Ever heard a distinctly…feline-sounding “Achoo!” and looked over and found your cat was the culprit? Wondering: why is my cat sneezing? (And why is it kind of cute when it does?)

Well, as it turns out, sneezing is the body’s way of clearing irritants like smoke, dust, and pollen from the nasal passages. (And when your kitty sneezes…well, you have to admit it’s kind of cute.)

Now a few cat sneezes here and there are no big deal, but excessive sneezing in cats can signal something’s wrong. So we’re going to cover 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.

Why do cats sneeze? Is there a pattern?

Just as in humans, cat sneezing may occur when their noses 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 even 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.

A sneezing cat sitting on a couch

It’s helpful to keep an eye out if there’s a pattern to your cat 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.

Why is my cat sneezing? The main causes & culprits

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.

Feline Herpesvirus 1 (FHV – 1)

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.

A sick cat sleeping on a blue blanket

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

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.

Two white cats play fighting indoors

Feline Calicivirus

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.

💡Don’t neglect your cat’s dental care routine – make sure to check in with your vet for regular dental cleanings for kitty, so you can catch on to any health issues early.

A vet examining a cat's teeth at a clinic

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.

A small kitten huddling into a blanket

Chronic upper respiratory conditions

When your cat sneezes very often every single day for weeks, they may be experiencing a chronic upper respiratory condition.

This 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.

A pair of vets inspecting a cat's ears at their clinic


Your cat’s nasal passages might be irritated by:

  • Particles in the air
  • Scented household items like perfume or scented candles
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Dust (including from their litter box)
  • Common household items, like cleaning chemicals
  • Smoke

All these may cause your cat to sneeze as an allergic reaction.

Read more: Cat Pollen Allergy: What To Do If Your Cat Is Allergic to Pollen

A cat sitting by a heap of brushes and household items

Foreign material

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.

An outdoor cat exploring a grassy patch

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 all cause sneezing. (Especially when an infection becomes established in the sinuses.) Your veterinarian can diagnose this condition and solve your kitty’s sneezing problem.

A cat yawning while sitting on a bed

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections can also cause upper respiratory infections in cats. (Like, for example, bacteria like mycoplasma.)

But sometimes, your cat might get infected as a result of a viruswhich 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.
Closeup of a cat's face and whiskers

💡 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.

Fungal infections

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 several treatment options for fungal infections in cats. 

cat laying down looking sick with a human hand on their head

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 cat resting on a vertical platform next to a scratching post

Feline leukemia

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.
A cat sitting by a bowl of food

💡 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)!

But most importantly…

Figure out where exactly your cat is catching a virus from

Cats are also naturally curious and love to explore. (Yes, even your indoor cat.) It’s an evolutionary habit wired into their DNA.

⚠️ 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 escape 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 – just like you – are investing in our life-saving technology. With just a glance at your phone, you can now figure out exactly where your cat’s off wandering. (Or hiding, hunting, or just hanging out.)

So you can better prevent them from heading somewhere they could potentially pick up something infectious – or even more dangerous.

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Cattery owner and trainer, Clair Chesterman

“Tractive is my #1 recommendation when it comes to cat trackers. It’s specifically designed for tracking cats so you are sure that it is safe for your cats to use.”

– Clair Chesterman, Owner of CFA and CCA-registered cattery and fostering company, FluffyMeowPaws

How do you treat a sneezing cat?

Before you can treat a sneezing cat, you need to know what’s causing the sneezing.

  • First, take some time to observe your cat closely and note how frequently 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.
  • Pay attention to your cat’s sleep. If they breathe more rapidly when asleep or relaxing, they may be coming down with a virus.
  • Then make an appointment with your veterinarian to review what you’ve observed and explain all of your cat’s symptoms.
A vet examining a cat with a stethoscope at a clinic

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. 

Nasal lavage 

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
  • 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. 
A woman setting up a humidifier in a bedroom


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. 

Cat sneezing too much? What to do

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. Else, a few sneezes a day are nothing to worry about in the absence of other symptoms.

A cat sleeping upright on the floor

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
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the face
  • Breathing rapidly during sleep

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.

A woman hugging a sick cat outdoors

How to catch on to your cat’s health issues early

One of the first signs your cat may be developing a sickness or coming down with an infection? If they seem more lethargic – or less active – than before.

Because after all, not all serious health conditions develop overnight. Rather, they develop gradually over many days – and usually begin with sneaky, easy-to-miss symptoms like lethargy or sleep disturbances.

A sick cat lying on the floor with a toy

💡 For a cat sneezing all the time – one of the first signs they’re coming down with an infection is if their breathing sounds more labored, even when they’re asleep or just chilling.

Which is why it makes sense to track your cat’s activity and sleep – to catch on a change in their behaviors early on.

And if you’ve invested in a Tractive device – like smart pet parents around the world – you’re now that much closer to taking an active role in your cat’s health and wellbeing.

A cat sleeping in the background with Tractive Sleep tracking in foreground

Because with Sleep Tracking, you can figure out:

  • How much quality sleep your cat has gotten.
  • How often your cat was disturbed when asleep.
  • Whether your cat’s sleeping patterns have changed – i.e., whether they’re sleeping more or less

All of which can help you pick up on a health emergency early on. (And avoid a massive vet bill down the line.)

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Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

“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

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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 with a little vigilance, you can help keep yours happy and healthy for the long term.

So make sure to:

  • Monitor how often your cat is sneezing – and whether they have any symptoms like eye or nasal discharge.
  • Take a video to show your vet to help them understand better.
  • Keep tabs on where your cats like to wander. So you can prevent them from heading into a potentially infectious area. (That’s full of pollen, ticks, or poisonous plants.)
A cat sitting in a grassy field
  • Track your cat’s sleep – so you can catch on early to a sleep disturbance. (Like labored breathing – which can indicate the start of a viral infection.)
  • Keep an eye out for symptoms like lethargy – which can indicate your cat is struggling with an infection or sickness. With your cat’s Activity Tracking data at hand, you’re also likely to have a more productive conversation with your vet.

With these steps, you’re that much closer to a longer, happier, healthier and sneeze-free life with your feline friend.

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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.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne, DVM

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.