Sneezing in Cats: Causes and Symptoms

An occasional sneeze from a cat is normal and nothing to worry about. Humans, sometimes we sneeze because we get irritants in our nasal passages. A sneeze is a quick and explosive release of air. It comes out of both the mouth and the nose. Sometimes excitement can bring this on. In cats sneezes can be brought on by both movement and excitement.

If sneezing does not go away or lasts longer than you expect, particularly if combined with other negative symptoms, then you should take your cat to the vet for a complete examination.

Can a cat get a cold?

If you are worried that you can give your cat your cold, don’t worry! The virus that causes colds in humans are generally species-specific. Only in very rare cases will your cat catch your cold.

That being said, several feline viruses that resemble colds in humans. Feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus and even some bacteria closely resemble a human cold.

Upper respiratory infections can occur in kittens and cats who are not correctly vaccinated and have come into contact with other cats who are ill.
Cat colds are normally harmless. You should see the symptoms clear up within 10 days. If you do not start to see an improvement within 4-5 days, you should take your cat to the vet. A cold left untreated can turn into pneumonia.

Symptoms of colds in cats:

Discharge from eyes or nose. This can be either watery or thick. It can be clear, white, green or yellow.

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Third eyelid raised
  • Excessive swallowing

So, why does a cat sneeze?

Infection
One of the main causes for sneezing continuously is infection. This may be an upper respiratory infection. Cats who have spent time in a cattery or animal shelter often sneeze because of this. Your vet will then take a swab from the mouth, nose and throat to confirm the infection and then treat it.

Irritants
Another reason for cats sneezing is inhaled irritants or allergens. If the sneezing is at a certain time each day, then this may be the cause, and you will soon be able to pinpoint what exactly is making your cat sneeze. If you have started to use a different cleaning agent and it coincides with your cat sneezing, stop using it for at least two weeks and see if the sneezing stops.

 

Chemical irritants
These can be anything from tobacco smoke to perfume and cleaning agents that are used around the house. Often a cat will have a reaction to a certain perfume you use, and be fine with another type of perfume. Sometimes spray perfumes will make a cat sneeze while other types do not.

Foreign bodies stuck up the nasal passage such as grass or seeds
Sneezing is the first way the body will try to rid itself of the irritant.

Dental disease, particularly if the root is infected
This allows bacteria to become established and the result is inflammation and sneezing.

Vaccines administered up the nostrils
This may continue for several days after your kitty has had the vaccine, but will pass on its own, needing no further treatment.

Younger cats are more prone to upper respiratory infections. The good news is that many of these infections can be prevented by giving vaccinations at an early age.

What to do

It is a good idea to make sure that your cat has regular vaccinations against feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. This will protect your cat against infection from stray cats that may visit.

If the sneezing is accompanied by a discharge of either blood or mucus, or there’s coughing, then you should take him to the vet right away. Unusual fatigue or trouble breathing are all reasons to see your vet.

What about runny noses?

Most cats don’t have a nasal discharge. If a cat is infected with FHV-1 they may have a discharge which is either clear or has a black color to it.

Typically a runny nose is caused by an upper respiratory disease. Even after an acute viral infection, many cats remain chronically infected and have a runny nose for some time.

Less common are nasal tumors, although they do occur. Objects stuck up a nasal passage or abscesses on a tooth will all cause a runny nose. In this instance, there may only be a discharge from one nostril instead of from both sides. One side of your feline’s face may also be swollen.

Yellow or green discharge is due to the presence of white blood cells combined with dead tissue. This color discharge normally means there is a secondary bacterial infection along with chronic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose).

There are several reasons why your cat has a runny nose.

Allergies

Strange as it may seem, cats have allergies, just like humans. Typically a cat with an allergy will have a very clear discharge. Your kitty’s sneezing will be combined seasonally and often due to an irritant.

Infections

Often a runny nose means an infection of some sort. Most of these infections are viral such as herpes and calicivirus, causing a runny nose. Sometimes the cause is bacterial or fungal, both of which generates nasal discharge.

Dental issues

An abscess on a tooth produces a discharge, affecting the sinuses above the infected tooth. Sometimes these remains are a pink color or even bloody.

Tumors or growths

Sometimes a cat can develop tumors and if one is growing in the nasal passage it will cause a discharge. Sometimes this will be bloody, others may not be.

How will a runny nose be diagnosed?

Your vet will want to see your cat as soon as possible. He will determine whether it is a viral infection and take a swab to test.

Often the diagnosis will come from information that you provide such as the history of your cat, where he likes to hang out, and where he has come from. Adopted cats from shelters are often candidates for runny noses.

Stress in the household, such as a death or divorce may also affect a cat and cause a runny nose.

Treating a runny nose

Typically a runny nose is treated with an antibiotic or antiviral medication. In ongoing cases, there may be a prescription of anti-inflammatory steroids to improve the condition.

If there is no response to an antibiotic, your vet may want to check further for polyps. In this instance, he will anesthetize the cat while he carries out an examination. This may include x-rays, a CT scan or rhinoscopy. This will indicate any tumors or root abscesses.

Care for a cat with a cold

  • Keep eyes and nose free from mucus. To do this use a soft cloth or paper towel. Moisten with warm water and gently wipe the discharge away.
  • Encourage eating by offering warm meat-based baby food or canned cat food.
  • Give plenty of fresh water as often as you can.
  • Keep your cat warm and comfortable. Add another cover to their bed so that it is snuggly and cozy.
  • Remember that your cat may also have a sore throat, so make sure all the food you offer is easy to swallow.
  • Never give your cat human medication. What works for humans will very likely harm your cat. Only give your pet what the vet has prescribed.
  • See the vet if symptoms get worse or if your cat starts to vomit. Unless you see an improvement within a few days, you should consult your vet.
  • Above all, keep other cats away and it is possible for your cat to pass his cold on to other cats.

Wrap Up

No pet owner likes the thought of their cat being in pain, even if it is just a cold or a runny nose. If you are in any doubt about the severity of the sneezing or a runny nose, you should take your cat to the vet right away.
With a few simple precautions and gentle care during their illness, you will soon have your furry friend back to normal again.

About the Author
Hello, my name is Valerie and I own a Clumberdoodle named Bentley. In my spare time, I write for OfficiallyPets. I love all animals and cats are one of my favorites. I had several growing up and am good friends with my neighbor’s cat. Recently I noticed that her cat was sneezing more than usual. I decided to do some research on why cats sneeze and have runny noses, and hope you found this article interesting!

 

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