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Why Does My Cat Have a Stuffy Nose? 10 Vet Reviewed Causes & Care Tips

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

cat lying on the floor

Vet approved

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Having a stuffy nose can be a real pain, but it can be much worse when your favorite cat has a stuffy nose. When this is caused by inflammation of the mucus membranes of the nose, it is called feline rhinitis. Unfortunately, a stuffed-up nose takes away your cat’s ability to smell, at least short-term, making it difficult for your kitty to sleep, breathe, eat, and play.

If your cat is suffering because their nose is congested, inflamed, and snotty, we’ve compiled 10 likely reasons why they have a stuffy nose. Read on to discover why your cat’s nose is stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey and how to help them return to normal.

Click below to jump ahead:

The 10 Reasons Why Your Cat Has a Stuffy Nose

1. Your Cat Is Suffering From a Viral Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI)

This is the most common reason for stuffy noses in cats. In most cases, acute feline rhinitis is caused by either the feline calicivirus or the feline herpes virus, both of which are highly contagious. When your cat has a URI, it will appear to be incredibly stuffed up and have trouble breathing, smelling, eating, and sleeping.

Typically, the infection can last from around one week to several, depending on the infection and how quickly the treatment starts. Your cat can become a chronic carrier, which will cause it to suffer the condition repeatedly in the future and possibly pass the virus to other cats. Veterinary attention and routine vaccinations are recommended to prevent this from happening and help your cat recover 100% from their URI.

vet listening to scottish cat's heartbeat using stethoscope
Image Credit: smile23, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat’s Stuffy Nose Is Idiopathic

The Latin term ” idiopathic ” describes a health condition or disease with no identifiable cause. Your vet will suspect this problem when others have been ruled out. Some cats, unfortunately, suffer from a stuffy nose regularly. Veterinarians believe that certain cats are predisposed to stuffy noses and have them occasionally because of permanent changes in their nasal passages, possibly from a bacterial or viral affection they had in the past.

3. Your Cat Has a Bacterial Infection

Several types of bacteria can cause your cat to have a stuffy nose. The three most common types include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Mycoplasma felis, and Chlamydophila felis. Another condition or disease usually causes bacterial infections in your cat’s body, which allows the bacteria to thrive. Those can include nasal polyps, a foreign object stuck in their nose, or an upper respiratory infection (URI). You must have the condition correctly diagnosed and treated so your cat can recover as quickly as possible.

sick cat
Image Credit: Ro_ksy, Shutterstock

4. Something Is Stuck in Your Cat’s Nose

Cats, as we all know, are very curious creatures and will sniff at just about anything they find interesting. Unfortunately, this activity exposes your cat’s nose to glass clippings, seeds, burrs, awns, and more. When those materials get stuck, they cause an inflammatory reaction in your cat’s nose as their body tries to deal with them, which can cause the same symptoms as a stuffy nose.

As you might Imagine, this situation is more common in outdoor cats than indoor cats but isn’t exclusive to outdoor cats. There’s plenty of stuff in your home that can cause an obstruction. Don’t attempt to flush your cat’s nose out at home. A trip to your veterinarian is necessary if you suspect your cat may have inhaled a foreign body.

5. Your Cat Has Tooth Root Disease

Like humans, cats can have health issues with their teeth, mouth, and gums, which are called dental and periodontal diseases. If your cat is suffering from a tooth root abscess, it’s critical that you get them examined by your local veterinarian as soon as possible. The disease is painful and can lead to serious consequences if left untreated. Typically, your cat will have discharge only from one nostril and will show other signs of dental disease such as drooling, pawing at their mouth, and reduced appetite. Having your cat’s teeth and gums checked and cleaned periodically is a very good idea.

Veterinarian examining teeth of a persian cat
Image Credit: didesign021, Shutterstock

6. Nasal Cancer Is Causing your Cat’s Stuffy Nose

Although nasal cancer sounds bad, you’ll be happy to know that less than 1% of all cat tumors are located in their nose. The most common types are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), carcinoma, and lymphoma.

If your cat has nasal cancer, not only will it appear to have a stuffed nose, but the discharge may appear bloody and pus-like. Your cat may sneeze and cough repetitively, have noisy breathing due to an obstruction of their airflow, and will usually experience significant weight loss. The treatment will depend on the type of nasal cancer and should be started as soon as possible.

