Why Does My Cat Keep Sneezing? The Causes of Chronic Kitty Sneezes


It’s common for cats to sneeze occasionally, but frequent sneezing or sneezing fits can be a sign of an underlying issue. This article will cover some of the potential causes when a cat is sneezing a lot, including allergies, infections, foreign objects, dental disease, and nasal tumors. We’ll also explore the diagnostic process veterinarians use to determine the cause of excessive sneezing, as well as possible treatments and preventative measures cat owners can take.

Normal Sneezing

It’s normal for cats to sneeze occasionally, just like humans. Sneezing is a natural reflex that helps clear irritants from the nasal cavity. A random sneeze here and there is not a cause for concern in otherwise healthy cats.

However, cats should not be sneezing constantly or multiple times in a row. Frequent sneezing episodes can indicate an underlying health issue that needs veterinary attention. While the occasional sneeze is normal, recurrent sneezing or sneezing fits point to some kind of irritation, inflammation, or infection in the nasal passages, sinuses, throat, or upper respiratory tract.

According to Purina, “While the occasional sneeze from your cat is completely normal and is no cause for concern, frequent sneezing might catch your attention.” If a cat is sneezing more than the odd time, it’s best to monitor them closely and contact a vet if it persists.


Allergies are a common cause of sneezing fits in cats. Cats can be allergic to things like pollen, dust mites, mold spores, and other environmental allergens. When a cat inhales an allergen they are sensitive to, it can trigger an immune response that leads to inflammation of the nasal passages and sneezing. According to the ASPCA, inhaled allergens account for about 10% of sneezing cases in cats.

Some of the most common allergy triggers for cats include:

  • Pollen – From trees, grasses, weeds etc.
  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Air fresheners and household cleaners
  • Perfumes and scented products
  • Certain fabrics and litter types

If a cat has an allergy to one of these irritants and is exposed to it, they may start sneezing repeatedly as their body tries to expel the irritant. The sneezing fits may involve forceful sneezing with little breaks in between each sneeze. Some cats may also have a discharge from their nose or eyes as part of their allergic response. Keeping the cat away from the allergen is the best way to manage environmental allergies.

Allergy testing and desensitization injections are also options for cats with severe allergies. Antihistamines may provide temporary relief of allergy symptoms, but should be used under a veterinarian’s supervision. With treatment, most cats with allergies can live happily while minimizing uncomfortable sneezing fits.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are a common cause of sneezing and nasal discharge in cats. URIs are typically caused by viral or bacterial pathogens that infect the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, throat, sinuses and trachea. Common viral causes include feline herpesvirus, calicivirus and influenza virus. Bacterial agents like Chlamydophila felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica may also be involved.

Symptoms of feline URI include sneezing, nasal congestion and discharge, watery eyes, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. Nasal discharge may be clear at first but can become thick and opaque as the infection progresses. Some cats may gag, cough or make snorting noises as postnasal drainage accumulates in the throat. In severe cases, cats may develop pneumonia or struggle to breathe if nasal passages become obstructed. Untreated URIs make cats more prone to secondary infections.

According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, URIs are highly contagious among cats housed in groups, such as shelters, boarding facilities and multi-cat households. Isolation, good hygiene and vaccination help control spread. Most uncomplicated URIs resolve in 1-3 weeks with supportive care, but prompt veterinary attention is advised for severe symptoms.

Foreign Objects

Foreign objects like dust, dirt, litter, grass, plastic, or fabric can sometimes get lodged in a cat’s nasal passages and cause sneezing fits (Source). Cats have a strong sense of smell and will often sniff new objects. During this investigative process, small foreign particles can get sucked up into the nose. Cats also groom themselves frequently, which allows dust and dirt from their coats to enter their nasal passages.

Foreign material can get stuck in the nose when the cat inhales too forcefully. Sneezing is meant to expel the irritant, but sometimes the foreign object gets lodged and is difficult to dislodge. The nasal passages contract in an attempt to get rid of the foreign body. This causes inflammation, irritation, and excess mucus production. The cat may paw at its nose or make noises as if something is caught in the nose. Sneezing episodes may occur repeatedly as the cat tries to remove the foreign object.

