Why Does My Cat Keep Sneezing? Get to the Root of the Problem

Types of Sneezes in Cats

Cats can sneeze for harmless reasons or as a sign of illness. Knowing the difference between normal and concerning sneezes in cats is important.

Normal sneezes are sudden, explosive, and often occur singly or in bursts of 2-3 sneezes. They sound like an abrupt nasal exhalation and may involve some discharge from the nose. Normal sneezes are an involuntary reaction to mild nasal irritation from things like dust or pollen. As long as the sneezing is infrequent and the cat seems otherwise healthy, there is little cause for concern.

Sneezing becomes abnormal and more worrisome when it occurs frequently, in prolonged bouts, produces significant nasal discharge, involves bleeding from the nose, or is accompanied by other symptoms like lethargy, appetite loss, or eye/nose inflammation. Frequent sneezing can be a sign of upper respiratory infection, nasal mites, dental disease, or more serious conditions like nasal tumors. If a cat is sneezing more than a couple times a day or the sneezes seem worse than usual, it’s best to have them examined by a vet.

Common Causes of Sneezing

There are several common causes for chronic sneezing in cats:

Allergies – Allergies to things like pollen, dust mites, mold, and dander can cause sneezing and other upper respiratory symptoms. Cats may rub their face excessively or have watery eyes. Allergy testing and medication can provide relief. See the veterinarian to diagnose the specific allergy (https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/why-cats-sneeze).

Upper respiratory infections – Cats can get viral and bacterial upper respiratory infections, often called “cat flu.” These infections cause congestion, sneezing, eye and nasal discharge. Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections. Ensure the cat stays hydrated and gets rest (https://bluepearlvet.com/medical-articles-for-pet-owners/cat-sneezing-does-your-cat-have-a-cold/).

Foreign objects – Cat’s noses investigate everything. Grass, dirt, litter or other objects stuck in the nostrils can cause sneezing fits. Look for objects lodged in the nose. Remove gently with tweezers if visible (https://allkindsvet.com/cat-sneezing/).

Dental disease – Infected teeth or gums may lead to sneezing. Examine the teeth and gums for inflammation or abscesses. Dental cleaning or tooth extraction may be required (https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/why-cats-sneeze).

Tumors – Cancerous growths in the nasal cavity, mouth or lungs can cause sneezing. Diagnostic imaging is needed for confirmation. Treatment depends on the tumor type and location (https://allkindsvet.com/cat-sneezing/).

When to See the Vet

If your cat’s sneezing persists for more than 2 weeks or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s time to see the vet. According to Ethos Veterinary, sneezing lasting over 2 weeks warrants a vet visit to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Thick and discolored nasal discharge is another red flag. Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic notes yellowish-green or blood-tinged discharge points to an infection or foreign object lodged in the nasal passages. Persistent thick discharge makes breathing difficult and can lead to pneumonia if left untreated.

You should also see the vet promptly if your sneezing cat seems lethargic, has no appetite, or exhibits other concerning symptoms. According to Carson Veterinary Hospital, secondary symptoms suggest something more serious than allergies and require medical attention.


If you bring your cat to the vet because of frequent sneezing, the vet will begin the diagnostic process by taking a thorough medical history and performing a physical exam. They will ask questions about when the sneezing started, if it is intermittent or constant, if any discharge is present, and if the cat has any other symptoms. The physical exam allows the vet to look for nasal discharge, inflammation, dental issues, or masses in the nasal passages or mouth that could be causing irritation.

The vet may also recommend imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans of the nasal passages and chest. These images allow the vet to look for any anatomical abnormalities, masses, foreign objects stuck in the nasal passages, or signs of infection in the lungs. X-rays can also help identify dental disease that could be contributing to sneezing.

Finally, the vet may collect samples for laboratory tests. They may take a swab of nasal discharge to identify bacterial or fungal infections. Bloodwork can check for underlying illnesses contributing to sneezing, like infections or inflammation. Biopsies may be taken of any abnormal growths or masses seen on imaging tests.

Allergy Treatment

If your cat is sneezing due to allergies, there are a few treatment options to help relieve symptoms:

Avoiding Allergens: Keep your cat away from known allergens as much as possible. Use air purifiers and vacuum frequently. Wash bedding weekly in hot water to kill dust mites [1].

