From time to time, cats will sneeze and it is pretty normal. Just like humans, sneezing helps to clear out their nasal passage if there is something that gets in the way. It is often just a response to some sort of irritant found in the nasal passage. Cats sneeze a lot like humans do, by releasing air at a really high pressure through the nose and mouth. It may be startling, but it is normal. The problem is, excessive sneezing is not normal and should be looked into right away.
If your cat starts sneezing and it just won’t go away, or if they have any other symptoms that go along with the sneezing, then a trip to the vet may be in order. They will be able to run tests and look for underlying causes and determine what type of treatment, if any, is necessary.
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Causes of Sneezing and Excessive Sneezing in Cats
There are so many different causes of sneezing in cats, so it is often times difficult to tell exactly why your cat is sneezing. A veterinarian will be able to take a look at their overall health and symptoms and will then determine what tests are necessary to diagnose properly. First, they may start by taking a swab from their nose, mouth or eyes and send it to the lab to rule out infection. Infection is actually one of the most common causes of sneezing in cats. Other common causes include allergens and irritants.
Most of the time, if your cat is sneezing it is due to an upper respiratory infection. This is much like the common cold to us humans. It is much more common in kittens or young cats that have been in a shelter environment. Getting kittens vaccinated early can prevent many of these infections from even coming on in the first place.
Viral infections are also commonly associated with sneezing. For example, the feline herpes virus can cause sneezing, and stress typically makes the flare ups worse. Feline calicivirus is another virus that affects the respiratory tract, and it can not only cause sneezing, but it can also lead to pneumonia and other more serious respiratory issues if you don’t get it under control quickly.
Other types of infections that cause sneezing may include:
- feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV
- feline infectious peritonitis
- feline leukemia
Infection is not the only cause of sneezing in cats. Allergens and irritants can also be culprits. If your cat doesn’t sneeze too often, then infection may not be the cause. Try to take note of your cat’s sneezing and see if you notice any patterns. Say, for instance, your cat sneezes when they are leaving the litter box. This may be due to the dust that comes up from the litter. Sometimes, it is a simple fix, like buying a dust free litter, but other times it may not be as easy to spot the irritants.
Here are a few common allergens and irritants that may make your cat sneeze:
- perfumes and fragrances
- pest control sprays
- certain types of cat litter
- cigarette smoke
- cleaning products
Sure, there are others, but these are definitely the most common. Typically, if your cat is suffering from allergies, they will also have a rash or itchy skin that goes along with it.
Other Symptoms that May Come Along with Sneezing
If your cat is sneezing, chances are that is not their only symptom. If it is just a simple sneeze, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. If you notice any of these other symptoms, it may mean infection or another serious condition:
- discharge from the eyes
- swelling around eyes
- excessive discharge
- discolored (green or yellow) discharge
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
- poor coat
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- vomiting or diarrhea
How to Know When to Go to the Vet
If your cat just sneezes occasionally, you don’t have much to be concerned about. Just remember, if it starts to get worse, you need to call your vet. If your cat only has mild symptoms, it may be okay to just keep a close watch on him for a couple of days. Be sure to keep him inside so that you can note any changes in his health or behavior. If your cat has been sneezing off and on for a couple of days, it may be time to get them in for a check-up. Other more serious concerns that require prompt medical attention may include:
- continuous sneezing over a period of a few days
- sneezing blood
Your vet will be able to determine the cause of the sneezing and start your cat off on a course of treatment so that they will be back to themselves in no time!
Treatment Options for Excessive Sneezing in Cats
Treating sneezing in cats isn’t always easy. It really depends on the cause of the sneezing. You can’t just give a cat one simple treatment option to deal with the sneezing, because that doesn’t help the root cause of the sneeze. Sneezing is just a symptom, it is not an actual illness. Your vet will offer a treatment option that will help to correct the root cause of the sneezing, in turn getting rid of the sneezing. They may recommend getting a humidifier for your cat to help them be more comfortable. Treatment options may include antibiotics or decongestants.
As you can see, sneezing and excessive sneezing in cats are two different things. If you think that your cat is sneezing more often than he should, then it may be time to give the vet a call and see what they think. Don’t let an underlying condition go unnoticed just because you overlooked some sneezing! It may seem simple, but the root cause could be severe. Get it checked out just in case.