Cats sneeze for a number of reasons. If the sneezing becomes regular or constant, it needs to be addressed. Your cat is unwell and requires medication, or is surrounded by irritants that are causing distress.
If a cat releases discharge while sneezing, it has a respiratory infection. These concerns are managed by antibiotics and rest. If the sneezing is dry, nasal irritation is the likely culprit. This could be caused by foreign objects, allergies, injuries, side effects to medication, or resorbed teeth.
Ignoring constant sneezing in a cat is inadvisable. Sneezing does not automatically mean your cat is sick, but it can be frustrating. Understand why your cat is sneezing and remove the trigger.
Why Does My Cat Keep Sneezing?
All cats will sneeze from time to time. A cat can sneeze due to excitement, or a sudden movement, but constant sneezing is related to an illness or a nasal irritation.
If your cat sneezes multiple times in succession, acknowledge that there is a reason for this happening. The most common explanations are:
- Respiratory infection
- Irritation to the nose
- Allergic reactions
- Side effects of medication
Monitor your cat’s behavior carefully before and after sneezing. Once you understand the symptoms, you can take action.
1/ Feline Upper Respiratory Infections
Cats are prone to a range of upper respiratory infections. These vary in severity, but all will result in wet sneezing. A healthy cat can usually fight off a respiratory infection. Older cats are at higher risk, though. Never leave a cat to fight infection without treatment.
If your cat has a respiratory infection, any mucus discharge will be discolored. The cat will also be lethargic, show a lack of appetite and may run a fever. This is defined as a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your first action is to determine which respiratory infection your cat is living with. Common examples are:
- Feline herpesvirus (FHV)
- Feline calicivirus (FCV)
- Bordetella bronchiectasis
- Feline chlamydiosis
It is possible for a cat to develop more than one of these conditions at once. FHV and FCV account for almost 90% of all feline respiratory infections. They can also cause a secondary viral infection.
Upper respiratory infections are contagious. This is usually how cats develop the conditions. A sick cat must be quarantined until fully recovered. Treatment will involve a course of antibiotics and plenty of rest. Your cat must have somewhere warm and quiet to sleep.
It is preferable to defer the risk through vaccination. Vaccines against all upper respiratory infections are available from kittenhood. A vaccine does not always mean a cat will avoid URIs. It will minimize the effect, though.
Feline Herpesvirus (FHV)
Feline herpesvirus is unconnected to the sexually transmitted disease of the same name. Instead, FHV is essentially a head cold for cats.
It is common, and highly contagious. It should not be life-threatening, unless the cat is particularly old or lives with limited immunity. Common symptoms of FHV are:
- Uncontrollable bouts of sneezing
- Twitching eyelids
- Streaming from the eyes
- Loss of interest in food
- Lethargy and depression
As FHV is so contagious, it is commonly associated with shared living quarters. Bouts of high stress can bring on the condition. Poor sanitation, such as an unclean litter tray, may also be to blame.
Treatment of FHV depends on the severity of the virus, and any secondary concerns it caused. Some cats with FHV will develop another infection, due to weakened immunity. Each of these issues will be addressed individually.
A strong, healthy cat may not need any medical treatment. Get a veterinary opinion and diagnosis, to be on the safe side.
Whatever the outcome, you must remove any stress from your cat’s life and encourage rest. Over a period of time, the cat will recover and regain health. Antibiotics to speed up the recovery will be prescribed, if necessary.
Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
FCV presents similar symptoms to FHV. Sudden, continuous bouts of wet sneezing are an early indicator of the Infection. FCV is a more pressing concern than FHV, though. Left untreated, this virus can cause pneumonia. Other risk factors associated with FCV are:
- Stiffness in the joints, leading to arthritis
- Internal and external bleeding
- Ulcers on the tongue
If a cat is diagnosed with FCV, it will likely be hospitalized. The cat will be examined for any signs of internal bleeding. If pneumonia remains a risk, the cat will be provided with assisted breathing apparatus.
Once discharged, your cat must follow the same treatment plan as FHV. Plenty of rest in a quarantined area, and a course of antibiotics. You will also need to carefully monitor your cat’s appetite. Your cat will not recover if it does not eat.
Bordetella bronchiectasis is a form of feline whooping cough. As a result, the most prominent symptom will typically be coughing.
This bacterial infection also leads to sneezing though, alongside a high fever. As with all feline URIs, Bordetella bronchiectasis is managed with rest and antibiotics.
Feline chlamydiosis may be referred to colloquially as feline chlamydia. Just like with feline herpesvirus, this can be misleading. Feline chlamydia is a contagious respiratory infection.
Sneezing is one of the symptoms of this condition. It also commonly attacks the eyes. A cat living with feline chlamydia will often develop chronic conjunctivitis.
Chlamydiosis bacteria can become airborne. This means that the condition can be passed between cats through sneezing. Any cat that shares space with an infected feline will likely catch the infection.
The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine explains that feline chlamydia can be present without sneezing. This is rare, though. Chlamydiosis is usually a secondary infection, often linked directly to a diagnosis of FHV.