Antihistamines: Antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) can help stop allergy symptoms. Give the proper dosage for your cat’s weight as directed [2].

Immunotherapy: Long term allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy can help desensitize your cat to allergens over time under veterinary supervision.

Infection Treatment

If your cat has an upper respiratory infection caused by bacteria or viruses, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection (Source: Feline Upper Respiratory Infection – VCA Animal Hospitals). Antibiotics like doxycycline or azithromycin can help clear up bacterial infections and may shorten the duration of illness. It’s important to give the full course as prescribed, even if your cat seems better.

Nasal and eye drainage are common with upper respiratory infections. Gently wipe away any discharge around the eyes and nose with a warm, wet cloth. This can help keep your cat more comfortable. You can also use saline drops or spray to help loosen dried discharge.

Running a cool mist humidifier near your cat’s sleeping area can help keep their airways moist and make breathing easier. Clean and refill the humidifier daily and follow all safety precautions.

Foreign Object Removal

If your cat has a nasal foreign body like a piece of grass stuck in its nose, the object will need to be removed. This is usually done under anesthesia, either general anesthesia where your cat is fully asleep, or sedation anesthesia where your cat is heavily sedated.

The vet will perform endoscopy to find and remove the foreign object. This involves inserting a small camera into your cat’s nose and navigating it to locate the object. Small grasping tools can be inserted alongside the endoscope to grab onto the object and pull it out.

According to VetMedUtah.com, endoscopy allows vets to “visualize, dislodge or pull out foreign matter from the nasal passages.” This is a non-invasive procedure that does not require surgery. It allows precision removal of objects lodged deep in the nasal cavity.

Endoscopy reduces risks and recovery time compared to invasive surgery. Your vet will monitor your cat closely during the procedure and recovery from anesthesia. In most cases, the foreign object can be successfully removed with endoscopy, resolving sneezing and other symptoms.

Dental Disease Treatment

If your cat has signs of dental disease, such as smelly breath, yellow or brown tartar on the teeth, red and inflamed gums, mouth pain, or reluctance to eat, your veterinarian will likely recommend professional dental treatment. This usually involves:

Professional dental cleaning – also called scaling and polishing, this procedure is done under general anesthesia to allow for a thorough cleaning above and below the gumline. Hardened tartar is scraped off, bacteria is removed, and the teeth are polished. According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “A thorough prophylaxis will remove 30 to 50 per cent of calculus and stain above the gumline and 5 percent subgingivally” [1].

Tooth extraction – severely damaged or infected teeth may need to be extracted. VCA Animal Hospitals states “Extraction of teeth is commonly required in cats suffering from periodontitis, FORLs and some oral tumors” [2].

Antibiotics – your vet may prescribe antibiotics before and/or after dental treatment to clear infection.

Tumor Treatment

Treatment options for nasal tumors in cats include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is often challenging for nasal tumors due to the sensitive location in the nasal cavity. Complete surgical removal of the tumor can be difficult. Radiation therapy is considered the preferred standard treatment for nasal tumors in cats [1]. It can help reduce tumor size and provide pain relief. Radiation is usually done in short sessions over several weeks. The most common type of radiation used for nasal tumors is intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) [2]. Chemotherapy may be used in combination with radiation or on its own. It uses anti-cancer drugs to try to kill tumor cells. The specific chemotherapy protocol depends on the type and stage of nasal tumor.


To prevent excessive cat sneezing, it is important to limit exposure to potential irritants. This includes things like cigarette smoke, dust, pollen, cleaning products with strong fumes, and fragranced items. Keep the cat’s environment clean and ventilated. Use unscented litter and gentle cleaning products when possible. An air purifier with a HEPA filter can also help reduce allergens in the home.

Make sure to keep the cat’s vaccines up-to-date, including their feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus vaccines. These can help prevent upper respiratory infections caused by those viruses. Bring your cat to the vet for wellness checkups at least once or twice a year. Discuss any sneezing issues with the vet, who can check for underlying problems and provide advice on prevention.

With some care taken to minimize irritants and maintain good health, excessive sneezing may be avoided in many cats. But sneezing is normal in small amounts, so contact your vet if it becomes extremely frequent or severe.

Scroll to Top