Why Does My Cat Have a Sneezing Frenzy? Uncovering the Causes of Excessive Feline Sneezing

Frequent Feline Sneezing

Does your cat let out tiny kitten-like sneezes throughout the day? An occasional cat sneeze here and there is perfectly normal. But if your feline is sneezing constantly, you may wonder why and if you should be concerned. Frequent bouts of sneezing can disrupt your cat’s routine and leave you both unsettled.

While the occasional sneeze is no cause for alarm, chronic sneezing may indicate an underlying issue. In this article, we’ll examine some of the most common causes of persistent sneezing in cats. With the right information, you can get to the bottom of your sneezy kitty’s problem and find solutions.

When Sneezing May Indicate a Health Issue

It’s normal for cats to sneeze occasionally to clear their nasal passages, but excessive sneezing can be a sign of an underlying health issue. Cats normally sneeze around 1-2 times per hour. Sneezing more than 4-5 times in an hour or having sneezing fits of 10+ consecutive sneezes may indicate a problem.

Some concerning causes of excessive sneezing in cats include:

  • Allergies – Inhaling allergens like pollen, dust, or mold can trigger sneezing and irritation. See a vet to identify and treat the allergy (Source 1).
  • Upper respiratory infections – Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can infect the upper respiratory tract causing inflammation and sneezing. Feline herpesvirus and calicivirus are common culprits (Source 2).
  • Foreign objects – Grass, dirt, or other debris stuck in the nose can cause sneezing fits as the body tries to expel it.
  • Nasal polyps or tumors – Abnormal tissue growths in the nasal passages or sinuses obstruct airflow and irritate the lining.

If your cat is sneezing frequently or excessively, consult your veterinarian to pinpoint the underlying cause and proper treatment.


Cats can develop allergies to things like pollen, mold, dust mites, and flea bites that cause an overreaction of the immune system. This leads to inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages, causing sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, and wheezing. Indoor cats may be just as susceptible as outdoor cats since common household allergens like dust and pollen easily track indoors on people and pets (source).

Diagnosing allergies usually involves a veterinarian taking a detailed history of symptoms and using intradermal skin testing. Treatment focuses on reducing exposure to allergens by keeping the cat indoors and using HEPA air filters, medicated baths/shampoos, antihistamines, steroids, or immunotherapy.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are among the most common causes of sneezing in cats. URI is a broad term that encompasses infections of the upper airways, including the nose, sinuses, throat, windpipe, and sometimes the middle ear.https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feline-upper-respiratory-infection URIs are typically caused by viruses such as feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, and feline pneumonitis virus.https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/why-cats-sneeze

These viruses attack and damage the cells lining the respiratory tract, which leads to inflammation, excessive mucus production, and sneezing as the body tries to expel the irritants. Other common symptoms include nasal discharge, eye discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy, and congestion.https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feline-upper-respiratory-infection In severe cases, pneumonia may develop if the infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract.

Foreign Objects

Cats can get small objects lodged in their nasal passages in a few ways. Some common culprits include:

  • Swallowing an object that gets stuck on the way down and is then expelled through a sneeze. Common examples include pieces of toys, blades of grass, seeds, or food particles.
  • Inserting their nose into small spaces and getting something trapped inside. Kittens are especially prone to this when exploring.
  • Having an object get flung or stuck inside while playing roughly.

With a foreign intruder in the nasal passages, excessive sneezing is the body’s way of trying to expel it. The debris or object irritates the sensitive nasal tissue, triggering a sneeze reflex. A cat may sneeze repeatedly, sometimes dozens of times in a row, as it tries to dislodge the object. This is often accompanied by noisy breathing, coughing, gagging, or retching as well. The cat may also paw at its nose or shake its head. These signs point to something stuck inside the nose rather than an infection or allergy.

Depending on the size and shape, some foreign bodies may get naturally expelled through enough forceful sneezing. However, many require veterinary assistance for safe removal, especially if they become lodged in a difficult to reach place. Cats should see the vet for persistent sneezing or any signs of respiratory distress, as quick removal helps prevent complications.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths that develop in a cat’s nasal passages and sinuses (VCA Hospitals, 2022). They often look like teardrop-shaped swellings and can range in size. Polyps form as the mucous membranes in the nasal passages or sinuses overgrow.

