Why Is My Cat Sneezing?
Does your cat sneeze too much? Find out what causes sneezing in cats and how to help your furry friend find relief from frequent sneezing.
Achoo! Sneezing is the body’s way of clearing irritants like smoke, dust, and pollen from the nasal passages. And when your kitty sneezes, you have to admit it’s kind of cute! A few cat sneezes here and there are no big deal, but excessive sneezing in cats can signal a more serious condition. Discover the potential reasons for a cat sneezing, how you can help your kitty avoid illness, and how monitoring your cat’s health with a dedicated pet tracker is a solution.
Table of contents
- Why do cats sneeze? Is there a pattern?
- Causes of sneezing in cats
- How to stop a cat from catching a cold
- How do you treat a sneezing cat?
- Is it normal for my cat to sneeze multiple times in a row?
- What to do when you feel like your cat is sneezing too much
- When is it time to see a vet?
- How to figure out when it’s time to see a vet – with Tractive
- Stay on top of your cat’s health – for a happier, sneeze-free life
Why do cats sneeze? Is there a pattern?
Just as in humans, cat sneezes occur when the nose becomes irritated by particles in the air or by a virus. During a sneeze, air is forced out of the nose, whisking away the annoying irritant.
But watch your cat closely – their sneeze may not be a sneeze! Your cat may be coughing, gagging, reverse sneezing, hiccupping, or retching. So before you seek treatment for your cat’s sneezing issues, make sure they’re actually sneezing. Take a video of the sneezing episode to show your vet to help them understand the problem.
Notice if there is a pattern to your cat’s sneezing. Does it happen at the same time every day? Does your kitty always sneeze upon entering a certain room in your house? Determining if there’s a pattern to your cat’s sneezing can help narrow down the cause.
Causes of sneezing in cats
Once you know when, where, and how often your cat’s sneezes are happening, it’s time to figure out why your kitty is sneezing. Here are some of the common reasons that cats sneeze.
Upper respiratory infections
Upper respiratory infections, which are caused by viruses, are the most likely reason that your cat is sneezing. These viral infections are a lot like the common cold that we humans experience, and they can range from mild to severe.
The most common virus to cause upper respiratory infections in cats is Feline Herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1). Cats infected with FHV-1 experience sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing, and conjunctivitis. FHV-1 is passed from cat to cat through oral, nasal, or eye secretions. An FHV-1 infection usually runs its course in four to seven days. Like all herpes viruses, FHV-1 is rarely cleared from the cat’s body. Instead, it lies dormant and flares up from time to time. Seasonal changes, stress and other factors can spur a flare-up. Ask your veterinarian about treatments to decrease viral reproduction and ease your kitty’s symptoms.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is another virus that can cause your cat to sneeze. FIV attacks and weakens your cat’s immune defenses, so it becomes easier for affected cats to develop respiratory infections. Similar to HIV in humans (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), FIV is not common. Only a small percentage of cats show exposure to the virus. Humans cannot be infected by FIV. This virus is usually transmitted from cat to cat through bites that break the skin and allow bodily fluids to mingle.
Feline Calicivirus is another organism that can cause sneezing in cats. This virus is highly contagious and causes upper respiratory infections in cats. It can also cause other seemingly unrelated ailments, including chronic gingivitis (gum inflammation) and limping due to joint inflammation.
Nasal and sinus issues
Inflammation of the tissues lining the nose and sinuses can cause a “stuffy nose” in your kitty. These conditions, called rhinitis and sinusitis, are common complications of an upper respiratory infection. Your cat will probably have eye and nose discharge and may paw at their face. It’s one of the reasons why your cat might seem like they’re “crying” – or at least with watery eyes.
Chronic upper respiratory conditions
When your cat sneezes very often every single day for weeks, they may be experiencing a chronic upper respiratory condition. When a cat suffers from this a chronic upper respiratory condition, it often means that their nasal passages and immune system have been damaged or weakened from previous infections. This type of condition will not resolve on its own. So get advice from your veterinarian on supportive treatments that will make your kitty more comfortable.
Allergens or foreign material
Particles in the air or scented household items can irritate your cat’s nasal passages and cause sneezing or an allergic reaction. Perfume, mold, pollen, dust, scented candles, cleaning chemicals, litter box dust, and smoke can bring on a sneezing attack.
Sometimes, a larger object, like a piece of grass or small clump of dirt may lodge in your kitty’s nose. By sneezing, your cat’s body is trying to expel the object naturally. If sneezing doesn’t do the trick and you are certain that an object is lodged in your cat’s nose, head to your vet ASAP. Foreign material lodged in the nose can cause a breathing blockage.
Inflammation or infection of a tooth
You might be unaware that dental problems can cause your cat to sneeze, but it’s true. The roots of the teeth in a cat’s upper jaw are right beside the nasal passages. So any infection of the teeth can affect the nasal passages. When a cat’s tooth root is infected or inflamed, it can create drainage into the sinuses and cause sneezing. Gingivitis, abscesses, ulcers, rotting teeth, and other dental diseases can cause sneezing. (Especially when an infection becomes established in the sinuses.) Your veterinarian can diagnose this condition and solve your kitty’s sneezing problem.
