“Why is my cat sneezing?” If you’re a cat parent, you might find yourself asking this question when you’ve noticed that your cat seems to be having the sniffles. An occasionally sneezing cat is usually nothing to be concerned about. Not to mention, hearing the occasional sneeze is quite endearing.

Let us take a closer look at cat sneezing and how it might affect your cat.

Why is My Cat Sneezing? Possible Causes

Before jumping to conclusions, it is essential for us to get to know the possible reasons for sneezing in cats to understand what can be done. Why do cats sneeze? Is cat sneezing just temporary or can it be a lifetime condition? Let us look at the possible causes, symptoms, as well as treatments that may be needed.

Allergens or Irritants

Cats may sneeze due to something that might be irritating their nasal passage. Try to observe if there are certain patterns whenever your cat is sneezing. For example, does your cat sneeze when he/she is in a particular corner of the room? Does it happen when you spray perfume or when you use deodorants/disinfectants? Or maybe your cat sneezes after doing their deed in the litter box.

Some examples of allergens or irritants that might be disrupting your cat’s nasal passage include:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Perfume
  • Anti-pest sprays
  • Mold
  • Candles
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cleaning agents
  • Some types of cat litter

If your suspect that your cat’s sneezing is caused by certain irritants, avoid exposing your cat to them as it may affect your cat’s nasal passage.

As for allergies, it is actually not common in cats as compared to humans. If, however, your cat is sneezing due to an allergy, it is often accompanied by skin irritations or hair loss.

Allergic rhinitis in cats may be experienced throughout the year. If it is due to allergens found indoors such as mold and dust, or it may be seasonal and caused by allergens found outdoors such as pollen.

Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis in cats are:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Shedding

cat in a box sneezing

Treatment for allergic rhinitis:

There are no known cures when it comes to cat allergies. It can, however, be managed with a treatment plan that caters to your cat’s specific needs. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian regarding the options for treatment, which may include medications or a specialized diet.

Read more about allegies in cats and dogs.

Viral Upper Respiratory Infections

One common cause of sneezing in cats is upper respiratory infections (URIs) or cat flu, the majority of which are cases of feline calicivirus (FCV) and/or feline herpesvirus (FHV/FHV-1). In fact, studies have shown that approximately 80-90% of URIs are viral infections.

The symptoms of URIs may include a combination of the following:

  • Sneezing a lot (recurring and can go for multiple hours or days)
  • Discharge in eyes or nose (can be clear, yellow, green, or may contain blood)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation in the eyes’ lining)
  • Coughing repeatedly
  • Sneezing in reverse (having short and hurried inhalations while clearing the nose)
  • Fever
  • A decreased appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Drooling excessively
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

Cats who are most at risk of developing upper respiratory infections include elderly cats, kittens, as well as unvaccinated and immunocompromised cats. Because a lot of viruses are highly contagious, cats that live together in groups such as multicat households and cat shelters may become vulnerable. The risk goes higher when the cats are unvaccinated.

If you feel that your cat might have a kind of upper respiratory infection, it is advisable to have your cat checked with a veterinarian to determine whether he/she has the infection, what can be done, and if a medical treatment may be necessary.

It is especially important to bring your cat to the vet if there is a loss in appetite which lasts more than two days. A loss of appetite is one of the common symptoms of upper respiratory infections in cats resulting from difficulty breathing from the nose and having a hard time swallowing.

Meanwhile, there are immediate actions that you can take to help provide your cat with some relief. These include:

  • Trying to make your cat’s food as appetizing as possible (ex. warming it up)
  • Regular cleaning of discharge in your cat’s eyes or nose
  • Providing plenty of clean and fresh water
  • Using a humidifier to help ease your cat’s nasal passage

The duration of treatment would depend on the severity of the symptoms your cat exhibits. If they are mild, it is likely to be resolved naturally in a span of two weeks.

If a cat still exhibits symptoms after two weeks, they may need medical treatment. These may come in the form of:

  • Antiviral medicine
  • Steroids
  • Eye or nose drops
  • Subcutaneous fluids (in cases where there is dehydration)
  • Antibiotics (in case of secondary bacterial infection)

For more serious cases, hospitalization might be needed for a comprehensive treatment that includes IV fluids, nutritional support, and other remedies to help stabilize your cat’s condition. If cats with URIs aren’t treated, it might pose a risk for severe complications such as secondary bacterial infections, chronic respiratory issues, or pneumonia.

Secondary Bacterial Infections

If your cat is diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, there is a high risk for a secondary bacterial infection to develop as well. This is because when your cat’s immune system is down due to a virus, bacteria have a way of taking advantage of it.

The main symptom of a bacterial upper respiratory infection:

A bacterial infection can be detected when you see yellow or green discharge in your cat’s nose or eyes.

Treatment for a secondary bacterial upper respiratory infection:

It is common for bacterial infections that are detected in your cat’s nose to be caused by mycoplasma, bordetella, and chlamydia. These are rarely the sole causes and are usually secondary to certain conditions or diseases.

Antibiotics may do wonders to reduce sneezing as well as other symptoms in your cat for better breathing. Remember that it is necessary to consult with your vet before giving your pet any antibiotic treatment.

cat eating a pill

Chronic Upper Respiratory Infections

If you’ve noticed that your cat keeps sneezing and if this is happening recurrently, it’s possible that your furkid has a chronic upper respiratory infection. Also known as “chronic rhinitis”, this condition is common in cats and is usually caused by permanent damage to a cat’s nasal passages as well as the immune system.

Chronic upper respiratory infection symptoms are often the same as the symptoms of acute upper respiratory infections, but these symptoms continue for several weeks, months, or in intermittent intervals. It may also lead to bacterial infections that may exacerbate the symptoms.

Among the symptoms of chronic upper respiratory infection are:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny and stuffy nose
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Breathing difficulties (ex. Breathing or snoring through the mouth)
  • Discharge in the eyes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Reverse sneezing
  • A loss of appetite

Cats who are more prone to having chronic upper respiratory symptoms are those who suffered from viral infections that were acute and severe. These include those that had feline calicivirus or feline herpesvirus.

Treatment for chronic upper respiratory infection:

When it comes to chronic infections, there is a need to have a more thorough examination in order to find out the underlying causes and possible complications.

Sadly, there is no cure yet for chronic respiratory infections in cats. There are ways however to manage and somehow ease the condition such as continuing veterinary care as well as medications.

Other possible causes as to why cats sneeze may include:

  • Foreign objects that might be irritating their nasal passage
  • Dental issues
  • Fungal infections
  • Tumors

Remember, if your cat is sneezing a lot and is exhibiting other symptoms at the same time, it is best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the possible causes and necessary treatment.

Among the procedures that are usually administered to better examine the cat may include:

  1. Physical check-up
  2. Urine and blood tests to check for viruses and other possible infectious diseases
  3. X-ray, CT scan, or MRI of the cat’s nose, pharynx, or chest
  4. Rhinoscopy where a tiny endoscope is inserted into the cat’s nose or mouth to be able to clearly see the cat’s nasal structure
  5. Small biopsies to check if organisms may be detected inside the nose
  6. Nasal wash may also be done for the purpose of collecting samples

In many of the cases mentioned above, cat vaccinations may substantially help prevent such conditions. The FVRCP combo vaccine is one such vaccine that would help your kitty stay healthy. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.