Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

Sneezing is a normal body's reaction to irritants trapped in the nasal passages. When your cat randomly sneezes, she is probably just cleaning her nose and mouth from these irritating particles. But when is sneezing a sign of an illness? Discover more in the article.

Sneezing is often a very normal body’s reaction to irritants found in air. Occasional sneezing is nothing to be worried about. You know that feeling when you feel relieved after a good sneeze? The same is true for our feline friends. Cats sneeze in order to clear their nasal passages from dust or other irritating particles. And sometimes, the cause of your cat’s sneezing is just that – her little nose wants to be clear from irritants. As simple as that!
But, at times, sneezing can indicate a problem that might need to be treated. If your kitten sneezes several times in a row, or she simply sneezes frequently throughout the day, you will have to examine what’s causing it. The problem could lie in multiple conditions and circumstances. Usually, when there’s a bigger problem than a simple nasal cleaning, other symptoms will follow the sneezing and you will have more hints that your cat might not be feeling her best.
Let’s discover what sneezing is, what are the irritants that cause it and when sneezing can mean that your cat might be sick.

Why Cats Sneeze?

As we mentioned, sneezing is a normal body mechanism. Cats sneeze because of two main reasons: their nasal passages got irritated or they are sick. Pretty similar to us, right?
A simple tickle, a bit of dust or some irritant can cause this reflexive reaction of the body. This is what most sneezing is all about. That’s really nothing more serious than when your cat scratches an itch.
Before exploring medical conditions that are causing a repetitive or a frequent sneeze, let’s list out the irritants that could be causing your cat to sneeze even when being completely healthy.
Most common sneezing culprits:

  • Dust
  • Perfumes
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pest sprays
  • Cat litter
  • Cleaning agents
  • Candles
  • Pollen
  • Mold

If the sneezing occurs only occasionally, or when there’s a significant amount of these irritants in your cat’s environment, sneezing is a completely normal reaction.
But, if you notice that your cat is reacting each time even a small amount of these sneezing culprits is around and the sneezing is accompanied with watery eyes and a running nose, it probably means your cat is allergic to some of these irritants. In this case, you will have to find ways of managing your cat’s allergies properly.
What we just explained might give you an answer to a very common question among cat owners:
Why Has My Indoor Cat Started Sneezing?
It could simply be the presence of irritating particles in the air, an allergy or, when accompanied with other symptoms, a medical condition that calls for the vet.
What if your cat’s sneezing is repetitive and frequent? Let’s learn how to tell if the sneezing is indicating something else and explore more about the most common causes other than allergies.

When Sneezing Is Not Only Sneezing

When the sneezing gets these properties, it is usually a sign that your kitten is not only trying to clean her respiratory passages with the explosive burst of air but might actually have a health condition that needs to be treated.

  • Repetitive
  • Frequent
  • Has A Sudden Onset
  • Persistent
  • Is Accompanied With Other Symptoms

If your cat’s sneezing sounds like what we just mentioned above, then you will have to explore the reason behind it. Sneezing that is too frequent can be very exhausting and can easily drain your cat’s energy. So, if the sneezes don’t disappear after several days, look for other symptoms your cat might have.
To get the full diagnosis you might, however, need the help of your vet. Nonetheless, understanding what is causing your cat to feel sick will help you to cure her in the best of the ways.

What Are The Main Causes Of Sneezing In Cats?

When you sneeze, you probably know if the sneeze was just a reflexive reaction to dust, or if you caught a cold or a respiratory infection. And how do you know it? Thanks to other symptoms that clearly indicate that something is wrong.
The same is true for felines.
So, the most common reasons of “bad” sneezing are:

  • Viral and Bacterial infections of Upper Respiratory Tract
  • Dental problems
  • Intranasal vaccines

Viral and Bacterial infections are the most common causes of sneezing in cats. They are what we often call a “cold”. We will get back to it and describe more profoundly what are the viruses and bacteria that cause it. We’ll also answer most common questions concerning colds in cats and tell you what to do so your feline friend recovers in the fastest way.
Before that, let’s describe briefly what are the other two reasons that could be causing all that sneezing and how to recognize it.