Bacterial infections can also cause upper respiratory infections in cats. (Like, for example, bacteria like mycoplasma.) Sometimes, your cat might get infected as a result of a virus – which then leads to bacteria forming. How does this work?
- Let’s say a virus gives your cat an upper respiratory infection.
- Some fluid created during the upper respiratory infection could get trapped in the sinuses
- Bacteria and viruses can grow in that fluid, causing inflammation or infection.
Unlike viral infections, bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if you suspect your cat has a bacterial infection.
A fungus called cryptococcus can grow in your cat’s nasal passages and cause your cat to sneeze. To determine if there is a fungal infection in your kitty’s nose, your veterinarian will need to collect a sample and have it analyzed. Luckily there are treatment options for fungal infections in cats.
Nasal neoplasia (nasal tumors)
Nasal tumors are an unlikely but possible cause of your cat’s persistent sneezing. Older cats are more at risk for nasal tumors, which make up less than 1% of all tumors in cats. Nasal tumors will typically cause nasal discharge and possibly sneezing, among other symptoms. If your cat exhibits noisy breathing along with sneezing and drainage from the nose, get it checked as soon as possible.
A virus that infects only cats, feline leukemia can present itself with a wide array of symptoms, including those that mimic an upper respiratory infection. A cat with feline leukemia may cough, sneeze, or have discharge from the eyes and nose. Cats may also become lethargic, lose weight, and experience a loss of appetite. Your veterinarian will need to perform a blood test to determine if your cat has feline leukemia. Fortunately, there is a vaccine available to prevent your cat from becoming infected. Ask your veterinarian if they recommend this vaccine based on your cat’s lifestyle.
How to stop a cat from catching a cold
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For your cat, this means keeping your furry friend healthy on a daily basis to keep them from catching a cold.
Keeping your kitty on schedule with annual and seasonal vaccinations is the most important way to protect them from vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Maintain a solid foundation for your cat’s health by providing nutritious food, fresh water, daily play sessions, belly rubs, and plenty of opportunities to chill out on your lap. After all, you are your cat’s favorite human (even if they sometimes act like they don’t care)!
How you can prevent your cat from catching a cold – by tracking where they’re off wandering
Cats are also naturally curious and love to explore. (Yes, even your indoor cat.) It’s an evolutionary habit wired into their DNA. Plus, being outdoors helps them get some exercise – and the benefits of the sensory stimulation from the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Outdoor cats even have sizeable territories they patrol and defend.
Keeping your cat indoors for too long is more likely to bore or stress them out. Letting them outdoors can even help keep them healthy by strengthening their immune systems.
But with their love for wandering and exploring, your cat is always at risk of running into something potentially allergic or infectious.
So imagine getting a picture of your cat’s most frequent haunts – and which spots they like to wander off to best?
Or getting an immediate alert on your phone when your cat wanders off beyond a “safe zone” that you’ve defined – so you can intervene?
Or being able to track your cat’s real-time location before they wander off into your neighbor’s pollen-riddled garden?
It’s why Tractive pet parents around the world are investing in our life-saving technology. With its Location History, you can better understand where your cat likes to wander. Or locate them in real-time if they’re lost – no matter where you are in the world. Or set up a Virtual Fence and immediately intervene once you get an alert if your cat is trying to sneak past it.
Know everywhere your cat goes
See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you.
By figuring out where your cat’s off wandering, you can better prevent them from picking up something infectious – or even more dangerous. Or, since cats tend to hide when they’re sick or injured, your Tractive GPS can help you locate them and take them to a vet, if necessary. So you can both keep your furball safe and healthy – while also keeping their natural instincts happy.
How do you treat a sneezing cat?
Before you can treat a sneezing cat, you need to know what’s causing the sneezing. Take some time to observe your cat closely and note how frequent they sneeze, if there’s nasal discharge, or eye discharge. If sneezing episodes sound unusual, take a video so your vet can see and hear your cat sneezing. Then make an appointment with your veterinarian to review what you’ve observed and explain all of your cat’s symptoms.
Your vet may take some samples and run a few tests to try and determine the cause of your cat’s sneezing. There are a few non-medication options for treating the symptoms of stuffy nose and upper respiratory infections in cats.
In nasal lavage, the cat is placed under anesthesia and a sterile fluid is used to flush out the nasal passages. This procedure can help dislodge a foreign body, or provide relief from congestion.
A humidifier may help your cat find relief from sneezing and congestion, especially in cold dry weather. Place a small room humidifier, available at most drug stores and big box stores, near the places where your cat sleeps and turn it on at night. The humidity created by this device can help to thin the mucus in the nasal passages, allowing it to drain away more readily.
Accupressure can be applied in precise locations on your cat’s face to help encourage drainage form the nasal passages and sinuses.
Is it normal for my cat to sneeze multiple times in a row?
An occasional sneeze is most likely nothing to worry about. But what if your kitty has a sneezing fit and sneezes three, four, or more times in a row? That’s normal too. Just keep an eye on your furball to see if the sneezing increases or persists for several days.
