As a seasoned veterinarian, seeing countless cats come through my doors with various ailments, one concern that I’ve noticed among cat owners is, “Why is my cat sneezing so often?”.
While sneezing in cats can be common and often harmless, frequent cat sneezing can be a sign of underlying health problems that shouldn’t be ignored. Having cared for numerous cats throughout the years, I’ve seen how critical a speedy diagnosis and timely treatment can be for a cat’s overall well-being.
In this article, let’s explore the various causes behind a cat’s sneezing, ranging from the everyday to the more concerning. So, if your feline companion sneezes occasionally or more frequently, keep reading to uncover what might be making your cat sneeze.
Why Is My Cat Sneezing?
The most common causes of cat sneezing include:
Let’s look at these causes in more detail:
Just like us, our feline friends can also suffer from allergies. When exposed to allergens, a cat’s immune system may react abnormally, causing them to sneeze. This is a natural response to eliminate foreign substances from their nasal passages.
Cats can be allergic to various substances, such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, smoke, and even certain types of food. When a cat inhales these airborne particles, it can irritate their nose, leading to an occasional sneeze or persistent sneezing, depending on how many and how long a cat is exposed to an allergen.
Is your furry friend showing signs of allergies? Keep an eye out for sneezing, watery eyes, nasal discharge, face swelling, or redness around their eyes and nose.
If your cat is otherwise healthy, these symptoms could indicate an allergy. It’s important to address the issue promptly since prolonged exposure can worsen their condition over time, making treatment more challenging.
In my experience, reducing allergens in your home is the best way to alleviate your cat’s symptoms. Try to keep your house clear of common irritants, including:
- Cigarette smoke: Secondhand smoke can be harmful to your cat’s respiratory system.
- Cat litter: Choosing a low-dust or dust-free litter can help reduce your cat’s exposure to potential irritants.
- Cleaning products and perfumes: Opt for fragrance-free or pet-friendly cleaning solutions and minimize the use of candles and air fresheners.
- Use Humidifiers: Maintaining optimal humidity levels can help reduce airborne allergens like mold and dust mites.
If your cat’s sneezing persists or worsens due to an allergy, I recommend scheduling a visit to the vet to discuss potential treatments and allergen management strategies.
2. Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (Cat Colds)
Feline upper respiratory infection, or a “cat cold,” is a common feline health problem I see in my day-to-day practice as a vet.
These infections are typically caused by two viruses: feline calicivirus and feline herpes virus, but bacterial infection can also play a part. These viruses lead to inflammation in the nasal passages, resulting in persistent sneezing and other flu-like symptoms such as runny eyes, snotty noses, loss of appetite, fever, and lethargy.
If your cat is sneezing for more than a day or two and displaying these symptoms, it’s important to visit a vet. The severity of the symptoms depends on your cat’s overall health and their immune system strength – kittens and older cats are often hit hardest due to weaker immune systems. As a side note, while cat flu is highly contagious among cats, the good news is it’s not transferable to humans.
To prevent the spread of infection, it’s important to keep infected cats away from healthy ones until they’re fully recovered. Regular vaccinations play a crucial role in preventing these viral infections. By vaccinating your cat against both feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus, you help boost their immunity against cat flu.
Unfortunately, it’s often the case that once a cat gets cat flu, they have it for life. Early intervention and prevention are therefore crucial for battling feline upper respiratory infections.
3. Foreign Body
Cats are curious creatures, and their sniffing habits sometimes lead to foreign objects becoming lodged in their nasal passages. Airborne particles like dust or pollen, pieces of toys, blades of grass, or tiny insects are common culprits that can irritate your cat’s nose and trigger persistent sneezing.
If you notice your cat experiencing frequent, violent sneezes with nasal discharge or blood from one nostril only, it’s possible a foreign object is causing discomfort. Prolonged irritation can also increase the risk of developing secondary bacterial infections and upper respiratory infections.
Don’t hesitate to schedule a veterinary visit if you suspect your sneezing cat has a foreign object stuck in their nose. Your vet may use a small camera (rhinoscopy) to examine the nasal passages and, if necessary, carefully remove the foreign object under anesthesia.
Inflammation of the nasal passages, known as rhinitis, can cause various uncomfortable symptoms in cats, such as persistent sneezing and nasal discharge. Although it often occurs after an upper respiratory infection or an allergic reaction, it can persist even after the initial cause subsides.
Along with sneezing, rhinitis can cause a stuffy nose and breathing difficulties. Our feline friends may also experience watery eyes and a reduced appetite due to their sense of smell being affected, which is closely tied to their hunger. Managing chronic rhinitis is important to help our beloved cats breathe comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life.
5. Dental Disease
One often overlooked cause of cat sneezing is dental disease. Dental issues are not uncommon in cats and, if severe, can lead to persistent sneezing.
The roots of a cat’s upper teeth lie very close to their nasal passages, and an infection or inflammation in the tooth root can spread into the nasal cavity, causing irritation and sneezing.
Cats suffering from dental disease often have bad breath, difficulty eating, drooling, pawing at the mouth, or facial swelling. In more severe cases, you might notice nasal discharge, especially one-sided or bloody discharge, which could indicate an abscessed tooth root or other serious dental issues.
I’ve had cases where treating the dental disease has resolved the sneezing in cats, so if you suspect dental problems are the reason behind your cat’s persistent sneezing, it’s crucial to schedule a visit to the vet. Treatment options may include professional cleaning under anesthesia, including tooth extractions if necessary. Don’t underestimate the impact of dental health on your cat’s overall well-being.
