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Why Is My Cat Sneezing? 8 Reasons Behind the Behavior

Cat sneezes
Image Credit: ZlataMarka, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Quincy Miller

Cats do all sorts of weird things. They’ll run around the house at 2 a.m., chasing nothing in particular. They’ll stop right in the middle of licking themselves, leaving that one leg stuck straight in the air. Sometimes they’ll sneeze — frequently.

While we might not be able to help you with the running around or leg-in-the-air things, we can shed some light on why your kitty suddenly starts achoo-ing all over the place. It may be nothing to worry about, but in some cases, it could be the harbinger of something serious, so don’t ignore it.

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The 8 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Sneezes

1. A Tickle in Their Nose

Like you, sometimes cats get something up their nose. Whether it’s a bit of dust, their own fur, or nothing identifiable at all, they may start sneezing to try to dislodge the offending particle.

Your cat may undergo a series of violent sneezes as they try to scratch the itch inside their noses, but once they’ve cleared out their nostrils, the sneezing should stop. There’s nothing to worry about in this case, although you might interpret it as a passive-aggressive criticism of your housekeeping skills.

a ginger cat sneezes
Image Credit: Ihtar, Pixabay

2. Allergies

Some cats are allergic to things in the air, like pollen. This doesn’t happen as often as it does in people, but it does happen, so it’s worth checking out.

If you notice that your cat tends to sneeze more at one time of a year than others, it may be due to pollinating plants that are in season. There’s not much you can do about this other than to ride it out, but if you let your cat wander around outside, you might want to consider keeping them indoors until the seasons change.

3. Chemical Irritants

You may have various chemicals in and around your house that your cat finds irritating. These can include cleaners, paints, and pesticides. Your cat will usually develop an aversion to the offending odor on their own, but until they do, you’ll likely have sneezing to deal with.

If you can identify the offending chemical, you may be able to swap it out for a cat-friendly, organic option.

Hand tools for spraying insect repellant
Image Credit: CAT Foto, Shutterstock

4. Foreign Bodies in the Nasal Passage

This is similar to having a tickle in the nose, except some foreign bodies are quite large and can be problematic, causing more damage than just a tickle. Your cat will likely sneeze until the thing is ejected, but if they can’t dislodge it, it could cause irritation and a nasal infection.

In many cases, you’ll be able to see the particle that’s causing all the trouble, but don’t try to remove it yourself. If your cat can’t get it out, you’ll need to take them to the vet for professional assistance.

5. Vaccines

Some vaccines, particularly those that guard against respiratory infections, can cause sneezing in the first few days after they’re given. Your vet should give you information on any vaccine your cat gets, and sneezing might be listed among the possible side effects.

Sneezing caused by vaccines should clear itself up after a few days, and you shouldn’t need to do anything about it. If it doesn’t clear up after a week or so, you may want to ask your vet about it.

vet makes an injection to a cat
Image Credit: Vovantarakan, Shutterstock

6. Respiratory Infections

This is where we start to get into the worrisome possibilities. Many respiratory infections list sneezing as one of the symptoms, so your cat might have a cold or something more sinister that’s making their nose explode.

These infections can be viral, bacterial, or fungal in nature, so your vet will need to examine them to determine what course of action you need to take. If your cat has discharge in their eyes or nose or seems sick in general, you should take them in for a checkup.

7. Dental Disease

Some dental conditions, like root infections, can cause inflammation that irritates the nasal lining. They can also allow bacteria to penetrate your cat’s sinuses, potentially leading to respiratory infection.

Dental disease is common in cats, especially older ones, and will likely require a vet’s intervention. Don’t drag your feet either, as teeth problems only get worse if left untreated and could cause other issues, like problems with the heart, liver, or kidneys.

veterinarian checks teeth of the maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

8. Neoplasia

Neoplasia is nasal cancer, usually marked by the presence of tumors inside the nasal cavity. It’s fairly rare in cats, but it can be quite painful, with sneezing being one of the more benign side effects.

Unfortunately, by the time that tumors become visible, the cancer is usually quite advanced and has likely spread to other parts of the body, including the brain. The prognosis is poor for cats with neoplasia, but the sooner the problem is spotted, the better your pet’s chances will be. It’s also possible to have benign neoplasia, although this is rare (and the tumors will still likely cause issues that affect your cat’s quality of life).

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When to Worry About Your Cat’s Sneezing

If the sneezing isn’t accompanied by any other symptoms and clears up on its own after a short while, there’s likely nothing to worry about. You should keep an eye on your cat for a few days just in case, but they’ll most likely be fine.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, though, a trip to the vet is in order:
  • Nasal discharge (especially if it’s yellowish-green or has blood in it)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing or snoring
  • Pawing at the face
  • Fever
  • Discharge from the eyes

Even if your cat is sick, the most likely culprit is a simple cold that should clear up in a few days, possibly with the help of antibiotics. That’s for your vet to decide, though, so don’t wait too long to take them in.

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How to Stop Your Cat’s Sneezing

If your cat’s sneezing is becoming a nuisance, there are steps you can take to curb it. This will depend on you being able to identify the reason behind it, though.

If it’s due to a certain smell or odor, you can switch out which chemicals you use around the house. You should be able to find a variety of cat-friendly products that are both effective and unlikely to offend.

You may want to check your cat’s litter box too. Some litters produce more dust than others, and your cat might be inhaling specks of dirt every time they use the bathroom. If you notice them sneezing after using the box, a change in litter might be in order.

Beyond that, you should try to stay on top of your cat’s health as best you can. Make sure they get all necessary vaccines on time, and don’t be afraid to take them to the vet if you think that the sneezing is the sign of something serious. It’s better to be wrong than to have a potentially deadly issue go unaddressed.

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Sneezing Likely Isn’t Something to Worry About

All cats sneeze at one time or another, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. With a little bit of amateur detective work, you should be able to pinpoint the cause of the sneezing and take action to address it.

Of course, if you can’t stop the sneezing, look on the bright side: It gives you a reason to buy a bunch of adorable monogrammed cat handkerchiefs.

Featured Image Credit: ZlataMarka, Shutterstock

About the Author

Quincy Miller
Quincy Miller
Quincy never intended to be a cat person. He grew up around dogs, and when his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn't self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he's a cat person now, isn't he???

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