A sneezing cat is perfectly natural; it’s their body releasing a blast of air through their nose and mouth, usually in response to irritants in the nasal passages.
Irritants can include dust, grass, hair, a nose tickle or a respiratory infection, and it’s that last one that pet parents need to be most aware of.
Upper respiratory infections, often referred to as ‘cat flu’, are similar to the colds we experience, but can be a lot more serious. They are caused by different viruses or bacteria, and affect the nose, throat, and sinuses. If your cat is continuously sneezing, and you suspect they are suffering from an upper respiratory infection, make an appointment to see your vet.
What causes cats to sneeze?
We’ve already briefly touched upon upper respiratory infections, but given their prevalence and how serious they can be, we wanted to say a little more. This illness tends to be caused by either the feline herpesvirus or the feline calicivirus.
Symptoms can differ depending on the cause and location of the infection, but sneezing is generally one of the common ones. Others include runny nose, cough, breathing problems, fever, loss of appetite and congestion.
These viruses are easily spread by direct contact or when cats cough and sneeze on each other. They can also be spread indirectly through objects like food bowls and litter trays. Most upper respiratory infections will resolve themselves over time, but contact your vet if the symptoms continue to worsen.
Both rhinitis (inflammation of a cat’s nose) and sinusitis (inflammation of the nasal passages) can cause a cat to sneeze. You may also notice nasal discharge, a stuffy nose and increased pawing of their face. Inflammation can be caused by infection, allergies, blocked nasal ducts, parasites and trauma.
Vets will perform a basic physical examination on your cat and in mild cases, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory medications will be used to help reduce symptoms. If there appears to be any underlying conditions, further tests may be carried out. Chronic inflammation will need to be treated on a regular basis.
Irritants and foreign bodies
The occasional cat sneeze could be brought on by an inhaled allergen, or a nearby irritant that’s attacking their sensitive nasal passages. Like with humans, irritants can trigger a sneezing fit in a cat from out of nowhere.
The list of potential nose tormentors is long, and includes dust particles, smoke, cleaning products, perfume, even pieces of grass. Once you have isolated the irritant and removed it from your cat’s nose, or their surroundings, the sneezing should subside.
The roots of a cat’s teeth are extremely close to their sinuses. Any infection in the root therefore can result in bacteria affecting the nasal cavity leading to inflammation and sneezing. A tooth abscess, which is caused by bacterial infection, can be an incredibly painful condition for cats and is one that needs treating as soon as possible. Symptoms include drooling, pawing at their mouth, nose bleeds, a swollen face and of course, sneezing.
If you suspect your cat is struggling with dental disease, schedule an appointment with the vet who will administer the appropriate treatment.
Cat vaccinations help to protect your feline from severe infectious diseases, and are one of the most important things a pet parent needs to sort in the first weeks of a cat’s life. It is perfectly normal for your cat to experience a few mild side effects after their vaccinations, one of which may be sneezing. Thankfully, this should only last for two to five days and will usually remedy itself without need for treatment. If they’re still sneezing after a week, there may be an underlying condition that needs identifying.
While more often than not a cat sneezing is nothing to worry about, there are occasions when the cause is down to an underlying medical condition. Nasal tumors are not very common in cats, but when they do occur it goes without saying they’re extremely serious. Common early symptoms include sneezing, along with nasal discharge, facial deformity and a runny nose. As the symptoms are quite similar to conditions like cat flu, it emphasizes the need to monitor your feline closely and contact your vet if they don’t get better.
Should I be worried if the sneezing isn’t temporary?
The occasional cat sneeze should not set off any pet parent alarm bells. However, if your feline is suddenly experiencing a high number of daily sneezing fits, or the sneezes persist for longer than a week, medical intervention may be necessary.
The first thing to do is try and identify any patterns. When are they sneezing? Is it happening at the same time of day? Do the sneezes tend to occur in a particular room in the house?
This will help you eliminate any environmental factors such as nearby irritants that may be a contributing factor.
One place you should focus your attention on is the litter tray. If your cat is sneezing straight after using it, it could be a sign the cat litter is either too dusty, or contains a minor allergen.
Also, check the products you are cleaning the tray with in case these are causing your cat nasal discomfort.
Once you have identified the potential cause and removed it, you will need to keep a careful eye, and ear, on their behaviors. If the sneezing carries on then there’s a good chance you may be dealing with an infection or possibly an underlying medical condition.
At this point, it is best seeking the advice of a vet who will perform a physical examination before recommending the best course of action.
Sneezing can be a sign your cat’s immune system is struggling. One of the best ways to boost a cat’s natural defenses, in order for them to fight off illness effectively, is to ensure they are eating a complete and well-balanced diet.