Sneezing in cats is common, and when it happens occasionally, there is usually nothing to worry about.
Sneezing is most commonly associated with cat flu disease, but it can have other causes. Contact a vet if your cat’s sneezing persists or if other symptoms accompany it.
What to do
What to do if your cat is sneezing
Monitor your cat. Keep them indoors for 2-3 days and watch for changes.
- Is it the odd sneeze?
- Does your cat keep sneezing?
- Are there occasional but intense sneezing episodes?
- Is it accompanied by other signs such as a runny nose, eye discharge, tiredness, or lack of appetite?
Contact a vet if your cat’s sneezing persists or if other symptoms accompany it.
Why is your cat sneezing
The most common causes of sneezing in cats are:
- Respiratory infections – cat flu disease and other infections such as parasites, and fungal infections.
- Irritants/allergies – cleaning products, perfume, dust, pollen, smoke, and others.
- Foreign material – inhaling a foreign object that can get stuck in their nose or nasal passages. This is less common in cats than in dogs.
- Dental disease – tooth and gum disease can affect the inside of the nose causing sneezing.
- Growths and tumours – find out more in the “other causes” section below.
When to worry
When should you worry about your cat sneezing
Contact your local vet practice if your cat shows any of the following signs:
- Difficulty breathing, open-mouth breathing – cats do not pant so this is a respiratory emergency
- Sneezing blood
- Not eating or drinking
- Very tired
- Failure to improve despite treatment
Joii can help if your cat:
- Has occasional sneezing
- Has nasal or eye discharge
- Is coughing or wheezing
- Has a lack of appetite
- Is showing tiredness
How to prevent your cat from sneezing
Prevention will depend on the cause of the sneezing.
Make sure your cat receives regular vaccinations to help prevent viral infections, such as those seen on cat flu.
Keep your cat up to date with regular deworming medication, making sure this also covers lungworm.
Avoid exposing your cat to irritants and allergens. Vacuum your home regularly, and avoid spraying aerosols.
Take your cat for annual health checks with your vet so early tooth and gum disease can be detected.
How to know if your cat is sneezing
Retching, coughing, gagging, reverse sneezing, hiccupping, and wheezing can all be mistaken for sneezing.
Get a video of your cat sneezing to help us confirm the symptom.
How to look after a sneezing cat at home
Following your vet’s recommendation, you can help them recover at home by:
Wipe their eyes and nose: this will help them smell their food and breathe more easily. Use a cotton wool pad soaked in warm water to wipe any discharge from their eyes and nose.
Help them breathe more easily
- Place them in a steamy room (i.e. the bathroom while someone is showering). This will help break down some of the thick mucus in their airways allowing them to breathe more easily.
- Or you may use a humidifier or nebulizer to clear the nasal passage.
Help with their appetite: add a small amount of warm, smelly food to their meals (e.g. sardines, anchovies, tuna, chicken).
Remove irritants: if your cat suffers from allergies, open windows (if safe to do so) to let air in, vacuum your house, and wash bedding regularly.
How vets treat a sneezing cat
Sneezing in cats is typically treated by targeting its underlying cause.
In most cases, sneezing can be easily resolved, though some cases remain lifelong or recurrent.
Treatment goals in these cases include reducing the cat’s discomfort through periodic medication and improving its quality of life.
Treatment options may include:
- Anti-inflammatories (steroidal or non-steroidal)
- Oral antiviral medications
- Appetite stimulants
- Medication that stimulates the immune system
- Humidifiers or nasal saline drops to help with nasal congestion
- Surgery to remove foreign bodies or growths or treat dental disease
Are some cats more at risk of sneezing than others?
Cats with lifelong diseases such as allergies and cat flu may be more prone to sneezing.
Flat-faced cat breeds (brachycephalic breeds) that have a very particular facial shape can also be more prone to sneezing. Find out more about BOAS in cats.
Other causes of sneezing in cats
Other causes of sneezing include growths (such as polyps) or abnormal shape formation of the nose and mouth as seen in flat-faced cats. These changes create obstruction, irritation and inflammation that causes them to sneeze.
Malignant tumours are always on the list of possible causes, but they’re not a common condition. When present they are more likely to occur in older cats.