Why Do Cats Sneeze?

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Why do cats sneeze? Like humans, your cat can sneeze because of an itchy nose induced by suspended particles such as smoke, dust, or fur.

I’ve raised multiple cats for the past 10 years, and I usually see new, first-time cat owners wondering why their cat sneezes. 

No question. Your cat’s sneezing sounds might be cute. 

But should it be a concern?

Your cat can catch a cold and suffer sinus or upper respiratory infection. However, other conditions can induce the little sneezes.

Keep reading to learn:

Why Is Your Cat Sneezing?

Sneezing is a natural involuntary reflex that helps your cat’s body to expel irritants from its nasal passage. It is a protective mechanism that helps your cat to clear out its nose of potentially harmful substances or particles.

When your cat sneezes, it forcefully expels air from its lungs through its mouth and nose to eliminate any irritants in the nasal passage.

What Causes a Cat To Sneeze?

While sneezing is a normal biological function, it’s uncommon for your cat to sneeze several times a day. In cases of persistent sneezing, there can be several causes, including:

  1. Foreign Material

Cats are curious creatures and can get different types of foreign material into their noses, including:

  • Pollen
  • Lint
  • Grass
  • Hair
  • Dust
  • Smoke

When your cat inhales these particles, it’ll immediately sneeze to expel the foreign material from its nasal passage. If the sneezing fails to expel the lodged material, consult a vet.

  1. External Irritants

It’s easy to think of external irritants as chemical smells or exposure to toxins. However, a lot of non-threatening household products can also trigger sneezing, such as:

  • Bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Essential oils
  1. Nasal and Sinus Issues

Cats can also suffer from inflammatory conditions like sinusitis and rhinitis. Rhinitis is the inflammation of a nose membrane, commonly known as a stuffy nose. Sinusitis, on the other hand, is the inflammation in the lining of the sinuses.

The two conditions usually affect cats simultaneously.

Signs and symptoms

Besides frequent sneezing, the symptoms of nasal and sinus issues in cats include:

  • Pawing at the face
  • Tearing and eye discharge
  • A lump on the bridge of the nose 
  • Labored breathing, snoring, and breathing through the mouth
  • Reverse sneezing (where your cat clears the nose through short, rapid inhalation)

Diagnosis and Treatment

A vet will diagnose your cat for nasal and sinus issues by evaluating your cat’s medical history and executing a thorough physical examination. The vet can also do a rhinoscopy (inserting a small endoscope into the nose or mouth to visualize the nasal structure).

Then the vet will do a nasal wash to collect samples.

Nasal and sinus infection treatment includes a nasal flush and antibiotic treatment to prevent bacterial infection. Your vet can also administer a dose of steroids to open up the nasal and sinus cavities. The vet might recommend intravenous fluid and nutritional support if your cat’s case is severe.

  1. Upper Respiratory Infection (URIs)

Upper respiratory infection (URI) can make your kitty sneeze more than normal. The most common URI in cats is Feline Herpesvirus (FHV). 

There is no cure for herpesvirus, and the infection is lifelong. However, there is emerging research that suggests medication could improve results for cat infections.

Besides herpesvirus, influenza and Calicivirus are other viral infections that can make your cat sneeze.

Sign and Symptoms

Common symptoms of URI in cats include:

  • Recurrent sneezing for several hours or days
  • Irregular yellow, green, or bloody discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Repeated swallowing or coughing
  • Fever or lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Cats at a higher risk of developing URIs include:

  • Kittens
  • Elderly cats
  • Unvaccinated cats
  • Immunosuppressed cats

Since most viruses causing URIs are highly contagious, cats in groups such as multicat households or shelters are also vulnerable.


The method of treating URI depends on the severity. In cases of general mild symptoms, URIs can resolve on their own after a week or two. In some cases, however, your cat may require additional treatments, such as:

  • Steroids
  • Eye or nose drops
  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications
  • Subcutaneous fluids (in cases of dehydration)

Severe URI cases may require hospitalization for intensive treatment like IV fluids and nutritional support. 

Left untreated, URI can induce serious complications such as chronic breathing issues, blindness, or pneumonia.

  1. Dental Disease

According to Pet Health Network, dental diseases, especially those involving root infections, can cause sneezing. Tooth infection in cats can allow bacteria to build in the nasal sinus, inducing inflammation and sneezing.

Many cat parents are usually surprised to discover that dental disease can cause sneezing. Like most cases, sneezing in cats is a symptom of an underlying issue.

The root canal of the teeth on the upper jaw is next to the nasal passages. Advanced dental disease can lead to oral infections that can spread to the sinuses and upper respiratory tract to cause symptoms like sneezing.

