What You Should Know About Cat Sneezing

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Pass the tissues, please! Is your cat sneezing more than usual? Mild sneezing is a normal biological function in cats, so it's not uncommon for them to sneeze now and then. However, if your cat is sneezing continually or more frequently than usual, it may signal that something is wrong and you need to visit your veterinarian. Here are the basics of cat sneezing so you know what to expect.

How Often Should Cats Sneeze?

Cats sneeze for many of the same reasons humans sneeze. For example, it's normal for cats to sneeze if they have an itchy nose or sniffed something irritating. What's considered a normal amount of sneezing can vary, but it's generally limited to a couple of times a day. Importantly, normal sneezing isn't accompanied by nasal discharge or other signs of illness.

Occasional sneezing is nothing to worry about. But if you notice your cat suddenly sneezing more than usual, sneezing repeatedly or showing other signs they're sick, something is amiss.

Signs of Illness

Signs your cat's sneezing may indicate an underlying concern include:

  • Nasal discharge of any color
  • Nasal redness or swelling
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Pawing at the face
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Bloody saliva

If you notice unusual sneezing, particularly in combination with any of these signs, visit your vet.

sneezing cat

Causes of Sneezing in Cats

Anything that affects or irritates your cat's nasal passages can cause sneezing. Some conditions are self-limiting (don't require any treatment), while others are more serious and require veterinary care. Here are some of the more serious conditions that can cause sneezing in cats.

Upper Respiratory Infection

One of the most common causes of sneezing in cats is an upper respiratory infection. Viruses (such as herpes), bacteria, fungi and protozoa can infect your cat's nasal passages, causing signs such as sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, red eyes and loss of appetite.

Dental Disease

It might come as a surprise that dental disease can cause sneezing in cats, but it's true! The roots of your cat's teeth on the upper jaw are close to their nasal passages. If an upper tooth root becomes infected, it can cause swelling and inflammation, resulting in sneezing and nasal discharge. Dental disease can also cause bad breath, loss of appetite, teeth chattering and bloody saliva.

Allergies or Irritants

Cats can be sensitive to many inhaled irritants and allergens, including dust, cigarette smoke, spices, cleaning products, scented candles, pollen and dust mites, leading to sneezing and red eyes. Allergens and irritants may also contribute to feline asthma — another potential cause of excessive cat sneezing.

Foreign Material

Foreign objects, such as a blade of grass, can become stuck in your cat's nose when they attempt to munch on or sniff something. This can result in violent, repetitive sneezing, bloody discharge and facial pawing. Generally, cats must be sedated to remove foreign objects safely. Never attempt to remove something yourself without consulting your vet — instead, seek care right away.

Nasal Polyp

Nasal polyps are benign (noncancerous) inflammatory growths that can occur in your cat's nose or throat. The cause of polyps in cats isn't well understood. Signs of polyps include sneezing, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing and bad breath.

veterinary clinic with cat


Benign and malignant (cancerous) tumors in the nose can cause sneezing, nasal discharge and bad breath. Some nasal tumors can also lead to appetite loss and weight loss.

What to Expect at the Veterinary Clinic

When you take your cat to the vet, they'll check your cat's vitals and ask you questions about how your cat is doing at home. They'll also want to know your cat's vaccine history. Then, your vet will conduct a full physical exam and, depending on what they find, may recommend additional testing to determine the cause of sneezing. This can include bloodwork to check internal organ function and virus status and radiographs (X-rays) of the head and neck. In some cases, your vet may need to sedate your cat to remove foreign material or collect samples for biopsy or further testing.

How to Manage Sneezing in Cats

Mild sneezing in cats usually resolves on its own and typically doesn't require treatment. If your cat does need treatment, it will depend on the cause. If your vet identifies an infection, they'll prescribe medication to resolve it and minimize the associated signs. If a polyp is responsible for your cat's sneezing, they'll recommend surgical removal. And if your cat has dental disease, they'll need dental intervention.

If your cat has copious nasal discharge, your vet may recommend a series of steam therapy sessions at home to loosen nasal secretions. This usually entails keeping your cat in your bathroom for around 15 minutes while running a hot shower, but follow your vet's instructions.

In general, minimize the use of indoor irritants, such as scented candles, essential oil diffusers, cigarette smoke and harsh cleaning products, around your cat. You can also reduce their likelihood of developing upper respiratory infections by vaccinating them against upper respiratory viruses. Talk to your vet to determine which vaccines are right for your cat.

Your Vet Knows Best

Mild, intermittent sneezing is a normal biological function in cats, and the occasional sneeze is nothing to worry about. But if your cat is sneezing often, suddenly or repeatedly — particularly if they're acting or looking sick in any way — check in with your vet. They're your partner in supporting your cat's health and well-being, so take advantage of their knowledge, training and love. It takes a village!

funny laughing cat in a cardboard box or carton with copy space


Sarah J. Wooten, DVM, CVJ

Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known international influencer in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 16 years experience in private practice and over 10 years experience in veterinary media work, and is a certified veterinary journalist.

She is also passionate about helping pet parents learn how to care better for their fur friends, and has written thousands of web articles and filmed hundreds of videos about pet care and the human-animal bond. She has appeared on radio, podcasts, and multiple television news broadcasts across the country in her role as a veterinary expert, and has been featured in several magazines in the same role.

Dr. Wooten speaks to veterinary continuing education audiences about leadership, client communication, and personal development. She is also a co-creator of the wildly popular card game 'Vets Against Insanity' and the associated event, 'Vets Against Insanity CON'.

In her spare time, she can be found skiing, fly fishing, golfing, and paddle boarding. To see what else she has up her sleeve, visit drsarahwooten.com.