Why Do Cats Sneeze? Common Causes of Cat Sneezing Revealed

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Why Do Cats Sneeze

Cats sure look cute and funny when they sneeze. If you’re a fur parent with a sneezing cat, you’re probably wondering – Why do cats sneeze?

Is it just a simple nose tickle, or is it a sign that your feline friend is coming down with the cat flu? If your cat is sneezing, should you worry?

As pet owners who are concerned about their cat’s health, one must know when sneezing is just a cute act you can laugh at and forget about or if it’s already something that requires veterinary care.

The truth is, although you can consider cat sneezing normal, there are plenty of reasons why your cat might be sneezing. And you know what? We’re here to give you a crash course on what cat sneezing is all about.

So expect to discover not just the whys behind your cat’s sneezing but also the what's, whatnots, and more. Feline Living, after all, takes pleasure in uncovering all things related to cats, cat sneezing included.

Difference Between Regular Cat Sneeze & Reverse Sneeze

Hearing your cat sneeze from time to time is pretty normal. A protective reflex, sneezing is the body’s response to irritants for humans. The same applies to cats. 

A cat will also involuntarily expel air through its nose and mouth whenever an irritant enters its nasal passages. The sound they make is a bit similar to the sound humans make when sneezing.

However, such a thing as reverse sneezing also exists. This often happens in dogs and is rarely displayed by cats. 

Compared to regular sneezes wherein the air is expelled forcefully, reverse sneezes are characterized by a rapid inhalation of air into the windpipe.

And unlike sneezes that often sound cute, the sound of reverse sneezes is usually worrisome. It’s characterized by a honking, snorting, or a choking-like sound.  

Why Do Cats Sneeze? 

From hereon, we will be focusing on the regular type of sneezing in cats. And, as mentioned, cat sneezing can be caused by various reasons – from something as simple as a nose tickle to something complicated like an underlying disease.

Occasional Sneezing In Cats & Its Common Causes

Similar to humans, that occasional sneeze experienced by your cats can be triggered by several environmental irritants. Here are the most common:

  • Miniscule objects like grass, lint, or hair
  • Air-borne particles including dust, dirt, molds, cat litter, and pollen
  • Strong odors such as the scent of candles, cigarette smoke, and perfume
  • Chemical irritants that often emit a noxious smell like cleaning solutions and pest sprays
Why Do Cats Sneeze? Common Causes of Cat Sneezing Revealed 1

Possible Causes Of Frequent Sneezing In Cats

If your cat sneezes occasionally without exhibiting other symptoms, then more often than not, you’re cat is feeling A-okay. However, it’s a different story if sneezing happens too often.

Consider these potential reasons behind your cat’s sneezing if your cat is sneezing way too much:


In the human world, it’s pretty common for us to develop allergic rhinitis. Also known as hay fever, inhalation of allergens like pollen, dust, and molds may trigger an allergic reaction, sneezing included.

Cats, on the other hand, rarely experiences this. Still, it can happen. Note, however, that allergies in cats are often accompanied by skin irritation – think itchy skin or lesions and hair loss. Other symptoms also include watery eyes and coughing.

Nasal Blockage

There are times that a single sneeze isn’t enough to dislodge inhaled irritants trapped in your cat’s nose or nasal passage.

If this happens, this may trigger frequent bouts of sneezing until that foreign body that’s trapped in their nasal passages is removed. Now, if that object remains stuck in your cat’s nose, you can expect this to bring about a nasal infection.

Intranasal Vaccines

Vaccines for cats are often administered by injection. However, there are some, in the form of sprays or drops, that are administered through your cat’s nose. These types are known as intranasal vaccines. 

When your cat gets these types of vaccines, you can expect your cat to develop common cold-like symptoms like sneezing. Other symptoms, which can last for a few days, also include a runny nose and coughing. 

Dental Disease

When it comes to your cat’s anatomy, you’ll see that its dental roots just sit next to its nasal passages. As such, a dental disease like a tooth infection can cause the bacteria to seep through your cat’s sinuses and cause sneezing.

Take note that dental diseases are often painful. So, if you think your cat has one, it’s high time for you to bring your cat to the vet.

Inflammation Of Nasal Cavity & Sinuses

Cat sneezing can also be triggered by inflamed nasal and sinus issues. Rhinitis and sinusitis are two inflammation conditions that are considered relatively common in cats. Often, these two co-occur. When this happens, the condition is collectively known as rhinosinusitis.

Rhinitis, aka “stuffy nose,” refers to the inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose. Sinusitis, on the one hand, is the inflammation of the sinuses. 

Both can happen seasonally due to allergies (which is rare). But often, these are caused by a viral infection.

The feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus are the usual culprits behind this condition. Other times, it can also be caused by fungal infections and bacterial infections. 