What to do when you feel like your cat is sneezing too much
If you worry that your cat is sneezing too much, take a closer look. Does your kitty show other symptoms, like eye discharge or a runny nose? Are they eating less, or are they lethargic? It’s all of these symptoms together that may signal a problem to the veterinarian. A few sneezes a day are not anything to worry about in the absence of other symptoms.
When is it time to see a vet?
If your kitty sneezes only once in a while, and has no other symptoms of illness, a visit to the vet is probably not needed (except for regular checkups and to get annual vaccinations, of course).
If frequent sneezing happens and your cat has other symptoms like discharge from the eyes and nose, a visit to the veterinarian may be warranted. After all, some of the causes of sneezing in cats can be serious. If your cat exhibits one or more of the symptoms below in addition to sneezing, give the vet’s office a call.
- Nasal discharge
- Abnormal breathing or difficulty breathing
- Eye discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Pawing at the face
Your vet will be able to recommend the right treatment for your cat’s sneezing, based on the cause. So don’t hesitate to bring your kitty in for an appointment – your cat depends on you for their health and safety.
You and your cat’s care team can work together to keep your kitty healthy and sneeze-free.
How to figure out when it’s time to see a vet – with Tractive
If your cat seems more lethargic than usual, it could be a sign that they’re struggling with a sickness or infection. It’s why vets recommend keeping track of your pet’s regular activity – or whether they’re as mobile or limber as usual.
But a sick cat might hide or wander away far from home to manage any illness themselves. So tracking their regular activity can be difficult to do all by yourself.
Another key factor in your cat’s health is the amount of quality sleep they’re getting. In fact, a change in sleep patterns is one of the first signs your cat might be developing cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). But much like tracking your cat’s activity, you shouldn’t have to stay awake all night watching your cat sleep to pick up on a change.
This is where your cat’s activity and sleep tracking data can come in handy. Besides helping you figure out where your cat might pick up its infection from, Tractive’s Wellness Monitoring can also help you get an individualized picture of your cat’s regular behaviors. So you can better monitor your cat’s regular level of sleep and activity over time – and know when to see a vet if you a spot a change.
Here’s how one of our very own cat parents picked up on a change in her cat’s regular behaviors – and narrowly avoided a medical emergency:
“With the Tractive GPS, I found out one night that she’d only made one little trip to the park, slept all night – and didn’t really do much during the day.
So I decided to check her up to see if she was sick – or had something else going on. When I picked her up, the pus oozed over my hand from the abscess bursting!
Without Tractive, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I would still see her walk around to drink and feed and think everything is okay. I might only have noticed when I didn’t see her stroll over for a whole day.
At which point, she’d probably have been dangerously sick.
We went to the vet a few hours later – she had a serious fever, a big abscess, and was pretty sick already. So we got it in time.
A whole week of antibiotics – and now she’s herself again.
Tractive is also very handy for when you need to give your pets their medication. All I have to do is check where she is and call her over to give her the antibiotics.“– Cissy V, Netherlands
“Everything we build puts pets and pet parents first. It’s why we’ve built one device that tracks all aspects of your pet’s safety, from location to wellness. So you can holistically keep them both safe and happy.”
– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet sitter
Stay on top of your cat’s health – for a happier, sneeze-free life
A cat sneezing may not always be cause for concern. But by keeping tabs on where they like to wander, you can prevent them from heading into a potentially infectious area. Plus, by tracking their sleep and activity, you can catch on to a change in their regular behaviors and get them to a vet – before their health worsens.
So invest in a dedicated cat GPS tracker like Tractive – and take one step towards a longer, happier, healthier and sneeze-free life with your feline friend.
Want a vet’s take on your sneezing cat? Here’s Dr. Alex Avery from Our Pets’ Health, covering some of the reasons your cat might be struggling with a cold:
Your furry friend’s health and wellbeing means as much as to us as it does to you. So we’ve made it a priority to only share medically-relevant content on our blog.
This post was checked, double-checked, and medically verified by Georgia-based vet, Dr. Dwight Alleyne.
Dr. Dwight Alleyne, DVM
Dwight Alleyne was born and raised in Long Island, New York where his love of animals began. His career for animals began working for a well-known no-kill animal shelter on Long Island.
He worked his way up the career ladder working as a kennel technician, veterinary assistant, and then becoming a licensed veterinary technician at the shelter.
His passion for veterinary medicine led to him applying to and being accepted at Cornell University Veterinary where he graduated from in 2006. After completing a small animal rotating internship at Purdue University, he eventually made his way to Georgia where he has been practicing ever since.
Dr. Alleyne has practiced at several small animal clinics throughout Georgia. He has a keen interest in soft tissue surgery and has extensive experience in performing ultrasounds including echocardiograms.
When he is not practicing medicine, Dr. Alleyne enjoys writing and editing pet health articles and providing pet advice through telehealth.
Dr. Alleyne also has his own blog called “The Animal Doctor Blog.” Check it out on: www.anmldrblog.com.