Nasal polyps tend to occur more often in young cats, especially Siamese cats. The specific cause is unknown, but inflammation from infection or irritation is thought to play a role (Cornell University, 2022). Polyps can obstruct nasal passages or extend into surrounding structures, leading to symptoms like nosebleeds, nasal discharge, sneezing, snoring, and difficulty breathing.

To diagnose nasal polyps, a veterinarian will perform a physical exam and take x-rays or do an endoscopic exam of the nasal passages. Biopsies are sometimes needed to check for cancer. The main treatment is surgery to remove the polyps. This may require general anesthesia and can be expensive. Medications may help shrink polyps temporarily, but regrowth is common after stopping medication. Preventing respiratory infections can potentially lower polyp risk.

When to See the Vet

If your cat’s sneezing persists beyond a few days, becomes severe, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to have them examined by a veterinarian. The vet will perform a full physical exam, looking in the nose, mouth and eyes for any abnormalities. They may recommend additional diagnostics to identify the underlying cause, such as:

  • Nasal flush to collect samples and examine for infection
  • X-rays or CT scan to look for foreign objects, tumors or other nasal issues
  • Bloodwork to check for infections or inflammation
  • Biopsy of nasal tissue if masses are detected

Identifying the root cause through diagnostics is key to getting your cat the right treatment. Bacterial or fungal infections will require medication, while foreign objects may need surgical removal. Allergies can be managed through avoidance, medications or immunotherapy. Without a proper diagnosis, symptoms may persist or worsen. Your vet can provide tailored treatment recommendations based on your cat’s specific condition for the best outcome.

Don’t hesitate to book an appointment if your cat’s sneezing is excessive or accompanied by discharge, breathing issues, loss of appetite or lethargy. Though sneezing seems minor, it can sometimes indicate serious health issues in cats that require veterinary attention.

At-home Care

There are some temporary relief measures you can try at home to help soothe your cat’s sneezing and nasal irritation:

Gently flush your cat’s nasal passages with a saline solution using a bulb syringe or saline nose drops. This can help thin mucus and clear out irritants.

Make sure your cat stays hydrated by encouraging them to drink water. Dehydration can make nasal secretions thicker.

Run a humidifier to add moisture to the air, which can help loosen mucus.Keeping dust to a minimum can also help reduce sneezing irritation. Use dust-reducing furnishings and keep up with vacuuming.

Avoid exposing your cat to irritants like perfumes, cigarettes, candles, and harsh chemicals that can further aggravate their nasal passages.

You can also gently wipe your cat’s face with a warm, wet cloth to remove any nasal discharge and provide some relief.


There are some steps you can take to help prevent your cat from excessive sneezing:

Keep up with routine vet visits and vaccines. Your vet can check for any underlying conditions and make sure your cat is up to date on vaccines like feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus, which can cause upper respiratory infections.

Limit exposure to irritants and allergens. Keep your home clean and free of dust, cigarette smoke, candles, harsh chemicals, perfumes, etc. Use air filters and vacuum regularly. Try to keep your cat indoors to avoid seasonal allergies.

Address any underlying conditions. Manage conditions like allergies through medications or changes to diet/environment. Have nasal polyps surgically removed if present.

Reduce stress. Stress can weaken the immune system and make cats more prone to illness. Make sure your cat’s needs are met with proper nutrition, enrichment, and routine.

When to Worry

If your cat’s sneezing is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian right away. Some warning signs to watch out for include:

  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite or not eating
  • Difficulty breathing such as open-mouth breathing or wheezing
  • Nasal discharge that is yellow, green, or bloody
  • Fever
  • Pale or bluish gums
  • Sneezing that persists for more than a few days

Excessive sneezing along with any of these other symptoms could indicate a potentially serious health issue that requires prompt veterinary attention. Respiratory infections in cats can worsen quickly, so do not delay in contacting your vet if your cat’s condition raises concerns.

Breathing difficulties are particularly worrying with sneezing cats. Open-mouth breathing, wheezing, coughing, or other signs of respiratory distress signify a potential emergency. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell, so nasal blockages and swelling can greatly impact their wellbeing. Contact your vet immediately if your cat is struggling to breathe.

While sneezing alone may not require an urgent vet visit, pairing it with lethargy, appetite changes, or breathing issues warrants an immediate call or trip to the animal hospital. When in doubt, reach out to your veterinarian for guidance. It is always better to seek help sooner rather than later with respiratory concerns in cats.

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