cat sneezing and coughing
Cat Health and Wellness

What Causes a Cat to Sneeze Continuously?

Your cat can’t stop sneezing! You know that something is not quite right but cannot figure out the reason for the problem. Your cat is probably fine if otherwise acting normal, but there will be an underlying explanation that needs to be addressed.

Why does my cat keep sneezing? Continual sneezing can be caused by irritants, allergens, infections, and disease. Most of the causes are preventable and treatable, but you will need to take action if sneezing is accompanied by symptoms, such as blood and mucus.

In this detailed guide, we will look at the reasons why your cat is suddenly sneezing frequently. We will look at the various symptoms so that you can determine if you need to make home and dietary adjustments for your cat or take them to the vet for medical diagnosis and treatment.

List of Sneezing-Related Symptoms in Cats

The symptoms of frequent sneezing in cats can be wide-ranging, but include the following:

  • Discharge from the eyes. This may be accompanied by swelling around the eyes and the development of ulcers. The raw or red skin under each eye may also appear due to constant pawing. This looks similar to a person developing raw skin under the eyes or nose during a cold. A cat sneezing fit can also lead to a sustained glaze over your cat’s eyes.
  • Continual nasal discharge that is green or yellow. While not always the case, colored discharge may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • A lack of energy that morphs into chronic fatigue. This may also lead to a period of depression where your cat refuses to be active. This is often seen when sneezing, and sickness overwhelms an animal, so its basic routines are fundamentally disrupted. Your cat sneezing and not eating could be due to a combination of lethargy and depression.
  • Fever. If your cat is hot to the touch, especially around the ears, this could be a symptom of fever. It is common for bacterial and viral infections to cause a fever once an illness sets in.
  • Drooling. This can become an issue when nasal passages become blocked. Although cats do not typically keep their mouths open (like dogs), an inability to breathe may cause your pet to take in air through an open mouth. This can lead to drooling.
  • Losing weight. When lethargy and lack of appetite set in, your cat may start to lose weight. It is a sign that a moderate-to-severe illness is behind your cat is wheezing and sneezing.
  • Bacterial and viral infections. Upper respiratory concerns can lead to enlarged lymph nodes. Monitor your cat for swelling around the face, neck, and chest areas.
  • Difficulty breathing. Cats that become sick often find it hard to breathe when in a relaxed setting. Wheezing accompanied by a “rattle” is not uncommon.
  • The condition of fur. A lack of energy causes a cat to neglect its grooming, so poor coat condition can be a sign that something is wrong. This is true if your cat is ordinarily vibrant, healthy, and well-groomed.
  • Blockage in nasal passages coupled with chronic mucus buildup. A cat’s nasal passages are quite small. Similar to wheezing and keeping an open mouth, your cat may reach a level of sickness where it is literally gasping for air.
  • Bacterial and viral infections can lead to diarrhea. While various respiratory complaints can be common, diarrhea may point to a more critical health concern. Pay close attention to your cat’s eliminations. by examining the contents of its litter tray, during sickness for visible clues.

Why is My Cat Sneezing a Lot?

Although the causes of frequent sneezing are often harmless, some issues can be more concerning. If symptoms persist for days or weeks, you should consult your vet.

1) Normal Irritants (dusty environments)

Not to be confused with allergies, some rooms may cause a slight “tickle” in your cat’s sinuses that lead to sneezing. If your cat returns to the same unaltered environment, the sneezing fits will return.

sneezing cat remedy

Potential reasons for irritation may include…

  • Dust
  • Lit candles
  • Air cleaners and cleaning agents
  • Strong litter
  • Stagnant air due to a lack of proper air flow
  • Nail polish
  • Paint

The complaint that “my indoor cat keeps sneezing” is quite common. The culprit could well be something that you are not able to detect. The pleasant fragrance of your home that you enjoy could be due to one of the chemicals that is causing your cat to sneeze all the time.

2) Allergic Reactions

Many issues arise from common irritants, cats with an allergy tend to display other symptoms: coughing, wheezing, swollen paws, diarrhea, etc. These symptoms are the hallmark of something more severe than a standard irritant.

