Cat Sneezing: Causes and Concerns

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Pass the tissues, please!

Is your cat sneezing more than usual? It's not uncommon for kitties to sneeze. However, if your cat keeps sneezing continually and/or more frequently than usual, it may be time for a checkup with your veterinarian.

Why Cats Sneeze

Oftentimes, your feline friend sneezes for many of the same reasons humans do: she gets an itch triggered by something floating in the air such as dust, cigarette smoke or even her own cat fur.

However, there can be more serious reasons why your cat keeps sneezing. The following is a list of common causes of cat sneezing:

1. Irritants

Seemingly benign irritants can trigger sneezing. For example, a strong spice with which you're cooking (pepper and cinnamon are two common ingredients with irritant properties) may irritate a kitty's sensitive nose, especially if she's checking out what you're doing in the kitchen. The same goes for household cleaning products, including those with bleach and vinegar, which can bother humans as well as animals. Also, consider essential oils; while they might smell good to you, consider your cat's acute sense of smell and how they can be very irritating to her.

Black cat sniffing bowls of spices on table.

2. Foreign Material

Curious cats will get all sorts of things stuck in their noses. For example, the grass clippings and pollen you track into the house are just two things that may get lodged in their nasal cavities. If sneezing doesn't expel the object, do not attempt to remove the material yourself. Contact your veterinarian right away and have a professional do the job.

3. Dental Disease

The two most common symptoms of cat dental disease are sneezing and nasal discharge. As the Pet Health Network notes, "infections of the feline tooth can allow bacteria to establish in the nasal sinus with resulting inflammation and sneezing." If left untreated, bacteria can travel to other parts of the body.

4. Viruses

Rabies, herpes, ringworm and toxoplasmosis are a few viruses that can cause sneezing in cats. Not all of these viruses are transferable to humans, but some — like toxoplasmosis — can be acquired by humans and are quite serious, says Animal Planet.

5. Respiratory Infection

It is rare for your cat's allergies to manifest as sneezing, vet Arnold Plotnick tells Petcha. More than likely, your cat has an upper respiratory infection. "Most cats have been exposed to the cat upper respiratory viruses as kittens, and are chronic carriers of the virus. When cats get stressed or immunosuppressed, the virus can re-emerge and cause clinical symptoms." This type of infection is transferred from cat to cat, not from human to cat.

What to Look For

In addition to monitoring any excessive sneezing, you should also pay attention to your kitty's nasal discharge. "Sneezing and nasal discharge can appear together or can occur as separate problems. They are associated with disorders of the nasal cavity, nasal sinuses, or both," explains VCA Animal Hospital. "While an occasional sneeze is perfectly normal, repeated bouts of vigorous sneezing suggests irritation of the nasal cavity." In addition to sneezing and nasal discharge, symptoms including eye discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy and coughing may indicate your kitty is suffering from an infection.

How to Help

If your cat keeps sneezing, first check for environmental causes that can be removed. For example, you can distract your kitty with cat toys while cooking, discontinue use of a bothersome cleaning product or vacuum more frequently to cut down on your home's dust bunny population.

However, if the sneezing doesn't resolve itself or your furry friend exhibits other symptoms, make an appointment with your vet right away to determine the reason. After giving her a physical once-over, the vet will probably perform a series of tests to figure out what's causing the complications.

As a pet parent, your cat's health is a number one priority, and taking her for regular vet checkups will help keep her in tip-top shape for many years to come.


Christine O'Brien

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