3. Intranasal vaccines

Intranasal vaccines have recently found their way into the vaccination protocols for felines. Researches have found that they are a safer alternative to injections because the latter can sometimes cause vaccine-induced sarcoma that can potentially be fatal. Even if intranasal vaccines don’t work against all diseases, they can are still very efficient in protecting cats from Feline Panleukopenia, Feline Herpes virus, and Feline calicivirus.
The disadvantage of the nasal vaccines is that they come with a higher rate of side effects. It was found that 20 to 30 percent of cats get adverse events after the administration of the nasal vaccine. The side effects occur within 2 to 3 days from the day of vaccination, and they can last up to 7 days.
Side effects that an intranasal vaccine can bring are:
Sneezing
Clear Nasal Discharge
Mild Conjuctivits
Ulcers of the mouth or nose
Fever
So if your kitten received a nasal vaccine recently, there’s no need to worry. Just provide her with a lot of attention and cuddles while the side effects fade away, and your little kitten will probably feel much better after a couple of days. If you feel that the symptoms are getting out of control, call your vet.

2. Dental Problems

Dental issues are more likely to develop in cats that are 3 years old or older. You might wonder how can a teeth problem be causing your cat to sneeze? The answer is very simple.
Most dental problems in cats are root infections. When the tooth root is infected, it allows bacteria to expand into the sinuses. As a result, the sinuses get inflamed and produce drainage that leads to sneezing.
If you notice that your cat’s sneezing is accompanied by a smelly breath, chances are your kitten has a dental problem.

1. Viral and Bacterial Infections

As we mentioned before, upper respiratory infections are the most common cause of sneezing. Upper respiratory infection is a proper, medical name of what we call a “cold”. When the symptoms are more severe than a runny nose and watery eyes and include feeling weak and having a fever, we call it a “flu”. Similarly, cats can catch these infections that can be caused by the presence of either bacteria or viruses.
Before naming all of the common bacteria and viruses that lead to upper respiratory infections, let’s see what are the main symptoms that indicate their presence.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Has A Cold?

Your cat probably has a cold if the following signs are present:
Sneezing
Excessive nasal discharge – usually colored when the infection is caused by a bacteria
Eye discharge
Drooling
Coughing
Loss of appetite
Lethargy
If you notice some or all of these symptoms in your cat, the professional assistance would be necessary in order to provide your kitten with the adequate therapy. Your vet will have to inspect your cat’s nose, mouth, and ears in order to understand which therapy should be administered.
The most common viruses that might be causing your cat to sneeze and suffer from an infection are Calicivirus and Feline Herpes. On the other hand, most common bacteria leading to cat colds are Mycoplasma, Chlamydia and Bordetella bacteria species.
Young cats are more prone to suffering from Upper Respiratory Infections, due to the fact that their immune systems are still developing and strengthening. When they are very small, kittens are usually surrounded with a lot of cats that could easily transmit bacteria and viruses that their body can’t fight completely against yet.
In spaces packed with cats, these infections spread quickly. The infectious agents spread into the air and can infect all cats in the room/ proximity. But your cat can also get a URI through direct contact with a sick cat as well as through contact with objects that have become contaminated with infectious agents. That’s why it is more probable that your new kitten can develop an infection after being in an animal shelter.

What Do You Give A Cat For Sneezing?

If allergies, vaccines, or dental problems are ruled out and your cat’s symptoms are worsening, you will have to get some professional assistance. Your vet will examine the eye/nose discharge of your cat, and you will get a clear diagnosis of what’s causing the sneezing. The vet might suggest taking antibiotics, nasal decongestants, steroids or fluids.
On the other hand, if your cat seems to be having only mild symptoms of a cold, a vet’s assistance and the need for medication might not be necessary. You will just have to keep an eye on your cat for a couple of days in order to notice any signs that indicate that medical assistance is needed. Using a humidifier might also make your cat more comfortable with the cold and might help the infection go away more quickly.

Let’s answer to some of the frequently asked questions concerning cat colds.

Do Cat Colds Go Away On Their Own?

Most healthy cats don’t require treatment in order to heal from the colds. Cleaning your cat’s nose, including a steam therapy and warming her food might however help in speeding up the healing process. Some cats also don’t respond to antibiotic treatment used to cure bacterial infections. So, cat colds can go away on their own. However, if signs are worsening or are not disappearing after some time, a visit to the vet might be needed.

How Long Do Cat Colds Last

A typical cat cold usually lasts from one to four weeks. The length of the URI depends mostly on the time of diagnosis. The sooner the cold is diagnosed, the faster will the recovery be achieved.

Can Cats Die From A Cold?

If a cat is suffering from a cold for too long, and the symptoms aren’t disappearing even after four weeks, the consequences of it could be really serious. Although it happens rarely, cats might lose their ability to smell their food which could lead them to avoid eating. Potentially, this could make them starve to death.
However, colds in cats are usually not fatal. Just like in humans and other living creatures, when the immune system is compromised by chronic disease or a serious illness, a simple cold might leave bigger consequences. So, if your cat is healthy, a simple cold shouldn’t hurt her.

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