Have you ever heard your cat sneeze? The little expulsion of air from their lungs and “achoo” sound is often quite adorable! However, while the odd sneeze here and there is nothing to be alarmed about, sneezing isn’t all that normal for cats. Therefore, it’s important to monitor how often your cat sneezes and if it is accompanied by any other notable symptoms.
If you notice that your cat can’t stop spluttering, it’s normal to worry. We love our pets and want to know they’re happy and healthy. You may have questions like “What’s caused the sneezing?” “Is my cat poorly?” “Does she need to go to a vet?”. And I get it – it’s stressful not knowing how your cat is feeling or whether they need your help.
This is especially true when they are sneezing but seem otherwise fine. With no other symptoms to help you diagnose what’s wrong, it’s hard to know whether you’re over or under-reacting. That’s why I have written this article – to give you all the reasons behind your cat’s sneezing to put your mind at ease.
Why Do Cats Sneeze?
Sneezing is a natural reflex mechanism that cats use to clear their noses in response to irritation of the nasal canal, just as humans do. This irritation could be caused by a foreign material entering the nose, such as dust, pollen, bacteria, or a piece of yarn. Alternatively, inflammation of the nasal canal or trauma can irritate the cells lining the nasal passage.
When irritated, the air and mucus are blown forcefully through the nasal passage to help clear whatever has caused the irritation. Therefore, sneezing acts as a line of defense against bacteria, pathogens, and bugs.
In most cases, sneezing is therefore a good thing. It helps to remove any potentially dangerous pathogens and objects from their airways. This reduces the chance of infection and keeps the airways clear so they can breathe easily.
However, if your cat keeps sneezing it could be a sign that there’s a more serious problem at hand. Often, you’ll know that there is an issue as your cat will likely experience other symptoms as well.
Why Does My Cat Keep Sneezing But Seems Fine?
As mentioned, most of the time a cat keeps sneezing but seems fine, it is because she is fine. If the sneezing is related to a medical condition, you will likely notice other symptoms. Here are the most common reasons for sneezing that all pet parents should understand.
1.They Have a Viral Infection
The most likely cause for frequent sneezing is a viral infection. These are caused by viruses entering their bodies and invading their immune system, leading to an upper respiratory tract infection. With any respiratory infection, sneezing is a common symptom. Usually, cats will also exhibit other symptoms aside from sneezing, but sneezing is often the first symptom to show.
Multiple viruses exist, but significant ones you may have heard of already include:
One of the primary symptoms of Feline Herpesvirus – one of the most common causes of upper respiratory disease in cats – is sneezing. Your cat will usually start sneezing within 2-5 days of contracting the virus. Other symptoms may also be present, including nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, or discharge from the eyes and nose. Non-specific symptoms including a reduction in appetite or fever may also present themselves.
The Feline Calicivirus also causes upper respiratory symptoms in cats, and so it has extremely similar symptoms to the Feline Herpesvirus. These include sneezing, nasal discharge, and conjunctivitis, alongside secondary symptoms of fever and reduced appetite. In addition, the Feline Calicivirus can cause gingivitis, stomatitis, and limping syndrome. However, these are separate from the upper respiratory infection caused and are due to the virus taking over areas of the body other than the respiratory tract.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
This virus is commonly referred to as cat HIV or cat AIDS as it has similar effects in felines as the human disorder has in people. When infected, the virus will destroy the cells of their immune system which, over time, causes the immune system to become weak. This weak immune system can mean cats often develop upper respiratory tract infections, leading to sneezing and congestion. However, again it can cause multiple other issues, such as constant diarrhea, inflammation of the mouth and gums, a recurrent fever, and persistent eye problems.
These are not the only viral infections that cats can contract, but they are the three most well-known. Others include Feline Infectious Peritonitis or the Feline Leukemia Virus. All of these can cause upper respiratory infections which leads to sneezing. However, this is usually in combination with other respiratory symptoms.
The severity of the virus also depends on which virus your cat has contracted and for how long they have had the infection. Whereas some can be treated with antibiotics, others will be fatal. If in a doubt, visit your vet. They’re able to recommend medication and antiviral drugs to cure the disease or offer other viable treatment options.
2. They Are Suffering from Allergies
Just as humans can be allergic to foreign materials, so can cats. The substances, known as allergens, that cats are allergic to are hugely varied but could include:
- Cat litter
- Cleaning products
- Perfume or aftershave
- Cigarette smoke
- Dust or mold
- Insect repellents
Whether your cat has an allergy to any of these substances depends on its immune system. Seasonal allergies such as pollen will only last for a few months of the year, whereas other allergies will be more persistent and last year-round. This can make it more difficult to pinpoint precisely what your kitty is allergic to.