2/ Nasal Irritation
Cats can experience nasal irritation from a number of sources. Common explanations include:
- Inhaled vapors and scents
- Foreign objects
- Nasal injury
- Reabsorbed teeth
- Dry interior of the nose
Irritations are often transient. If it continues to sneeze for a prolonged period, it may lead to a nosebleed. This must be managed.
Smells and Vapors
Cats have very sensitive noses. What smells appealing to humans can be overwhelming to a cat. Bear this in mind when filling your home with scents. Common smells that can aggravate a cat’s nose include:
- Essential oils
- Scented candles
- Air fresheners
If your cat’s nose is irritated by a scent, it will sneeze. The cat is trying to purge its nose of the offending aroma. This will continue until you remove the scent.
Start by moving your cat to another room. This will minimize the effect of the scent. In the longer term, you’ll need to remove the scent from the home. Your cat’s comfort and wellbeing must be given priority.
Cats use their sense of smell to explore the world. This will invariably result in foreign objects getting trapped in the nose. This may be something harmless and transient, like a blade of grass, or something more prominent.
Seeds, in particular, can be problematic. These can burrow deep into a cat’s nose. Sneezing will follow in such cases. Your cat will be trying, unsuccessfully, to dislodge the irritant.
If you suspect that your cat has something trapped in its nose, shine a torch inside its nostrils. If you can see the object, try to remove it with tweezers. Be careful with this. The cat will likely fidget, and you risk causing further damage.
Foreign objects become an urgent concern if they obstruct respiratory function. If your cat is breathing noisily or panting, see a vet at once. Cats are obligate nasal breathers. A cat breathing through the mouth is in distress.
Injury to the Nose
Cats can experience irritation to the interior of the nose through injury. The most common explanation for this is fighting. If cats come into conflict with each other, scratching is inevitable.
Always check a cat for signs of injury if it has a nosebleed. The cat may have scabs or scars inside its nose. These will tickle and cause irritation, leading to sneezing. Be mindful of a cat scratching a wound in the nose. This will aggravate or reopen the wound, leading to more sneezing.
Tooth resorption occurs when a tooth is absorbed by the gums. This will drive the tooth further into the cat’s head. If pushed far enough, the root can irritate the nose. This causes sneezing, and potentially nasal discharge.
This condition affects over 50% of all cats. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine confirms that tooth resorption is increasingly common in senior cats. Step up your cat’s oral health regime as it ages.
Tooth resorption will be painful for your cat. It caught early enough, it will be treated with dental surgery. Once it reaches an advanced stage, tooth resorption is irreversible. In this case, the tooth will be removed. This will cause the sneezing to cease.
A cat’s nose should alternate between wet and dry throughout the course of a day. A cat with a constantly wet nose is concerning, but so is chronic dryness. Your cat may be dehydrated or living with illness.
If your cat’s nose is dry, take a look inside the nostrils. If the interior of your cat’s nose is flaky, it suggests a potential illness. This could be a polyp or tumor. In these cases, sneezing is the least of your cat’s concerns. Urgent surgery may be required.
Take your cat to the bathroom, close the door, and run the taps. This will fill the room with steam. If your cat’s nose is temporarily dry, this will open the sinuses. In the absence of a health concern, this will resolve the problem.
An environmental allergy can lead to constant dry sneezing in a cat. A food allergy is possibly responsible, but this will likely lead to nasal discharge. Look out for other common allergy symptoms in cats. These include:
- Constant scratching
- Hives and irritated skin
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Heavy breathing and snoring
- Swelling around the paws
Cats can be allergic to anything in their environment. Cigarette smoke is among the most common allergens. This will elicit an immediate sneezing response in a sensitive cat. Changing a parasite-control treatment may also spark a sneezing fit.
If your cat has started sneezing all of a sudden, think about the home environment. If you have changed any of the following, it may cause an allergy.
- Fabric softener
- Laundry detergent
- Perfume or cologne
- Ironing water
- Cushions and blankets
There is no cure for allergies. You can only protect your cat from exposure to the allergen. If the cat is in discomfort, offer an antihistamine.
Human-issued Benadryl is cat-safe. Half a 25mg tablet is the recommended dosage for a 10lb cat.
Sneezing alone is not grounds to provide Benadryl. Only use this medication of the cat is struggling to breathe.
4/ Medication and Vaccines
If your cat is sneezing after beginning a new medication, consult your vet. Your cat may be allergic or have another form of sensitivity. It is likely that a different prescription will be required.
Vaccines can also result in sneezing, especially those administered nasally. Nasal vaccines are considered superior to their injectable counterparts.
As confirmed by Research in Veterinary Science, a nasal vaccine offers fast protection from inhalable infection.
Do not worry if your cat is sneezing after a nasal vaccine. This is common and may last three or four days. After this, the sneezing will calm down and your cat will be protected from illness.
Pay attention to your cat’s sneezing habits. Sneezing is not always serious, but neither should it be ignored. If a cat sneezes, something in its body must be purged. Sneezing achieves this, but there are better ways to go about it.