Apart from sneezing, cats with inflamed nasal passages or sinuses will also display other symptoms such as :

  • Clear to mucus-like nasal discharge
  • Face pawing
  • Snoring
  • Loss of appetite
  • Labored breathing or open-mouth breathing
  • Reverse sneezing

NOTE: If the lining in your cat’s nasal passages is permanently damaged, your cat may experience a condition known as chronic rhinitis. This is characterized by frequent or intermittent sneezing. 

Nasal flush is a standard medical treatment used to force out blockages in cats with chronic rhinitis. Cats are sedated during this procedure, so only a licensed vet can administer this.

Why Do Cats Sneeze? Common Causes of Cat Sneezing Revealed 2

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

Cats can catch colds, and they can also come down with cat flu. So, if your cat sneezes frequently (think hours or days) and its sneezing is accompanied by mild symptoms (like nasal discharge or coughing) to more severe symptoms (such as fever), your cat may be suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

Kittens (especially those acquired from animal shelters), senior, unvaccinated, and immunosuppressed cats have a higher risk of contracting this respiratory disease. 

Just like rhinitis and sinusitis, upper respiratory infections are often viral in nature. But, it is also possible for this to be caused by fungal or bacterial infection.

Common Causes Of Upper Respiratory Infection

Viral respiratory infections are frequently caused by these two:

Feline calicivirus. Besides upper respiratory infections, this highly contagious virus can also bring about oral diseases in both exotic and domestic cats. This virus is passed onto other cats through bodily secretions such as saliva.

If your cat’s symptoms also include nasal congestion, nasal and eye discharge, and mouth ulcers (which can affect your cat’s respiratory tract), as well as fever and lethargy, take this as a sign that your cat is infected. 

Feline herpesvirus, aka “feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR).” Another highly transmissible virus, the feline herpes virus is also spread to other cats through direct contact. Apart from upper respiratory infections, this virus is also a common cause of conjunctivitis and keratitis. 

Other Possible Causes Of URI

Apart from the two viruses mentioned above, it’s also possible for your cat to acquire URI and other infectious diseases from different viruses. Of course, we can’t rule out fungal and bacterial infections.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Also known as cat HIV or AIDS, healthy cats who contract this serious virus may not show any noticeable signs for years. It moves slowly in the body and targets the white blood cells, weakening the cat’s immune system. Sneezing is among its early symptoms.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) 

Cats who contract FeLV often show the same symptoms as cats with the feline immunodeficiency virus. Most likely, it’s because both types of viruses weaken the cat’s immune system.

However, FeLV is a common cause of lymphoma and anemia. It is also among the leading cause of mortality in cats.

Chronic Upper Respiratory Conditions

When cats exhibit upper respiratory tract infection symptoms (think sneezing and eye discharge) for weeks or even months, your cat may be suffering from a chronic respiratory infection. 

Similar to URI, this can be caused by viral, fungal, or bacterial infection. Note, however, that a cat’s susceptibility to this disease increases after recovering from severe cases of viral infection in the past. They also risk reactivating the virus when under stress or when their immune system is down.  

Why Do Cats Sneeze? Common Causes of Cat Sneezing Revealed 3

What To Do When Your Cat Is Sneezing

Yes, sneezing in cats is pretty common. But, as mentioned, some types of sneezes shouldn’t be brushed aside.

If your cat is sneezing, one thing you can do is to look for patterns. Check if your cat sneezes whenever you clean up her litter box or light up some incense or candles in the room. By observing those little details, you’ll soon discover what’s causing your cat’s sniffles.

On the other hand, if your cat’s sneezing happens frequently or if other symptoms accompany it, contacting your vet is your best course of action. 

Most likely, your vet will conduct urine and blood tests to detect viruses. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medications. 

Final Thoughts

Those sniffles may look cute, but when it’s already disrupting your cat’s quality of life – that’s reason enough to worry. Unfortunately, hugs and kisses don’t always work. So, if you want to keep your cat protected, get your cat vaccinated. 

True, infectious diseases can be caused by other stuff like bacteria and fungi. Still, we can’t deny how helpful it is to have that added protection. 

When should I worry about my cat sneezing?

If your cat sneezes once or twice and then goes about her routine as normal, there is likely no cause for concern. However, you should keep an eye on her just to be sure the sneezing doesn't continue. Some cats may also “reverse sneeze,” which sounds a bit like a honking noise and looks like a sneeze or a coughing fit.

How do you treat a sneezing cat?

They may be signs of an illness or condition that needs veterinary care. Treatment depends on the cause of the sneezing. In mild cases, the vet may suggest taking steps to simply help your cat be more comfortable — like using a humidifier. In other cases, antibiotics, antihistamines, steroids, or fluids may be needed.

Why does my cat sneeze multiple times in a row?

Inflammation might be why your cat sneezes multiple times in a row every so often. For example, some passing conditions, like allergies or bacterial infections, can contribute to inflammation. 

What home remedy can I give my cat for sneezing?

Apple Cider Vinegar – ½ tablespoon daily mixed into food or tuna juice. Vitamin C – Can be given to a cat daily, 500mg, when healthy as a preventative measure, when sick the dose should be 1000mg twice daily.

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