Frequent sneezing is a common symptom of allergies caused by inhalation of airborne allergens, which may also be seen in combination with wheezing and coughing. While snoring in cats can be normal, excessive and frequent snoring can also be a sign your cat is allergic to something.
If you think your cat is suffering from allergies, you can ease their sneezing and suffering by removing the offending allergens from your home. This might sound easy, but trying to determine exactly what your cat is allergic to can be difficult! If you have just changed cat litter or cleaning products, this is the likely culprit. However, cats can develop allergies at any time and for products that you’ve used for years without any issues.
To help you narrow down your search, take a trip to the vet. Your vet will be able to perform allergen tests to determine exactly what substance is making your cat sneeze. Eliminate this from your home and you should see a near-instant improvement in symptoms. If the allergies are severe, your vet may also prescribe antihistamines for medical alleviation of symptoms.
In addition to this, keeping your home clean and dust-free can make a big difference. You can also purchase air purifiers for cat hair which help with allergies. These capture the airborne allergens and eliminate them from the air, alleviating your cat’s symptoms. They’re also beneficial for you as the air you breathe with be cleaner and healthier.
3. They Have Nasal Cavity Cancer
Although extremely rare, cats can develop cancerous tumors in the nasal cavity. As they are within their nose, they can be very difficult to detect which makes diagnosis hard. Sadly, by the time most nasal cavity cancer is diagnosed it is already at the advanced stages of the disease and little can be done to help.
However, frequent sneezing is one of the early signs of nasal tumors. In this instance, the sneezing will be extremely forceful, severe, and persistent. The sneezes often draw up blood, especially towards the more advanced stages of the disease. Other clinical symptoms include:
- Nasal discharge containing blood and pus
- Loud and excessive snoring
- Pawing at the nose and face
- Rubbing their nose and face against surfaces
- Swelling of the face as the tumor grows larger
- Bulging eyes and eye discharge if the tumor grows towards the eye area
- Seizures if the tumor grows toward the brain
Nasal cavity cancer is a serious condition and so it is imperative to take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms. As sneezing is a common sign of allergies and viral infections, be sure to note down any other symptoms too to help prevent misdiagnosis.
As nasal cavity cancer can be extremely painful, your vet’s first steps after diagnosis will be to provide pain medication such as opioids and anti-inflammatory drugs. They will then undergo radiation therapy for approximately 6 – 18 months to reduce the tumor size. As with all cancers, the chances of successful treatment improves the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.
4. They’ve Just Had a Vaccine
Has your cat just had a vaccination? If so, this could also be the reason they keep sneezing but seem fine. Sneezing is a common side effect of a vaccine, especially those used to treat upper respiratory infections or those administered intranasally.
Usually, the sneezing will start between 2 and 5 days after your cat has received their vaccination. You may also notice other respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or runny nose. However, a few days after the onset of symptoms, they should resolve on their own. If their cough becomes severe or it is difficult for your cat to breathe, you should take them to the vet.
Moreover, while sneezing is a common side effect of vaccinations and nothing to worry about, there are some more serious concerns to look out for. These include persistent vomiting or diarrhea, bumpy and itchy skin, or swelling of their face. In some cases, your cat may collapse. Again, visit your vet immediately for help and advice.
5. Something Is Irritating Their Nose
Sneezing is a normal and completely natural reflex when something is irritating the nasal canal. If your cat can’t stop sneezing, they may have gotten something stuck up their nose or come into contact with an irritant.
For example, many cat toys contain feathers or yarn. If a small piece of either of these makes its way into your kitty’s nose, they’ll probably have a sneezing fit until they manage to dislodge the material and blow it out. Other examples could be you having just used perfume or highly scented cleaning products that are making your cat’s nose tickle.
In these instances, the sneezing will typically start abruptly and resolve itself once the cells inside the nasal canal have relaxed. Usually, this will be within a few minutes or hours, depending on how long it takes for your cat’s sneezes to remove the irritant. Additionally, no other symptoms will develop over time, making it easy to recognize when this is the reason.
Interestingly, you may also notice your cat sneeze when they become overly excited. Their excitement can fire up the same reflex pathway in the brain as when their nose is irritated.
When Should I Take My Cat To The Vet?
Sneezing in itself is nothing to worry about, so when should you take your cat to the vet? Usually, if your cat keeps sneezing but seems fine, it’s because they are. So, take a deep breath and relax.
If the sneezing is due to one of the medical conditions I have mentioned above then other symptoms will become evident over time. Therefore, if the persistent sneezing lasts over five days, is extremely violent, or you notice they are sneezing in combination with any of the following symptoms, it’s time to take a trip to the vet:
- Nasal discharge, especially if bloody, green, or yellow
- Difficulty breathing or breathing through their mouth
- Snoring more than usual
- Loss of appetite
- Pawing at their face or rubbing it on things
- Eye discharge
At the vet, your cat will be examined and the condition diagnosed. Based on the underlying condition, your vet will prescribe appropriate treatment. This could be anything from antiviral medication or antibiotics to performing X-rays of their upper respiratory tract.
