what does it mean if my cat keeps sneezing

More often than not, the cause can be odd smells, like cleaning products or the cooking of spicy or pungent food. Dust, pollen, perfume, or cigarette smoke can also be triggers for sneezing. In some cases, it can also be the result of an infection, especially if your kitten has other symptoms.

Cats Sneezing and Feline Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs)

URIs are common respiratory conditions affecting cats.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that cats, especially those living in shelters, catteries, or multi-cat households, are highly susceptible to contracting URIs.

Based on estimates from the ASPCA, 80% of cats that come into animal shelters have some degree of URI infection.

Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FVC) are the most frequently implicated viral pathogens, but bacterial pathogens such as Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis can also cause urinary tract infections (URIs) in cats.

Your cat’s lungs, sinuses, oral cavity, trachea, bronchi, and even vocal folds can all be impacted by a URI.

Generally speaking, upper respiratory infections in cats can cause the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing.
  • Nasal congestion or discharge (a runny nose).
  • Watery or red eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Lethargy or decreased energy levels.
  • Fever (elevated body temperature).
  • Ulcers or sores in the mouth (oral ulceration).
  • Dehydration.
  • Reduced sense of smell.
  • Swollen lymph nodes (enlarged glands).
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Hoarse or raspy meowing.

Depending on the particular bacterial or viral agents causing the URI, the cat’s general health, and the infection’s stage, the severity and combination of symptoms can change.

Not all of your cat’s symptoms have to be present for it to be a URI. See a veterinarian right away if your cat exhibits any unusual symptoms or if you think they may have a respiratory infection.


Toxin exposure (such as rat poison) and offensive odors (like chemicals) are the first things that spring to mind when we think of external irritants. However, supposedly non-threatening household products can also trigger sneezing.

For example:

  • Cooking spices can irritate a cat’s sensitive nose; pepper and cinnamon are two common sources. This is especially true if the cat is interested in what’s going on in the kitchen.
  • Products for cleaning the home, such as those containing vinegar, bleach, or other chemicals
  • essential oils: although they could improve your quality of life and mood, they might upset your cat because of their keen sense of smell, which could make them sneeze.

Various foreign objects get stuck in the noses of curious cats.

  • Objects like lint, grass or a hair.
  • Airborne bodies such as pollen, or other allergens.
  • Dust and other airborne particles such as smoke.

Cats react to inhaling these particles by sneezing to get rid of the foreign debris, just like humans do. Sneezing won’t get rid of the lodged material, so schedule an appointment at our veterinary clinic right away.

If your cat is sneezing more than normal, it’s more than likely that your feline friend has an upper respiratory infection or URI. The most widespread respiratory infection is Feline Herpesvirus or FHV. It’s estimated that as many as 80-90% of all cats are infected with FHV.

The majority of cats are long-term carriers of upper respiratory viruses because they were exposed to them as kittens. Cats that experience stress or immunosuppression may potentially reactivate the dormant virus. Generally speaking, viral URIs are the underlying cause of sneezing cats.

There is presently no treatment for herpesvirus infections in cats, and infections are permanent, despite new research suggesting that current medications may help.

Other viral infections that can contribute to sneezing cats include Calicivirus (which the FVRCP combo vaccine provides protection against) and influenza.

Common symptoms of upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats include:

  • Repeated sneezing over several hours or days
  • an irregular discharge from the nose or eyes that can appear yellow, green, or bloody
  • Recurrent coughing or swallowing
  • Lethargy and/or fever
  • Dehydration and/or decreased appetite; weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

As the Pet Health Network notes, “dental disease can cause sneezing particularly involving root infections. Infections of the feline tooth can allow bacteria to establish in the nasal sinus with resulting inflammation and sneezing.”

It surprises a lot of pet parents to learn that dental disease can cause cats to sneeze. Like most things, sneezing is a sign of a more serious problem. The nasal passages are directly adjacent to the root canals of the teeth in the upper jaw. The barrier that separates the nasal passage from the tooth hole can be breached in the event of an infection or severe inflammation affecting one or more teeth. Bacteria can spread to other areas of the body if they are not treated.

This condition is generally painful and serious. It is highly advised that you take your cat to the vet if you think that it may have dental problems.

If your cat is sneezing a lot and you notice a yellow or green discharge coming from their eyes or nose, it’s definitely a bacterial infection.

Bacterial infections in cats almost always take on a secondary role following nasal passage damage caused by a respiratory virus or other medical condition. Bacteria are always opportunists, seizing the chance to exploit the gaps in the defenses that shield cats from these kinds of assaults.

As with most sneezing symptoms, neoplasia (tumors) is always on the list of possible reasons, in older cats especially. Aberrant (cancer) cells can grow inside the nasal passage, creating irritation and inflammation that causes the cat to sneeze. These tumors are typically detected visually via rhinoscopy or a nasal biopsy. When present, the diagnosis, regrettably, usually results in very poor outcomes.

Although relatively rare compared to viral or bacterial infections, fungal infections are a known cause of sneezing in cats. A fungus – known as Cryptococcus – is the most common offender.

A physical examination is usually insufficient to differentiate a fungal infection from other possible causes of feline sneezing; a rhinoscopy or biopsy is usually required to make a firm diagnosis.

Can a Cat Cold Cause My Cat to Sneeze?

It’s time to answer the most frequently asked question of all time: Can Cats Get Colds? Let’s let the cat out of the bag.

~ And the answer is yes.

The virus causing your cat’s cold is different from the one causing the human cold. It is an upper respiratory infection. We call these viruses “colds” because they cause similar symptoms. The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or influenza A virus are the most common human cold viruses. But fear not—pet viruses cannot infect humans or vice versa because viruses are not transmissible between species.