Why is my cat sneezing?

“Why does my cat sneeze?” may be a question you have asked yourself in the past. While the occasional sneeze from your cat is completely normal, and no cause for concern, frequent sneezing might catch your attention. As for humans, sneezing is a normal response to irritation in the nasal passages - the body’s way of removing an irritant from the nose. If your cat’s sneezing won’t go away, or if other symptoms such as a runny nose or eyes or coughing occur, along with the sneezing it might be time for a visit to your vet to see if any treatment is needed.

Symptoms of sneezing

Sneezing is an explosive expulsion of air from the mouth and nose. Sometimes a shower of discharge is also sprayed out. This can be clear or may be blood-stained or even yellow or green if an infection is present. Sneezing is often your cat’s only symptom but sneezing can sometimes be accompanied by other signs which may help your vet work out the cause of the sneezing. Excessive discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing or wheezing, reduced appetite and fatigue all may be seen in a sneezing cat.

Causes of sneezing in cats

The most common cause of persistent sneezing in cats is an upper respiratory tract infection usually due to viral infections such as feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Both these viruses are contagious between cats but thankfully cannot be caught by humans. Stress can often worsen the signs of infection or increase transmission between cats. As with colds and flu in people, treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms while your cat fights the infection. Viral infections can sometimes lead to secondary bacterial infections which can be treated with antibiotics. Fungal infections of the nose also occur in cats but these are rarer.

Unlike in humans, allergies are not a common cause of sneezing in cats- but if your cat inhales something irritating he or she may sneeze. Potential irritants include tobacco smoke, dusty cat litter, perfume, cleaning sprays, mould, dust, pollen and even candles. Watch out for the timing of any sneezing bouts to see if you can work out the cause- is your cat sneezingas you are cleaning the house or just after you have changed the cat litter, for instance?

Rarer causes of persistent sneezing can include tooth root infections which are draining into the cat’s sinuses, inhaled foreign bodies such as blades of grass or even tumours in the nasal passages.

What to do

Make sure your cat receives regular vaccinations against feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus to help prevent these viral infections.

If your cat only occasionally sneezes and is perfectly well in herself then just keep an eye on her for a few days and try to work out if there is any pattern to when she sneezes. If the sneezing becomes more persistent, if your cat sneezes blood, or has other symptoms such as excessive nasal discharge, runny eyes, fatigue, coughing or trouble breathing or if he or she is off their food then you should make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. Most causes are easily treated and your cat should soon be feeling much better.

How to spot cat flue

Cat diarrhoea: what you can do