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Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

Cat sneezes are perfectly normal and adorable – if it happens once or twice a day. After all, they may just be clearing their respiratory tract. However, sneezes can often be mistaken for other “normal” cat sounds like coughing, gagging and hiccuping. You may have even heard your cat “reverse sneeze,” which sounds like a honking noise or a coughing fit. While alarming, these noises are not out of the ordinary if it happens once a day. But if your feline friend frequently sneezes multiple times in a row, or is sneezing more than two to three times a day, you may need to pay closer attention.

5 Reasons Your Cat Is Sneezing

Rajwinder Kaursandhu / CC-BY-SA-4.0

Below are some of the potential underlying causes for cat sneezes:

1. Bacterial and Viral Respiratory Infections

Your cat can have an upper respiratory infection (URI), brought on by allergies or a cold/flu. The following pathogens can cause sneezing:

  • Feline Herpesvirus type-1 (FVR)
  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila Felis
  • Mycoplasma, acholeplasma, and t-mycoplasma or ureaplasma

While far less common, fungal infections can also affect your cat. The most common fungus is called Cryptococcus.

2. Foreign Material

Cats can inhale small pieces of grass or other debris that can then get stuck in their nasal passages. Sometimes, cats can’t pass the foreign object through sneezing alone. If this is the case, they may need to undergo a nasal flush or go under anesthesia to remove the irritant.

3. Dental Disease

Because the roots of your cat’s upper teeth are next to the nasal passages, dental disease can cause irritation among the nerves in that area. Inflamed gums, infected teeth, or other such dental disease can make your cat sneeze.

4. Inflammation and Irritation

Inflammation within your cat’s nasal cavity may be another cause of sneezing, but it’s difficult to pinpoint this diagnosis unless your cat goes under anesthesia. Sometimes, irritants in the air like dust or hair particles, cooking spices and cleaning chemicals can also cause sneezing.

5. Neoplasia (Tumors)

Tumors can grow on the inside of cats’ noses, causing obstructed breathing and inflammation. Your cat will likely need to go under anesthesia to get this diagnosed, as it can only be detected through a rhinoscopy (the insertion of a fiberoptic scope to inspect the nasal cavity) and a biopsy.

When Is it Time to See a Vet About Cat Sneezes?

Since many of these conditions are uncomfortable — even painful — for your cat, it’s never a bad idea to take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice a problem, even if sneezing is the only noticeable symptom. Other symptoms to look out for in conjunction with sneezing include:

  • Loss of appetite and/or dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Eye discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal discharge and congestion
  • Worsening of symptoms
  • Symptoms persisting for a few days

If your cat is experiencing any of the symptoms above, or if you suspect they have a URI, or if you are unsure of what to do, schedule an appointment now with our team of dedicated veterinary professionals. We’re here to help put your mind at ease and to give your cat the best care possible.

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