You might like to say “gesundheit” to your feline friend from time to time. But, when your cat sneezes a lot – and if it becomes part of their daily routine – it may be time to worry.
Humans will sneeze around 70,000 times during their lifetimes: proportionally, cats will do much the same. Sneezing is a natural reaction to clear the nose of an irritant.
So, how much sneezing is too much and what actions should you consider taking? Read on for the lowdown on sneezing cats.
Possible Reasons Your Cat May Be Sneezing
Sneezing in cats means there’s an explosive release of air through the nose and mouth. It is typically the body’s response to irritants in the nasal passages. It can also be the result of excitement, sudden movement or sunlight.
It’s relatively easy to misidentify sneezing. It may appear like any of the following: gagging, reverse sneezing, coughing, wheezing, hiccuping, and retching. Each of these symptoms comes with its own list of possible causes.
It’s a good idea to take a video of your cat during an episode to help your vet decide if your cat is having a sneezing fit or a different kind of issue.
Viral and Bacterial Infections
If your cat sneezes a lot, it could be due to an upper respiratory infection. A bit like common colds in humans, young cats may be more prone to them – particularly those from animal shelters.
You can prevent many of these infections with early and complete vaccinations. The types of viral infections that most commonly cause sneezing in cats are:
Cat Flu from Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpes Virus 1 (FHV1)
This Calicivirus virus is very contagious among cats. Runny noses and mouth ulcers are common problems related to cat flu, but the virus can affect the respiratory tract and even lead to pneumonia. There are flu vaccines available and you should check in with your vet if your cat has not had one.
Cats can also pick up herpes when exposed to other infected cats. Stress can also lead to a flare-up of the virus which is not contagious to humans.
You can find out more about the types of cat flu here. Other viral infections that can lead to sneezing include:
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
Secondary Bacterial Infections
Some viral infections may make it more likely that your cat will develop other respiratory problems. These can make their sneezing worse. For instance, a cat with herpes may also develop a secondary bacterial infection.
These are some bacterial infections that can cause sneezing:
- Chlamydia, Bordetella, and Mycoplasma
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Allergies, Dental Infections, and Foreign Bodies
Although infections can certainly cause inflammation in the nose, so can almost all other causes of cat sneezing. You should look for patterns in your cat’s sneezing- for example after you have cleaned the house or once your cat leaves the litter box.
Although allergies are far less common in cats than in humans, you may need to rule them out. Potential irritants or allergens include:
- Perfume, cigarette smoke, cleaning agents, cat litter, and pest sprays
- Dust, pollen, and candles
It’s common for cats to sneeze a few days after an intranasal vaccine. A tooth infection can cause drainage into the sinuses and that can lead to sneezing too.
Sneezing can get brought on by your cat trying to dislodge a foreign body that they have stuck in their nose. Growths and tumors inside the nose can lead to discharge and sneezing too.
Is Sneezing Serious and What Are the Treatments?
How serious a bout of sneezing is will depend on whether the cause is environmental or due to a disease. Irritants such as dust and pollen tend not to be serious, particularly if there’s only a single, isolated episode.
Sometimes however, cat sneezing is a symptom of one or more diseases. Typically a viral infection will be the initial problem, with further inflammation and bacterial infections leading to damage inside the nose that can aggravate the problem.
Again, treatments will depend on the cause of the issue. Vaccines will help prevent certain types of flu. Your vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections that lie behind bouts of sneezing.
In severe cases of nasal inflammation or chronic rhinitis, there is some evidence to suggest that steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as drugs used to treat nausea may help. Although still in its infancy, immunotherapy might also offer relief to some cats with very severe sneezing issues.
Other treatments with variable degrees of effectiveness include:
- Humidifiers or nebulizers
- Certain antihistamines and decongestants
When You Should Seek the Help of a Vet
If your cat experiences what appears to be an isolated episode of sneezing, the likelihood is that the problem will go away and not return.
It is not uncommon for a cat to experience sudden and prolonged episodes of sneezing. While it is possible that the condition may resolve on its own, it is highly advisable to seek the advice of a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and ensure proper treatment is administered.
Persistent sneezing greatly increases the chances that an underlying disease lies at the root cause of the sneezing. It is therefore essential to seek veterinary treatment for your cat.
These symptoms that may accompany sneezing could mean there’s something more serious going on so you should talk to a vet straight away:
- Loss of appetite and sudden weight loss
- Nasal discharge – especially blood
- Worsening and persistent health issues that last more than a few days
Book Your Slot Today!
If you think your cat may have a serious underlying health issue that’s causing them to sneeze, don’t hang about. Seek advice from one of our highly-qualified team by booking a timeslot today.
You should also consider taking out pet insurance as soon as you take on a new pet and before any signs of illness begin. We have a range of products available. You can check them out here or talk to us about the options during your consultation.