Critter Culture
Why Do Cats Sneeze?

Why Do Cats Sneeze?

Critter Culture Staff



If you're the owner of a cat or have been around them, you've probably seen them sneeze for a number of different reasons. Sometimes it's not just sneezing, but a series of sneezes one after the other, much like what we do. Cats sneeze for some of the same reasons, such as dust and pollen, but sometimes it can be a little more than just an itch in the nose. Here are a few things to look out for if your furry friend has you saying "Gesundheit!"


Can chemicals cause my cat to sneeze?

cats sneeze porpeller / Getty Images

Cats have a far more refined sense of smell than humans do, and they use it much more than we do to explore the world around them. Chemicals in the air, such as air freshener, body spray, or smoke, can agitate their heightened sensitivity. If your cat is sneezing more when something is sprayed, it may be worth it to check to see whether your products are pet-friendly.


Do cats get pollen allergies?

cats sneeze pollen pabst_ell / Getty Images

If you're unlucky enough to have a pollen allergy, you'll dread the pollen warnings every year. The same can be said for cats, who can be susceptible to certain pollens even if they don't go outside. Pollen can aggravate cats and cause them to damage their skin and fur, so keeping them inside and shutting the windows can help. Air conditioners and air filters also work, as does wiping the cat with a damp towel to get pollen out of their fur. Cats often become more vulnerable with age and exposure, which can result in more and more sneezing fits for your outdoor explorers.


Can a toothache cause my cat to sneeze?

cats sneeze toothache RyersonClark / Getty Images

Tooth pain is no joke, and cats don't have it any easier than humans do when they get an infection. Without being able to communicate pain or discomfort, cats can suffer from having tooth infections that cause a build-up of nasty bacteria at the back of the mouth. This can lead to infections in the nasal cavity, which might mean that your cat will start sneezing as a result. If possible, it's always good to get your pet's teeth checked regularly - especially the ones at the back of the mouth that are much harder to see!


Can my cat's vaccinations cause sneezing?

cats sneeze vaccines bymuratdeniz / Getty Images

It is important to vaccinate pets to protect not only them, but also other animals, and yourself. Some vaccines that are common in cats are administered nasally and are usually just a little spray up the nostril. Spraying directly into the nose can mean a higher concentration of protective antibodies! Naturally, irritation is bound to occur so sneezing should be expected. It is important to monitor your cat for at least 72 hours after a vaccine, and do not hesitate to seek a veterinarian's help if your cat loses appetite, has blood or mucus in the nose, or has discharge from the nose and eyes.


Does my cat have a respiratory infection?

cats sneeze infection dimarik / Getty Images

It may seem a little strange, but cats can get a cold just like people do. Vaccinations can help to prevent some infections, but there are other things that may cause a cat to develop nasal inflammation and irritation. Sneezing is a big symptom of a respiratory infection. By sneezing, the cat's body tries to force the irritation out, but in some cases, this is not possible. If your cat is looking tired or teary-eyed, has discharge around the eyes, or has developed a cough, it may be worth having them checked out.


Can food allergies cause my cat to sneeze?

cats sneeze aleksandrovaphoto / Getty Images

Cats and people can both be allergic to certain foods, or the ingredients that are in the food they eat. Cats can develop skin irritation or stomach problems if they are severely allergic to something. Sneezing is one of the potential signs for this, and in order to diagnose a food allergy, the cat will need to be put on a diet of simple ingredients for several weeks. If the symptoms disappear during this period, there may be something in their diet causing aggravation.


How do foreign bodies cause my cat to sneeze?

cats sneeze foreign bodies Salima Senyavskaya / Getty Images

Sometimes our intrepid feline explorers will bring a piece of the world back with them; sometimes even without realizing it. Small pieces of debris, such as grass or dirt, can work their way up into a cat's nasal cavity while they are exploring. Just like with people, when something large and out of the ordinary gets up a cats nose, they're going to sneeze to try and get it out. If they can't, they may start to develop an infection!


How can I help my cat stop sneezing?

cats sneeze safe javitrapero / Getty Images

If you suspect that your cat has allergies but are unable to take them to the veterinarian you can use small doses of over the counter anti-histamines. There are over the counter anti-histamines that is safe for cats, however, if your cat has a serious illness or an upper respiratory infection this will not help them get better. It may even hide some symptoms which could cause them to get worse.


When should I seek veterinary care for a sneezing cat?

cats sneeze veterniary care elenaleonova / Getty Images

If your cat has any of the following symptoms, as well as frequent sneezing, you should probably seek veterinarian care:

  • Runny eyes
  • Squinting eyes
  • Clear to yellow colored nasal discharge
  • Bloody nose
  • Difficulty eating food
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite and dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Sudden swelling around the nose
  • Sudden appearance of oral, nasal or optical lesions


Scratching An Itch

cats sneeze itch nosey Annashou / Getty Images

Sometimes cats sneeze for the same reason as people - they just get an itch in their nose. The body treats it all the same way and tries scratch the itch with a sneeze so that it goes away This is a very common and natural thing that happens, and unless there are other symptoms, or the sneezing is very consistent, it's probably nothing more than your cat clearing out its nose.


Feline herpesvirus and calicivirus

cat with cold

Cats can catch colds from viruses like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus, leading to sneezing fits that can come and go, especially during times of stress. While these viruses stick around for the long haul, they're usually manageable with a stress-free environment and good care. Keeping your cat's stress levels down and maintaining a routine can help minimize these viral-induced sneezes.


Environmental irritants

cat in grass

Cats have sensitive noses, so common household items like perfumes, smoke, or cleaning agents can trigger a sneezing fit. It's best to use unscented or pet-safe products and ensure your home is well-ventilated. By keeping the air your cat breathes free from strong odors, you can help prevent these environmental sneezes.


Dental disease


Dental issues in cats can lead to sneezing due to inflammation that affects the nasal passages. Regular dental check-ups are crucial to prevent this, as they can catch and treat gum disease or tooth decay before it leads to respiratory symptoms. A healthy mouth often means fewer sneezes, so don't skimp on dental care for your kitty.


Neoplasia (tumors)

Nasal tumors, or neoplasia, can cause chronic sneezing in cats. This is more common in older felines and warrants a veterinary check-up for proper diagnosis and treatment. While the word 'tumor' can be alarming, early detection and treatment can make a significant difference in your cat's quality of life.

sick cat


Reverse sneezing

cat about to sneeze

Reverse sneezing in cats, characterized by a honking sound, can be alarming but is typically harmless. It's often caused by irritation or inflammation of the nasal passages and throat. While it's usually not a cause for concern, if episodes are frequent or accompanied by other symptoms, a vet check-up is a good idea to rule out underlying issues.


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