Why does the cat sneeze?

When the cat sneezes it can make us smile, maybe we find it very sweet and funny. But in reality, more serious pathologies could be hiding behind excessive sneezing.

An occasional cat sneeze is normal and is not a real cause for alarm. Just like in humans, sneezing in cats is an explosive release of air through the nose and mouth – often the body’s response to irritants in the nasal passages. Sometimes, arousal or movement can cause cats to sneeze. However, if your cat’s sneezing does not go away, or if other symptoms have occurred along with the sneezing, you may need to see your vet to see if treatment is needed.

Why does the cat sneeze?

If your cat sneezes a lot, your vet may initially suspect a cause based on an analysis of your cat’s symptoms. One of the main causes of sneezing is infection. In some cases, the vet may take a swab from the mouth, throat, eyes, or nose and send it to a laboratory to confirm an infection. Inhaled irritants, or allergens, are other common causes of sneezing in cats.

Other causes can be viral, bacterial or fungal infections. If we notice that the cat is sneezing a lot, it is likely that he has an upper respiratory infection. Similar to colds in humans, these infections are more common in young kittens, especially those that come from animal shelters. Many of these infections can be prevented with early and full vaccinations.

The viral infections that most commonly cause sneezing in cats are:

  • Feline herpes virus: Cats contract herpes from exposure to other infected cats, and stress can cause flare-ups and transmission to other cats. Treatment aims to control symptoms. In any case, the feline herpes virus is not contagious to humans.
  • Feline Calicivirus: This virus is highly contagious among cats. Mouth ulcers are the most common problem, but they can affect the respiratory tract and even cause pneumonia.

These infections can increase the likelihood of your cat developing other breathing problems that can exacerbate sneezing. For example, a cat with herpes can also develop a secondary bacterial infection. These are often treatable with antibiotics.

A wide range of other infections can also lead to sneezing, including:

  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which over time may cause no symptoms, mild symptoms, or more severe symptoms
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which develops slowly but severely affects the cat’s immune system, making it vulnerable to other infections
  • Feline leukemia , a serious and often fatal infection
  • Chlamydia, which often produces an eye infection (conjunctivitis)
  • Bordetella
  • Mycoplasma

Irritants or allergens that are inhaled

If your cat sneezes only once in a while, something could simply irritate her nasal passages. Let’s look for reasons for the cat sneezing: does it happen after lighting candles at the table? After the cat has left the litter box? After cleaning the house? There are many examples of potential allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) or irritants for cats:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Scent
  • Pest spray
  • Cat litter, especially the types that create dust
  • Detergents
  • Candles
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold

In cats, allergies are a less common cause of sneezing than in humans. If sneezing is related to allergies, it is sometimes also associated with itchy skin.

A variety of other factors can contribute to sneezing in cats. For example, it is common for cats to have bouts of sneezing within 4-7 days of receiving an intranasal vaccine, but this period lasts no more than a few days. Cats may also sneeze to try to remove a blockage in their nasal passages. An infection or inflammation of the root of a tooth can cause sinus drainage, and it can also cause sneezing. In very rare cases, sneezing in cats can be a sign of cancer.

Sneezing and other symptoms

Symptoms that can accompany sneezing in cats can be the result of a wide range of infections and other problems. These symptoms can include:

  • Discharge, swelling or ulcers in the eye
  • Excessive nasal discharge, sometimes yellow or green (sometimes a sign of a bacterial infection)
  • Fatigue or depression
  • Fever
  • Deburr
  • Decreased appetite or weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Bad condition of the coat
  • Respiratory problems
  • Diarrhea

When to take your cat to the vet

If our cat sneezes only once in a while, has no other symptoms, or has only mild symptoms, we should simply monitor him for a few days. We keep the kitty indoors and observe its changes, but be sure to call the vet if the cat sneezes continuously or often, sneezes blood, or has other signs like the ones listed above. They can be signs of a disease or condition that needs veterinary care.

Treatment depends on the cause of the sneeze. In mild cases, the vet may suggest taking steps to help the cat feel more comfortable, such as using a humidifier. In other cases, antibiotics, nasal decongestants, steroids, or liquids may be needed. Rarely, cats that don’t respond to medical therapy may require surgery.

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