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Why Do Cats Sneeze? 6 Common Causes and When to See a Vet

ginger cat sneezing

Sneezing is as common in pets as it is in humans. But when does a simple sneeze that happens every once in a while, turn into a more significant problem? Sneezing is a part of life, and it is a way for our body to expel different types of irritants. While it isn’t something that most cat owners are concerned about, there could be many different problems taking place inside your cat.

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What Causes Cats to Sneeze?

Diagnosing a cat sneezing issue is difficult to diagnose. First, your vet has to confirm that they are actually sneezing instead of coughing, hiccupping, gagging, or wheezing. Taking a quick video to show your vet is usually the easiest way for them to diagnose it. Second, there could be a plethora of causes that are leading to this issue. From minor inconveniences to severe diseases, it takes many tests and some trial-and-error to figure out the root cause. Here are some of the possible reasons why your cat has started sneezing:

1. A Simple Tickle

We all get a slight itch in our noses from time to time. The same thing can happen to cats. A sneeze once every few months or so is likely something you don’t need to be concerned about. Sneezing is something that many species do. It is only when it becomes more frequent that it starts to be concerning.

tabby cat sneezing
Image Credit: Jupiter_79, Pixabay

2. Environmental Issues

Cats may have cute, tiny noses, but that doesn’t stop things from entering their nasal passages. Sneezing could be caused by an irritant found in their environment.

Irritants and allergens include:
  • Dust
  • Litter box dust
  • Pollen
  • Perfume
  • Candles
  • Smoke
  • Mold
  • Cleaning Products

Check the surrounding area where your cat sneezes and rule out anything that could be causing the reaction. Is a candle or incense lit? Have you switched to a new type of litter? If some kind of itching accompanies the sneezing, it is likely that your cat is allergic to something.


3. Dental Disease

What would sneezing have to do with dental disease? The dental roots in a cat’s mouth are incredibly close to their nasal passaged. If their teeth become infected or inflamed, the nose is one of the first places that would get irritated. Dental disease can be a painful condition, and you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect that this is the issue.

Related Read: 6 Best Cat Foods for Older Cats with Bad Teeth


4. Infections

If your cat is repeatedly sneezing, it is likely that they could have some sort of infection. Many different types could be causing the issue.

  • Feline Herpes: The Feline Herpes Virus is contagious between cats and usually spreads when one cat comes in contact from discharge through another cat’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Stress usually causes a flare-up and leads to transmission. Other symptoms of the herpes virus include eye ulcers, drooling, congestion, and loss of appetite.
  • Upper Respiratory Infection (URI):URI is similar to a cold in humans and is contagious among cats, especially when they are in stressful environments. Other URI symptoms include eye and nose discharge, coughing, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
  • Feline Calicivirus Infection: Feline Calicivirus causes oral disease and URIs that affect a cat’s respiratory tract. Conjunctivitis, discharge, and congestion are all symptoms of this infection.

5. Inflammation

There are a couple of different inflammatory conditions that are usually caused by a URI. These conditions inflame the mucous membranes in the nose and cause frequent sneezing and nose and eye discharge. If your cat is breathing from their mouth, then it is a good sign that they have inflammation.


6. Nasal Blockage

It’s possible that a small piece of dirt or cat litter made its way into your cat’s small nasal passages and is causing irritation. Sneezing is the easiest way for cats to dislodge the particle. However, if it remains stuck, it could lead to nasal infections.

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When to See a Veterinarian About Sneezing

Sneezing here and there isn’t a major cause for concern. If the sneezing becomes more frequent and you notice other symptoms of behavioral changes, it is best to err on the side of caution and take your cat for a visit to the vet.

Make an appointment if the sneezing is paired with any of these other issues:
  • Yellow or green nasal discharge
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Poor Coat Conditions

Regardless, always trust your gut. A trip to the vet isn’t ever going to do more harm than good. The vet will perform a physical exam and check out their nose, mouth, and eyes, and order tests if necessary.

You might also be interested in: Senior Cat Care

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Final Thoughts

Don’t be too concerned if your cat has started sneezing. Start by ruling out environmental factors first and take a look at your cat to make sure there is nothing lodged in their nose. Monitor their behavior over the next few days and make notes of anything unusual. The issue will resolve itself more often than not, and they will be back to living their normal, healthy lives.


Featured Image Credit: Ihtar, Pixabay

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