Some common foreign objects found lodged in cat’s noses include dust and litter, grass awns, plant material, small toys, paper or fabric, and food material. The type of foreign material present may give clues about how it entered the nasal passage. For example, outdoor cats may inhale grass awns while hunting in fields. Indoor cats are more prone to dust or houseplant material getting trapped during grooming or playing.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is a common cause of chronic sneezing in cats. Dental issues like gum disease, tooth root abscesses, and other infections in a cat’s mouth can lead to sneezing for the following reasons:

The roots of a cat’s teeth are located very close to the nasal sinuses. When there is an infection or inflammation around the tooth roots, it can irritate the lining of the nasal cavity and sinuses, causing sneezing (Merrimac Valley 2021). Dental infections also compromise the barrier between the mouth and nasal passages, allowing bacteria and irritation to spread to the nasal area and trigger sneezing (VetMed Center SLC 2021).

Specifically, tooth root abscesses are a common dental problem in cats that can lead to sneezing. Abscesses form when there is a pocket of pus around the root, usually caused by advanced periodontal disease. The purulent material and inflammation from the abscess can penetrate into the nasal cavity, resulting in chronic sneezing (Shallowford Vet 2018).

Other signs of dental disease like bad breath, drooling, and difficulty eating may accompany the sneezing. Diagnosis is made by dental x-rays and examination of the mouth. Professional dental cleaning and extraction of diseased teeth is the treatment. Preventing dental disease through regular teeth brushing and professional cleanings can help reduce sneezing from this cause.

Nasal Tumors

Nasal tumors are a rare but potential cause of chronic sneezing in cats. Nasal tumors account for 1-2% of all feline tumors. The most common nasal tumor in cats is adenocarcinoma, followed by squamous cell carcinoma. Nasal tumors tend to occur in older cats, with an average age of diagnosis around 12-13 years old. Male cats are at a slightly higher risk than females.

The early symptoms of a nasal tumor include nasal discharge, sneezing, and stuffiness which can also indicate more common issues like allergies or upper respiratory infections. As the tumor grows, more distinctive symptoms may emerge like loud snoring, facial swelling, bloody nasal discharge, or facial deformity. Lesions inside the nasal cavity can also lead to teeth problems.

Getting an early diagnosis is key for treatment of nasal tumors. Diagnostic tests like rhinoscopy, biopsy, CT scan, or MRI can confirm the presence of a tumor. Treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery for partial or full removal of the tumor. Even with treatment, the prognosis for nasal cancer is generally poor due to the difficult location. Without treatment, survival time is typically 1-6 months from the onset of symptoms.

Preventing nasal tumors is challenging since the causes are not well understood. Keeping cats indoors may reduce risks from environmental factors. Annual vet exams can help detect tumors early when they are most treatable. While rare, owners should be aware nasal tumors can be a potential cause if a cat develops chronic, excessive sneezing.





To diagnose the cause of frequent sneezing in cats, vets will first do a full physical exam, looking in the nose, mouth and throat for any abnormalities. They may use an otoscope to look further into the nasal passages and check for infection, inflammation, masses or foreign objects lodged in the nasal cavity (source).

Imaging tests like radiographs or CT scans can also be used to get a closer look at the nasal cavity and sinuses. These may reveal issues like nasal polyps, tumors, tooth root infections extending into the sinuses, or foreign bodies (source).

Vets may collect samples from the nose or throat to culture and identify any bacterial or fungal infections causing sneezing episodes. They can also test for viruses like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus (source).

Blood work may be done to check for underlying conditions or to see if the cat’s immune system is compromised. Test results along with a thorough exam help vets pinpoint the reason for chronic sneezing.


Treatment for excessive sneezing in cats depends on the underlying cause. If the sneezing is due to allergies, the vet may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and histamine response. Immunotherapy or allergy shots may also be an option for cats with severe allergies (WebMD).

For upper respiratory infections caused by viruses or bacteria, antibiotics or antivirals may be prescribed. Cats with dental disease may need professional teeth cleaning and extraction of bad teeth by a vet. Nasal tumors will require surgery for removal (PetMD).

In mild cases with no clear underlying cause, the vet may recommend making environmental changes to reduce irritants. This can include using air filters, avoiding scented products, vacuuming frequently, and washing bedding regularly.


There are several ways to help prevent excessive sneezing in cats:

Maintain good dental health. Regular teeth brushing, dental cleanings, and treating any oral disease can reduce sneezing caused by dental problems (Source).

Reduce irritants in the home environment. Avoid exposing cats to cigarette smoke, harsh chemicals, dust, and other irritants that can trigger sneezing fits (Source). Use air filters and clean frequently.

Manage allergies. If your cat has allergies, work with your vet to identify and avoid allergen triggers. Medications may also help control allergy symptoms (Source).

Treat infections properly. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions for treating any upper respiratory infections to fully resolve them and prevent recurrence (Source).

Regular veterinary visits can help catch and address sneezing triggers early before they become serious issues.

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