Sneezing is a reflex that occurs when the mucous membrane in the nose is irritated, which in turn can be due to many different causes.
In this article, you will learn more about the most common reasons for sneezing in cats – and when it’s time to contact a veterinarian!
Common causes of cat sneezing
Irritation in the nose
Irritation can be caused by dust from, for example, cat litter, irritating chemicals such as detergents. Some cats may also be sensitive to smoke or perfumes.
Inflammation and infection of the nasal cavity and upper respiratory tract
Cat flu is a common mixed infection in cats caused by various viruses, and sometimes bacteria are also involved. Cat flu can cause cold symptoms, including sneezing. In some cases, you can see symptoms from both the nose, eyes and airways. Cat flu vaccine is included in the recommended vaccinations for cats. You can read more about cat snuff here!
There are also more specific chronic inflammations and infections in the nasal cavity and airways that can cause sneezing and affect both the nose and sinuses.
Foreign body in the nose
A foreign body in the nose can, for example, be an ear from plants or grains of sand. It is also not entirely uncommon for outdoor cats to find a blade of grass that has found its way up from the back of the palate into the nasal cavity. Because grass blades have small barbs, they can not get out the back way but often need to be removed at the clinic.
Changes in the nasal cavity
Changes in the nasal cavity and pharynx can be, for example, polyps or, in rarer cases, tumors.
An infection around the tooth roots can spread to the palate and in some cases penetrate the nasal cavity and cause sneezing and nasal flow as symptoms. Such dental problems are not always visible during an inspection of the teeth of an awake cat, but many times a dental X-ray of a sedated cat is required for diagnosis.
Allergies can cause runny nose and eyes as well as sneezing. It can be caused by, for example, pollen or indoor mites. Sometimes the cat also has skin problems with itching or respiratory problems with asthma symptoms.
If your cat, for example, received a blow to the nose, structures there can be affected and lead to inflammation and irritation that can cause sneezing.
Vaccination side effect
Mild sneezing a few days after the cat flu vaccine occurs.
Diagnosis of cats sneezing
The nasal cavity is difficult to examine in a cat because it is so small and largely consists of winding cartilage. You can see a small piece into the nose from the front and you can examine the throat and the back part of the nasal cavity to some extent on a cat that has been sedated in a clinic. If infection is suspected, specific cultures can be made from the nasal cavity or blood samples taken to rule out general infection. For further examination, the cat needs to be anesthetized for inspection with a fiber endoscope, nose rinse or tissue sample. Ordinary plain X-rays can provide some information, but layer X-rays are preferable.
Treatment at home is above all symptomatic. Make sure your cat is well. Wipe clean around the nostrils if secretions accumulate there so that it does not become clogged. Check that the general condition is good, that the cat eats and drinks without problems. Take the temperature rectally to rule out fever if the cat becomes subdued
Read more: Fever in cats
Can I do anything to prevent sneezing in my cat?
Make sure your cat is vaccinated against feline colds and pay attention to symptoms.
When should you contact a veterinarian?
Occasional sneezing may be normal, but if the sneezing becomes recurrent or persistent or if your cat also has other symptoms, it is a good idea to consult a veterinarian. Here you can book a video call with a veterinarian to get an initial assessment of your animal.