6. Fungal Infection
Fungal infection can be a reason why your cat sneezes. Airborne particles of fungi, such as Aspergillus and Cryptococcus, can enter your cat’s nasal passages and cause symptoms like chronic rhinitis or sinusitis. These fungi are commonly found in the environment and can lead to serious health issues if left untreated.
Along with sneezing, other symptoms include nasal discharge, a stuffy nose, or even difficulty breathing. To determine if your cat is suffering from a fungal infection, diagnostic tests, such as cultures or biopsies, are required.
It’s worth mentioning that diagnosing fungal infections can be challenging. Their symptoms tend to mimic those of viral or bacterial infections. However, once the infection is identified, antifungal medications are usually prescribed as treatment.
In my experience as a veterinarian, cats can successfully recover from fungal infections with the proper treatment and care. So, if you notice any unusual symptoms in your furry friend, don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and treatment options.
7. Nasal Cavity Tumors
While it’s not the most common cause of sneezing in cats, nasal cavity tumors shouldn’t be forgotten about. These abnormal growths in a cat’s nose or sinuses can lead to persistent sneezing and other symptoms.
Signs that your cat might have a nasal tumor include:
- Frequent nasal discharge
- Trouble breathing through the nose, leading to open-mouthed breathing
- Decreased appetite due to stuffiness
- Facial swelling, asymmetry, or deformity
As a tumor grows within the nasal passages, it can cause chronic irritation, resulting in frequent bouts of sneezing. This occurs because the enlarging tumor obstructs airflow, leading to discomfort and triggering the sneezing reflex.
Depending on the tumor’s stage, treatment options may differ. Surgical removal followed by radiation therapy can be effective if detected in the early stages. When surgery isn’t an option, palliative care – such as pain management techniques – can help keep your pet comfortable while dealing with their condition. Remember, it’s always crucial to consult with a veterinarian when suspecting any health issues with your cat.
What Should I Do If My Cat Is Sneezing More Than Usual?
While some cases of frequent sneezing require veterinary intervention if the sneezing is mild or your cat isn’t displaying any other symptoms, there are a few home remedies you can try. Here are a few options
- Keep your cat hydrated and ensure they’re eating well
- Use a humidifier to help with dry air that may irritate nasal passages
- Switch litters, as some cats may be sensitive to certain types
However, if sneezing continues for more than a couple of days or comes with additional symptoms, definitely consult a vet. I’ve seen cases where what seemed like harmless sneezing was actually a sign of underlying health issues that needed professional intervention, so never hesitate to reach out to a professional if you’re concerned about your cat’s well-being.
When Does My Sneezing Cat Need To See the Vet?
So when should you be concerned about your sneezing cat? Here are several indicators that could suggest an underlying health issue:
A small amount of clear nasal discharge is usually not a cause for alarm. However, if the discharge thickens or changes color to yellow or green, it’s time to see the vet. Similarly, bleeding from the nose is a definite red flag and needs immediate attention, as it could point to dental disease or even tumors.
Loss of Energy or Appetite
Have you noticed a slump in your cat’s energy levels or a loss of appetite? A persistent refusal to eat, accompanied by sneezing, can be a sign of an underlying health issue.
Sneezing Lasts More Than A Few Days
The occasional sneeze is quite normal for cats, much like us. But if your cat’s sneezing turns into constant fits and occurs for more than a few days, it’s important to consult a veterinarian.
Treatment Options for Sneezing Cats
Treatment options for sneezing cats vary depending on the underlying cause, but in my experience, if caught early, many of the underlying causes for cat sneezing can be treated effectively.
For bacterial or viral infections, antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. When allergies or chronic rhinitis are the culprits, nasal decongestants can be administered to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, allowing cats to breathe more easily.
Sometimes, sneezing could be due to dental issues or something stuck in the nose. In these cases, dental procedures or surgery might be needed to fix the problem.
While treating the symptoms, it’s essential to keep prevention in mind. In case of allergies, maintaining a clean, dust-free environment and avoiding the use of scented diffusers can minimize allergens.
The best prevention for cat colds is vaccination. Vaccines boost your cat’s immune system, targeting highly contagious viruses like feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV1).
In summary, possible treatment options for sneezing cats include:
- Antibiotics or antiviral medications
- Nasal decongestants
- Surgery (for dental disease or foreign objects)
- Allergen control measures
- Vaccination (as a preventative measure)
When should I worry about my cat sneezing?
You should start to worry about your cat sneezing if it becomes frequent or chronic, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms such as nasal or eye discharge, coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy, or changes in behavior.
What should I do if my cat is sneezing?
Occasional sneezing is typically not a cause for concern but cases of more frequent sneezing require action. While some mild cases can be managed with home remedies like ensuring good hydration and using a humidifier, persistent sneezing could be a sign of underlying health issues that require professional treatment.
Why does my indoor cat keep sneezing?
Indoor cats sneeze for a variety of reasons. Common causes include exposure to dust, perfumes, cleaning products, smoke, or certain types of cat litter that can irritate their nasal passages. Allergies, viral, bacterial, or fungal infections can also cause sneezing. Dental problems can sometimes lead to sneezing as well.
Why is my cat sneezing so much all of a sudden?
Cats might sneeze frequently all of a sudden due to a variety of reasons. For example, they could be dealing with allergies, viral or bacterial infections, or exposure to irritants like smoke or dust. In some instances, a foreign object stuck in their nose could be the culprit.