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Why Is My Cat Sneezing So Much? Veterinarians Weigh In With Potential Causes

Plus, how you can help kitty avoid certain irritants

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As adorable as it is to see a kitty scrunch up their nose and shake their head as they “a-choo,” excessive sneezing can eventually become a concern. Many cat parents have found themselves wondering: “Why is my cat sneezing so much?” Since we care so deeply about the health and safety of our feline friends, we often become quick to worry when it seems that they’re not of their best health, so we asked veterinarians for advice on how to discern which ailments are most likely to cause sneezing in cats, and how we can help!  

Reasons your cat might be sneezing 

Vets say it’s important to remember that these are potential reasons, and that not all sneezing cats are guaranteed to experience these issues. It’s common for pets to sneeze or have runny noses.  

1. Respiratory problems

Respiratory issues are among the most common causes of sneezing in cats, experts say. Sneezing in cats is most frequently associated particularly with upper respiratory infections (URIs) caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses, explains Julie Hunt, DVM, Veterinarian with Embrace Pet Insurance. Respiratory infections are very common in cats, and may also cause nasal congestion (a stuffy nose with louder than normal breathing), discharge from the nose or eyes, and redness in the eyes, she adds.  

“Sneezing clears debris—or is an attempt to clear debris—from the respiratory tract,” explains Dr. Hunt. “In a respiratory tract infection, this consists of mucous and airway secretions produced by the body to fight the infection, along with the bacteria and/or virus causing the infection.” 

2. Oral disease 

Dental issues such as tooth rot abscesses can also cause cats to sneeze frequently, says Robert Gonzalez, DVM, Regional Medical Director for Small Door Veterinary’s New York City hospitals. Not all cats show obvious signs of dental disease, but they also might paw at their mouth, shake their head, chatter their jaw, chew with visible discomfort, drop food from their mouth, swallow with difficulty, drool excessively or exhibit bad breath. 

Related: Why Do Cats Drool? Vet Explains the Reason + When You Should Be Concerned

3. Foreign object

Excessive sneezing can also be a sign that your cat has a foreign object irritating their nasal passage. This can include environmental allergens such as dust and debris; small objects like seeds and grass awns; polyps or tumors; or inhaled irritants like smoke or perfume.  

“In the case of a foreign body or polyp, the cat is trying to clear the obstruction from their airway,” says Dr. Hunt. “As all animals require an open airway to breathe well, you don’t want to limit the sneezing when there is debris in the airway.”  

Nasal polyps, she adds, are likely to present symptoms like those of a URI, and in both cases, only a full veterinary examination with imaging can differentiate the cause. 

How to minimize sneezing in your cat 

The good thing about these issues is that they are mostly preventable with proactive visits to the vet and keeping your cat’s environment clean. 

“To help minimize your cat’s sneezing, you should maintain a clean environment by reducing dust, smoke, and strong odors,” advises Dr. Gonzalez. “Using hypoallergenic products such as dust-free litter and hypoallergenic cleaning supplies may also be beneficial. Keeping the air moist with a humidifier and ensuring proper ventilation in your home can further help reduce sneezing. Regular vet check-ups are crucial for monitoring your cat’s health and addressing any issues early on, which can help in minimizing sneezing as well.”

When should you take your cat to the vet for sneezing?

Cat sneezing with nasal discharge
Tunatura/Getty

There are a few signs to look out for that might mean your cat needs to see a vet to treat the underlying issue of their sneezing, and thankfully, plenty of treatment options for your vet to perform if necessary. 

If the sneezing is accompanied by fever, lethargy, inappetence or weight loss; green, yellow or bloody discharge is coming from the nose or eyes; one or both eyes are painful and squinted closed, potentially with a liquid discharge; the cat seems to be struggling to breath or has been sneezing persistently without improvement for more than a few days, you should bring your cat to the vet for evaluation as soon as possible. 

To give a more thorough overview of the cat’s health and figure out the cause of sneezing, your vet can perform diagnostic tests such as nasal swabs, blood tests, X-rays or endoscopy. In the case of a URI, the vet will likely prescribe your cat an appropriate antibiotic or antiviral to help clear it, and if a foreign body or polyp is present, the veterinarian may be able to remove these to resolve your cat’s sneezing.


Keep reading for more valuable cat health information!

Cat Eye Boogers: Vet Explains What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them

What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat — and Why His Whiskers May Be to Blame

This is How to Keep Cats Cool Throughout The Summer, According to Experts

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