Why Is My Cat Sneezing

Orange cat sitting on windowsill

Cats and humans share many similarities. Both are mammals and both use different parts of their bodies for sensory processing, for example. Another similarity between cats and humans is that both species sneeze from time to time. You may know the basic reasons why humans sneeze. But why do cats sneeze?

Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

First of all, it's important to know that the occasional kitten sneeze is no cause for concern, but frequent sneezing might understandably catch your attention.

For humans, sneezing is a normal part of expelling dust and other irritants from nasal passages and can often accompany things like seasonal allergies or other illness, like the flu or a sinus infection. Irritants in nasal passages are often the cause of sneezing for many cats — they've gotten some dust in their nose, and sneezing is their body's way of getting it out.

When Sneezing Might Be a Cause for Concern

If your cat has sneezing fits that won't go away or if other symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes or coughing, occur along with the sneezing, it may be time for you to call the vet to see if any treatment is needed.

If sneezing is one of many symptoms your cat is experiencing, your vet may be able to work out the sneezing's cause based on the other symptoms, which might include:

  • Excessive discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fatigue

Why Do Cats Sneeze? Possible Causes of Sneezing in Cats

Viruses

The most common cause of consistent sneezing in cats is an upper respiratory tract infection, which can be due to viral infections, such as feline herpesvirus (FHV) and feline calicivirus.

Both of these viruses are contagious among cats but thankfully cannot be transmitted to humans. Vaccinations are available to prevent these infections from ever affecting your kitty.

If your vet does suspect a viral infection, they typically take a swab from your kitty's mouth, eyes, throat or nose and send it to a lab to confirm whether there is an infection present.

As with colds in humans, treating these viruses is aimed at alleviating symptoms while your cat fights off the infection. Antibiotics usually aren't needed, unless the viral infection progresses into a bacterial one.

Infections like these are usually more common in younger cats, especially if they're from an animal shelter. Early and complete vaccination schedules can help prevent these viruses.

Other Rare Infections

A wide range of other, less common infections can include sneezing as one of many symptoms. These include:

  • Feline infectious peritonitis, a viral disease caused by the feline coronavirus. This may cause no symptoms or mild symptoms that become more severe over time.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which impacts a cat's immune system
  • Feline leukemia
  • Chlamydia, which is often accompanied by an eye infection along with sneezing
  • Bordetella, a disease that's more common in very young kittens
  • Mycoplasma

Irritants

If your cat inhales something irritating, it may cause her to sneeze. These potential irritants might include:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Dusty cat litter
  • Perfume
  • Cleaning sprays
  • Mould
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Scented candles

Pay attention to the timing of any sneezing bouts that occur. If they're sneezing right after you change the cat litter, when you light up your favourite scented candle or after you spray perfume on yourself before heading out, it could be the reason why your cat is sneezing.

Rare Causes

Other things that may cause your cat to sneeze are exceedingly rare but are worth checking into if another cause can't be identified. These might include:

  • Drainage from a tooth root infection going into her sinuses
  • Foreign bodies, such as grass clippings
  • Tumours in the nasal passages

What to Do About Cat Sneezing

Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccinations

As mentioned above, vaccinations for both feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus are available to help prevent the acquisition of these infections. Keeping your pet up-to-date on these can help them stay healthy.

Keep Close Watch

In general, if your kitty only sneezes occasionally and seems perfectly happy with herself and her surroundings and continues eating her favourite treats like normal, there's generally no cause for concern. You can see if you notice any patterns to her sneezing, such as if it becomes more persistent in certain situations or if she seems to have specific triggers that set it off.

When to See the Vet

If your kitty is sneezing a lot and displays additional concerning symptoms, such as watery eyes, fatigue, loss of appetite, coughing or any trouble breathing, you should consider making an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. They may be able to provide you with some answers and remedies to help your cat feel better.

Takeaways

Your cat sneezing as a whole isn't unusual. She may encounter irritants just like humans do that cause her to sneeze. When sneezing accompanies other symptoms, however, this can be a reason to call your vet for a checkup just to make sure everything's okay. Anytime something's off, don't hesitate to call your vet with questions. They can offer advice based on what they know about your cat's health history and recent behaviour and provide antibiotics or other treatment suggestions if necessary.

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