, but if you suspect the reason behind their sneezing is more serious, you should call your vet immediately.
  • Dental disease. One of the most common symptoms of cat tooth and gum disease is sneezing. Tooth infections can result in bacteria developing in the nasal passage, leading to infection. Schedule an appointment for a dental exam, especially if the sneezing is combined with other symptoms such bad breath and gum inflammation.
  • Some vaccines, used to help cats fight infection, can actually cause them to sneeze. The sneezing should clear up in a few days, but if it’s still happening after a week take them back to the vets.

When to seek veterinary attention

You don’t need to rush for the phone every time your cat sneezes.

Trust us, your vet wouldn’t be best pleased.

Even though sneezing in cats is rarely cause for alarm, it’s still always worth keeping an eye out for any other symptoms that may be playing a factor.

For instance, if your cat has started sneezing more frequently, and these sneezes are accompanied by blood, mucus or nasal discharge (clear or coloured), this could be a sign that something more serious is at play.

Other symptoms to look out for when your cat is sneezing include severe coughing, fever, drooling, lack of energy, loss of appetite, trouble breathing and diarrhoea.

When their sneezing is combined with one or more of these, you should certainly think about giving your vet a call.

Sneezing can be a sign your cat’s immune system is compromised. One of the best ways to bolster their natural defences, so they can fight off illness effectively, is to ensure they’re eating the right foods.

These two blogs – What Is The Best Diet For Cats? and Choosing Natural Cat Food For Your Pet  – are great starting points.

If your cat can’t stop sneezing and seems in pain, you should try and schedule an emergency appointment with your vet.

Even if the more severe symptoms aren’t apparent, there’s nothing wrong with contacting your vet to arrange a standard checkup.

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