7. Your Cat Has Inflammatory Polyps in Their Nose

Although they might seem similar to a tumor caused by cancer, inflammatory polyps are benign rather than malignant. That’s good news because it means that inflammatory polyps rarely result in a cat’s death, although they tend to recur repeatedly in some cats. Although the cause of inflammatory polyps isn’t known to veterinarians, younger cats suffer more than older cats.

These polyps can cause a discharge in your cat’s nostrils, sneezing, congestion, and other signs that appear to be a stuffy nose. The typical treatment for polyps is removal by a veterinarian. However, if they regrow, some cats may need more invasive surgery to remove nasal polyps permanently.

cat coughing
Image Credit: Ada K, Pixabay

8. Your Cat Has a Fungal Infection

Cats are exposed to various fungi. One of the most common, Cryptococcus, can cause an infection that makes your cat’s face swell and causes blood-streaked pus to be discharged from their nose. If your cat has a fungal infection causing their stuffy nose, your veterinarian will treat it with antifungal medications.

Luckily, severe fungal infections in cats are rare.

9. Your Cat Has Seasonal Allergies

Just like humans, your cat may have a runny nose because they are suffering from allergies. Cats can have seasonal allergies due to tree pollen, mold, and certain types of grasses, and can have environmental year-round allergies due to mold and dust mites. When your cat has allergies, their delicate nasal passages get inflamed, causing sneezing, wheezing, and coughing.

You might also notice that your cat’s eyes are watering much more than usual, or they are blinking excessively or pawing at their reddened eyes. If your favorite feline has any type of allergies, your veterinarian will try to detect the offending substance in case it can be avoided and will treat your cat’s allergy signs when these are present. Your vet will prescribe medication to reduce the allergy signs.

ginger cat with swollen and wounded nose
Image Credit: Andi111, Shutterstock

10. Your Cat Has Parasites

One of the worst stuffy nose causes in cats is parasites which, thankfully, is very uncommon. Outdoor cats are affected by parasites much more often than indoor cats. Botfly eggs can be located on your property or the surrounding area near the nests and burrows of rodents or rabbits. When the eggs hatch, the resultant larvae will enter your cat’s body through their nose or mouth and cause nasty problems for your poor kitty, including pus and bleeding that cause your cat to paw at their face incessantly.

If parasites are causing your cat’s stuffy nose, a trip to your veterinarian will be necessary to get rid of them. You might also consider calling an exterminator to eliminate the pests in your yard causing the problem.

What Are the Signs of Feline Rhinitis?

All ten of the conditions we’ve looked at today can cause your cat to have a stuffy nose. Many signs appear similar but are caused by different conditions and problems that must be discovered and treated, usually by a vet.

The signs of feline rhinitis include the following:
  • Incessant sneezing and coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Your cat sounds like it’s wheezing
  • A loss of appetite
  • Your cat’s eyes will be red and watery
  • Some discharge coming out of their nostrils, including blood-streaked pus and plenty of snot
  • Your cat will incessantly paw at their face, eyes, and nose
  • Your cat will breathe through their mouth

How to Help Your Cat When Their Nose Is Stuffed

Although most of the problems that can cause your cat to have a stuffy nose demand treatment from a veterinarian, there are some things you can do at home to help your kitty feel better. For example, increasing the humidity in your house can be very helpful when your cat’s nose is stuffy, which can be accomplished with a humidifier or a steam bath (keeping your cat inside the bathroom while you are having a shower).

The extra moisture keeps their nasal passages from becoming dry and reduces coughing and hacking. You can also use a warm damp cloth to gently wipe your cat’s nose and face, making them feel much better. You can do the same to help your cat’s watery, bloodshot eyes by gently using gauze pads to apply a saline solution to them.


Several conditions will cause your cat to suffer from a stuffy nose. Thankfully, most are treatable, and your cat will return to normal in several days. Others, however, including nasal polyps, fungal infections, and nasal cancer, are more severe and require more complex treatment. The good news is that most of the worst causes of a stuffy nose in cats are relatively uncommon.

If your cat is suffering from a severely stuffed nose and you’re not sure what to do, your best choice is to contact your trusted local vet and ask them for their help and advice.

Featured Image Credit: Jumpstory

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