Often a byproduct of both indoor and outdoor sources, pollen, mold, perfume, and cigarette smoke can cause your cat to start sneezing continually.

  • Cats that have flat faces or shorter muzzles are more likely to experience allergy-related issues. Smaller nasal cavities are naturally less tolerant of irritants and allergy-causing substances. Some cats are predisposed to breathing and sneezing issues from birth.

3) Respiratory Infections

If an illness is responsible for your cat’s sneezing, it is most likely to be due to an upper respiratory infection. Infections can be caused by bacterial, fungal, and viral elements.

Often referred to as feline colds, upper respiratory infections are not unlike human colds. More often seen in kittens and senior cats, many respiratory issues can be prevented with early vaccinations.

Let’s look at the primary and secondary infections that can be due to upper respiratory issues:

Feline Herpes Virus (Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus)

This is the result cats coming into direct contact with infected felines through the exchange of viral particles. Saliva and discharges from the eyes and nose are often the reason for transmission.

Although not contagious to humans, the feline herpes virus is common. Frequent sneezing and coughing are often the primary symptoms of this condition.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Often causing either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, feline infectious peritonitis can be tough to diagnose during the earliest of stages. As the infection progresses, more symptoms will emerge.

Feline Calicivirus

Highly contagious between cats, feline calicivirus can cause severe mouth ulcers to form while also affecting the respiratory system. In extreme cases, cats may fall victim to pneumonia if proper diagnosis and treatment are not received.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Slow in developing, feline immunodeficiency virus is often a secondary infection that can attack a cat’s immune system. This attack can make a cat vulnerable to many health ailments.

can cat sneezing infect humans?

4) Dental Problem

Dental disease, especially in senior cats, can cause root infections and the development of bacteria. If bacteria begin to grow within the nasal cavity, sneezing and inflammation can occur.

  • Inspect your cat’s teeth every 2-3 weeks. Look for signs of significant gum discoloration, changes in gum structure, missing teeth, and unusual swelling. Smell is also important. If your cat has foul breath, this could be a sign of bacterial growth within the nasal cavity or sinuses.

5) Nasal Disease

Inflammation of the nose and nasal passages caused by a disease can be severe. Ailments such as rhinitis and sinusitis can lead to mucus discharge and bacterial infections.

The most common causes include…

  • Fungal disease
  • Tooth decay and abscess
  • Parasites
  • Bacterial and viral infections due to an upper respiratory infection

Concerns of abnormal tissue growth, including cleft palate, may also lead to nasal disease.

Lack of immediate attention for other afflictions can be a byproduct of nasal disease. Infection can lead to disease of the nasal cavity, if not appropriately treated.

The formation of nasal polyps and foreign objects becoming trapped in the nose and nasal passages can also be of significant concern. While these issues can cause sneezing, it can also make breathing more difficult.

6) Cleft Palate

This is caused by the failure of the palate to form together (closed) during development. A cleft palate introduces a gap between the nasal passages and the mouth.

This separation can lead to a variety of issues including a runny nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, sneezing, and aspiration pneumonia.

7) Cancer

Cancer of the nose and sinuses can cause frequent sneezing. Although a rare diagnosis, this often begins with symptoms that are similar to upper respiratory ailments.

Caused by abnormal cell growth within the nasal cavity, sinuses, and surrounding tissue, nose, and nasal cancer can be treated but only if a swift diagnosed occurs before the spreading has occurred.

WagWalking.com stated that while most nose and sinus cancers are malignant, they do not spread as rapidly as other cancers.

8) Food and Water

It is not uncommon for some cats to have issues when consuming food and drink. This can lead to liquid or food particles being sucked up the nose and lodged in the nasal passages.

If your cat suddenly sneezes after drinking and eating the issue could be the result of where the food and water bowls have been placed. The deeper a cat’s head and face have to go to consume the more probable it becomes that blockages and irritations can occur.

To resolve this issue attempt to elevate your cat’s bowls to chest level. This will keep your cat’s head in more of an upright position thus preventing the “head first dive” that is common.

