Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses upper respiratory viruses.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Cat Sneezing -- Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

Q: Our cat is sneezing every day — two to three times. She licks her nose after. Clear, sparkly eyes. No cough. No congestion. Eating and behaving normally. I volunteer at our local SPCA. The cats have "colds” frequently and sneeze on me. Have I brought home some infection? Could it be allergies? What symptoms would tell us to take her to our vet?

A: Cat allergies would be unlikely. Allergic respiratory disease in cats usually manifests as asthma, and cats will cough, not sneeze.

I suspect your cat has a viral upper respiratory infection, however, the symptoms are so mild — two or three sneezes a day, no congestion, no loss of appetite, acting pretty normal — that I wouldn’t be too concerned. Most cats have been exposed to the cat upper respiratory viruses as kittens, and are chronic carriers of the virus. When cats get stressed or immunosuppressed, the virus can re-emerge and cause clinical symptoms. These upper respiratory viruses can be spread to cats via articles of clothing, so yes, it is theoretically possible that you have brought the virus home with you. However, this is not the major mode of transmission. These viruses are spread mainly via aerosol from cat to cat.

I would take her to your veterinarian if: your cat’s sneezing increases in frequency or severity; she develops a nasal or ocular (eye) discharge; she shows a decreased or absent appetite.

See more causes of cat sneezing here >>

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Reader Comments

Trish    Princeton, NJ

6/7/2014 5:17:40 AM

My 12 year old cat recently began sneezing with a nasty green nasal discharge and was having trouble breathing. After two vet visits and two rounds of antibiotics, I changed his litter from Swheat scoop to Blue walnut based litter which is almost dust free. The difference in the dust was remarkable and the cat, after 4 or 5 days, stopped sneezing. He has been virtually sneeze free for the last 4 months. We had used the Swheat scoop for years and it seems he just became sensitive to the dust. Not that this is the answer for every cat but I am grateful that it worked for mine!

M    Lake City, FL

5/10/2013 12:21:39 AM

Thanks for the interesting sneezing articles- its amazing (and a little sad) how many things can cause cat sneezes.
Thanks again for raising awareness!

Cathy    Hubbard, OH

5/7/2013 4:45:35 AM

My 13 year old cat, Ms. Howie, sneezes a lot and get sniffles. She is good and healthy otherwise. She was introduced to the herpes virus from another shelter kitty I adopted (I have four kitties) and since then she gets upper respiratory sniffles and sneezes. My vet gave me a perscription for amoxicilon(?) and I give her that whenever she gets very bad. Otherwise, she is very healthy.

Kathy    Ukiah, CA

10/9/2012 1:38:26 PM

Great article! Thank you!!

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