Signs and Symptoms

Sneezing induced by dental diseases is usually accompanied by symptoms like:

  • Swollen gums
  • Tender gums
  • Inflamed gums
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Lack of appetite
  • Eating difficulty


Treating feline dental disease might involve:

  • Plaque removal by scaling and polishing
  • Teeth extraction in extreme cases
  1. Neoplasia

Sneezing can also be a sign of neoplasia (tumors), especially if your cat is older. Cancer cells can grow inside the nasal passage, creating irritation or inflammation that induces sneezes.

Your vet can rule out neoplasia via rhinoscopy or nasal biopsy. If present, the diagnosis usually results in very poor outcomes.

Is Sneezing a Sign of Allergies in Cats?

Unlike humans, allergies aren’t a common cause of sneezing in cats. Instead, allergies in cats usually manifest in the form of:

  • Skin irritation
  • Lesion
  • Hair loss
  • Itchiness

But some cats (especially those with asthma) can show symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and itchy and watery eyes as an allergic reaction. 

What To Do if Your Cat Is Sneezing More Than Usual

If your cat sneezes more than usual, you can execute the following steps:

Step 1: Examine your cat’s surroundings and identify the potential causes

Studying patterns can help you determine if your cat is sneezing because of irritants like dust, perfume, or smoke or if it is a sign of an underlying infection. Check if:

  • Your cat sneezes around the same time each day
  • The sneezing only happens in a specific room or when you’re executing specific household activities
  • You’ve introduced a new cat litter (a dusty or scented litter may induce cats’ sneezes)
  • You’re using a new product in your home, such as cleaners, candles, scented oils, or perfumes 
  • There is pollen in your household

Step 2: Check if upper respiratory infection is the cause of the sneezing

If you suspect your cat has URI, take immediate steps to offer some relief before consulting a vet. You can:

  • Clear any discharge from your cat’s face or nose with a warm, moistened, clean cloth or cotton.
  • Try to get your cat to eat by warming up wet food for easier digestion
  • Offer plenty of fresh water
  • Turn on the humidify to keep your cat’s nasal passages moist

Step 3: Schedule a vet appointment if sneezing persists

If sneezing persists even after ruling out environmental causes, it’s time to see a vet to help you identify the cause of sneezing. 

When Should You See a Vet?

If your cat sneezes occasionally, with no other symptoms (or only mild symptoms), monitor them only for a few days. It shouldn’t be a huge concern. Keep your feline friend indoors and watch for changes.

However, you should see a vet if the following signs accompany the sneezing:

  • Weight loss
  • Nasal discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Persistent sneezing beyond a few days

Why Do Cat Sneeze: In a Nutshell

Your cat sneezes for one simple reason: a particle (pollen, dust, or smoke) is floating on its nasal passage. The particle gets in through inhalation, inducing an involuntary sneezing reaction to expel it.

But if your cat sneezes persistently and shows other symptoms like nasal discharge, consult a vet to rule out the underlying cause. If diagnosed and found with an upper respiratory infection, the vet will administer medication to relieve the condition.


Why is my indoor cat sneezing?

An occasional sneeze for an indoor cat is normal, and no real cause for alarm. Sometimes, excitement or movement can induce sneezing in your cat. However, if your indoor cat sneezes more often, some common triggers might be:
Viral infections like feline herpesvirus or calicivirus
Bacterial infections 
Dry air
Dental issues
Nasal polyps or tumors
If your indoor cat sneezes persistently, shows symptoms of respiratory symptoms, and changes behavior, consult a vet.

Why is my cat sneezing but seems fine?

If your cat is sneezing but appears fine, it could be a mild reaction to something in the environment. Like humans, cats can experience occasional sneezing without necessarily indicating a serious health issue. Such sneezing stems from:
Environmental irritants
Temperature and humidity changes
Recent grooming
Mild respiratory infections
If other symptoms don’t accompany the sneezing, it’s likely a minor issue.

What should I do if my cat keeps sneezing?

If your cat keeps sneezing, you should monitor its overall health and behavior and take the necessary steps. For instance, keep a close eye on your cat’s sneezing frequency and any accompanying symptoms. 
If there are no accompanying symptoms, check for environmental irritants, such as pollen, dust, or strong odors, and remove them. If the sneezing comes with other symptoms, see a vet to rule out the cause.

Why is my cat sneezing but no other symptoms?

A minor irritation or environmental factor may be the root cause if your cat sneezes with no other symptoms. Like humans, your cat can experience occasional sneezing without any serious health problems.

About Laura Martin

I'm Laura Martin. I get excited about all things cat related. I love my two cats - Dom and Kitty. When I'm not playing with my two feline friends, you can probably find me hiking. And yes, I have a 9 to 5 job. Although if you asked me I'd rather spend my time blogging and educating other cat moms and dads about what it takes to raise a healthy cat.

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