  • Placing the bowls on telephone books or solid standing boxes can do the trick.

9) Fur as an Irritant

Can a cat’s fur cause sudden and frequent sneezing? In the same way that loose fur can negatively impact your sinuses and nasal passages, it can do the same for your cat.

Have you ever seen your cat sleep in a tight ball, head buried into its body, and wake up sneezing? Sneezing is potentially due to exposure to its fur, especially loose fur.

Additionally, if your cat has come across an irritant or perhaps had their fur tampered with to some degree, the smell of a chemical agent can provoke sneezing.

cat sneezing and not eating

Air particles are proven triggers for sneezing. Unfortunately, the fur of many long-haired cats can act as a trap for allergens and contaminants.

This is similar to second-hand smoke absorbing into our clothing. Even when you are away from the smoker, your clothing can still carry the scent. In this example, your cat’s fur is the clothing.

  • Although cats are always grooming themselves, check your pet’s fur at least once per week. Pay close attention to texture changes and various spots that do not feel right, are thicker than other areas or smell foul. All domestic cats, but especially those that stay outside for several hours per day, can pick up various irritants that can find a home deep within your cat’s coat.

Is It Bad if a Cat Sneezes on You?

Is a cat’s sneezing contagious to humans? It’s extremely doubtful. Although cats are capable of passing on zoonotic diseases to humans, the overwhelming majority of those ailments are connected to bite wounds, scratches, and the handling of feces.

The Cornell University Feline Health Center has provided a list of common zoonotic diseases, and sneezing is not mentioned. However, you should always make it a priority to wash your hands, face, arms, and any other portion of your body that has been sneezed on immediately after the act.

Getting sneezed on by your cat is not “bad for you” per se, but it certainly isn’t a pleasant experience if your cat has been diagnosed with an upper respiratory condition.

  • Establish a healthy distance between yourself and your cat when your pet is sick. While petting is okay, try to limit holding, cuddling, crawling on your chest, etc.

What Can I Give My Cat for Sneezing?

While there is no medically verified evidence to support that giving your cat home remedies can resolve their sneezing, there are home remedies that have enjoyed anecdotal success.

These include the following:

  • Vitamin C. Bolster your cat’s immune system with 250-500 milligrams of vitamin C. When administered twice per day, vitamin gels can be given to your cat individually or mixed with food.
  • L-Lysine. The amino acid (lysine) can potentially halt the replication of a viral infection. 250-500 milligram multi-doses can ward off the spread of feline herpes.
  • Steam. Placing your cat in a steamed restroom area can expand nasal passages. Steam (not hot water) can help to break up mucus and enable your cat to breathe better.
  • Fresh food and drink. Wet food and fresh water are crucial when your cat is sneezing due to an infection. Cats can get dehydrated quickly, so it is critical that your pet has enough energy to fend off sickness.

How to Prevent Your Cat From Sneezing

  • Hoover your home regularly. The best way to prevent your cat from sneezing due to irritants and allergens within your home is to vacuum several times per week. It is often the accumulation of dust and debris that can trigger a sneezing episode. Creating a dust-free environment is highly beneficial to everyone.
  • Provide high-grade cat litter. The condition of your cat’s litter should also be improved. Litter texture is vital as some low-grade types are dustier than others. If your cat’s current litter produces a “cloud” as soon as your cat begins digging around, then you should consider purchasing a different variety. The wrong cat litter can act as an irritant in the same way that dust, smoke or a strong fragrance would. Natural clumping litter is our recommendation.

Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

Frequent sneezing that lasts more than 24 hours should be taken seriously. If your cat’s sneezing has remained and new symptoms are emerging, you should consult your veterinarian.

While most causes of frequent sneezing are not dire, delaying proper care can make minor situations worse. This is especially true if you are in the care of a kitten or senior cat. Feline’s with underdeveloped or weakened immune systems can fall victim to illness quickly.

Cats, like people, will sneeze from time to time. Sneezing that is caused by dust or a random irritant is normal. Frequent sneezing that does not seem to subside should be your call to action.