If your cat doesn’t show any of the above symptoms and you’re still concerned, why not call up your vet anyway? After all, it is better to be safe than sorry and will put your mind at ease.
How Can I Stop My Cat Sneezing?
If your cat’s sneezing is only mild and not due to any underlying health condition, it’s usually down to mild irritation. In these instances, there are things you can do at home to help. The below suggestions are easy lifestyle changes that can make a big difference to your cat’s life!
Purchase a Humidifier
The entire respiratory tract from their nasal passage to their lungs needs to be kept slightly moist to allow for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Therefore, dry air can irritate our cat’s respiratory system and make it challenging to breathe. They may have asthma, start open mouth breathing, or start sneezing.
However, you can help your kitty and put moisture back into the air by purchasing a humidifier for cats with asthma. Be sure to purchase a pet-friendly product, such as one with auto shut down features that only expels cool mist to remove the risk of your cat burning themselves in the case of accidental spillages.
Keep Your Home Clean
By keeping your home clean you will also be removing irritants that could make your cat’s sneezing less severe. For example, dust mites, pollen, or mold can also irritate your cat’s nose and cause them to let out an “achoo!”. Keeping on top of cleaning will lower the concentration of these allergens in the air.
When cleaning, make sure you are careful with the products you select. Many are strongly fragranced with perfumes and artificial scents that can also tickle your kitty’s nose. Choose products that contain natural scents and aren’t full of dangerous chemicals.
Change Your Cat Litter
Cat litter is one of the biggest causes of allergies in cats, especially high-dust clay clumping litter. The dust particles easily get into the air and can make your kitty splutter. Fragranced cat litter is also a no-no, as the smell can make them sneeze, cause asthma, or give them a headache.
Switching to a cat litter for cats with asthma can make all the difference to your cat’s itchy and tingly nose! These cat litters are low-dust, fragrance-free, and contain no chemicals such as sodium bentonite. For any dust that does get outside of their box, try using a handheld vacuum for cat litter to clean up the particles before they become airborne.
When changing cat litter, gradually mix the new litter in with the old one, and put slightly more in each time you change the litter tray. This will help your cat adjust to their new litter more easily and will help to prevent any bathroom accidents. Cats can be finicky creatures, so whenever you’re making a change always do so gradually.
Purchase an Air Purifier
Air purifiers are also a must if you’re wanting to reduce your cat’s sneezing. These are appliances containing filters that remove impurities from the air in your home, such as odors, smoke, dust, and other allergens. By removing these irritants, you should notice a reduction in your cat’s sneezing.
Air purifiers come in different strengths designed to purify a certain volume of air. The strength you need will depend on the size of the room you’re using it in, so consider this before making a purchase. Similarly, filter types vary between products. To remove up to 99.97% of airborne particles, you’ll want to choose a purifier that uses a Ture HEPA filter.
Apply Saline Nose Drops
You can also help your kitty by applying saline nose drops, available at most local pet stores or even on Amazon. Alternatively, nasal drops designed for children are also a pet-friendly option. Saline drops aren’t medicated – they’re simply a mixture of salt and water.
The saline solution is great to reduce sneezing caused by irritants that have made their way into the nasal passage. It works by serving a dual purpose. Firstly, it will add moisture to your cat’s airways, which helps them breathe more easily. It also mixes with any mucus lining their nasal passage and helps to thin it out, making it easier to shift.
Upon application of the saline solution, your cat will likely sneeze more, but this is a good thing. When sneezing, this thin mucus will easily be expelled from their nose, taking with it any foreign materials or irritants. Once their airways have been cleared their sneezing should stop.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
If your cat keeps sneezing but seems fine, take a deep breath and relax. In most cases, something will have irritated their nasal passage and caused them to have a fit of sneezes. Once the irritation stops, their sneezing should subside.
You can do your bit to limit the number of irritants in your home with regular cleaning, switching to low-dust and fragrance-free litter, and using air purifiers and humidifiers. If your kitty still seems to have an issue with sneezing, applying nasal saline drops should help.
However, sneezing can be a symptom of several medical conditions. It is often one of the first symptoms to show, meaning your cat may seem fine when they are not. Examples include allergies, viral infection, or, in extremely rare cases, nasal cavity cancer.
Thankfully, if your cat has one of these conditions it will typically exhibit other symptoms over time. This may be coughing or wheezing, nasal or eye discharge, a fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. If you notice any of these symptoms in combination, book an appointment with your vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.