The Truth About Cat Sneezing: What It Indicates

Cats are adorable when they sneeze. That short moment after they do it when they’re left surprised and still coming to terms with this strange thing that has happened to them, is hilarious. While sneezing is extremely common in people, cats don’t sneeze very often, which makes it that much cuter when it does. But why do cats sneeze? Should you be worried when it happens? Let’s find out the truth behind this behavior.

Here Are the Most Common Reasons for Cats Sneezing

Seal Mitted with a blaze Ragdoll Cat Charlie saliva on his mane Cerenia trip to the lake
Photo credit: Floppycats.com

A speck of dust or a small particle-like pepper or cinnamon

A strong smell / Airborne chemicals – such as the aldehydes in oranges

A foreign object in their nose – such as a piece of lint, a hair, or the tip of a blade of grass

Upper respiratory infections

Inflammations of the nasal cavity and sinuses

Allergies

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

Inflammations or Infection of a tooth with sinus implication
Learn more about these symptoms.

Identify Patterns

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If the cat only sneezes every once in a while, then you have nothing to be worried about. But look out for patterns if the sneezing comes up often enough to notice. Here are some examples of typical patterns involving cat sneezing:

The Cat Sneezes After You Clean the House.

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If you notice that your cat sneezes every time you clean the house, then you should look into the products that you use, especially for cleaning the floors and areas that the cat comes in contact with, but also into how well you rinse after you use them. For example, using more products to clean your floors might be tempting because the house smells better afterward.

But overusing cleaning products can be dangerous for the cat. Sneezing can be valuable because it might alert you to the issue. The pungent smell makes the cat sneeze, and you will know the problem. 

When it washes after walking on the freshly-cleaned floor, the cat ingests the chemicals, so make sure you clean the cat’s paws as soon as you notice this sneezing pattern. Make sure to use the indicated amount of product and to rinse thoroughly to keep your house safe for both you and your cat.

The Cat Sneezes After It Goes to the Litter Box

cat in a litter box with a trash can in front
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Sometimes, stirring up the litter might make the cat sneeze. But if this happens often, then you should look into the matter. First, clean the litter box regularly and rinse it thoroughly.

Make sure you clean the cat’s litter every single day. Cat urine has a powerful smell and gets stronger the more you leave it in the litter box. Also, your cat’s sneezing might indicate that you need to clean its litter box more often. Read more about cat litter here.

The Cat Sneezes When It Sits on Your Clean Linens or Clothes

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Cats love to sit on their owners’ clothes and linens. Of course, clean clothes are a special treat, but if you notice that your cat often sneezes after relaxing on your clothes, you should look into the detergent and fabric softener you use. 

If you use many of these for your laundry, then they might be toxic for your cat. Your cat might also be sensitive to the type of detergent you use.

Air Fresheners

cropped-Bath-and-Body-Works-Wallflower-Plugin-Air-Freshener-Toxic-for-Cats.jpg
Photo credit: Floppycats.com

Air fresheners can be toxic for cats, and they are very dangerous for them. So if you notice them sneezing, stop using that type of air freshener altogether because it has some airborne particles that are harmful to your cat. 

There are plenty of cat-friendly alternatives to traditional air fresheners that you can consider to keep your cat safe.

Upper Respiratory Infections

two ragdoll cats laying on a bed
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This is a common issue for cats; you must be ready to spot it from the very beginning because you will need to take the cat to the vet. Here are the symptoms you should look out for:

  • repeated sneezing
  • nasal discharge – usually milky white, light yellow, or light green
  • fever – infections are associated with fever
  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite

The cat is not active because of the fever and does not sleep for long. You will hear it sneezing, and you will see the nasal discharge. The edges of the cat’s nose may become inflamed due to repeated sneezing and the effects of nasal discharge. The cat may not have an appetite or want to drink water.

If you notice this, you must get the cat to the vet because it needs antibiotics and fluid therapy. Upper respiratory infections have a bacterial cause and must be treated with antibiotics. These will help bring the fever down, and the fluid therapy will correct the dehydration that is usually secondary to these infections. Aside from the antibiotics, the doctor might recommend nose and/or eye drops.

If your cat is suffering from an upper respiratory infection, then make sure you clean its nose regularly using moist cotton. It would help if you also encouraged it to eat by offering it the food it likes the most and to drink water. Change its drinking water as soon as possible. A cat water fountain could come in handy because the water remains fresh. Read about the benefits of cat water fountains here.

Inflammation of the Nasal Cavity And/or Sinuses

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll Cat Trigg
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The inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose is called rhinitis, and the inflammation of the lining of the sinuses is called sinusitis. These two types of inflammation can occur separately, but they can also occur together, in which case the condition is called rhinosinusitis.

Allergies

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Sneezing is not a typical symptom of allergies in cats, as it is in humans. For cats, dermatological symptoms are far more common than sneezing. In some cases, the dermatological symptoms are also accompanied by sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and wheezing.

You must take the cat to a vet if you notice these symptoms. The doctor will then have to identify the allergen causing these symptoms, which could be lengthy, so be patient. Food allergies are the first ones that have to be excluded. After that, the doctor will prescribe a hypoallergenic diet.

If the symptoms subside, the allergen is a type of food that must be identified by individually introducing each type of food (chicken, fish, beef, etc.). If the symptoms come back after introducing a specific type of food, the allergen will have to be excluded from the cat’s diet entirely. Read more about a healthy cat diet here.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR)

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll Cat Trigg
Photo credit: Floppycats.com

This is a herpesvirus infection that typically occurs in unvaccinated cats of all ages. Kittens are particularly susceptible to it and sometimes get it before they are old enough to be vaccinated if exposed to the virus. The feline herpes virus infection is also passed from the mother to the kittens. The regular yearly vaccine protects cats against FVR, so ensure you don’t miss it to keep your cat safe.

The symptoms of FVR include:

  • sneezing
  • nasal discharge – clear to milky white or light yellow
  • conjunctivitis – the inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids and surrounding the eyes
  • eye discharge – also ranges from clear to milky white or light yellow
  • keratitis – the inflammation of the cornea, which could cause corneal ulcers and further complications
  • fever
  • lack of energy
  • loss of appetite

Tooth Infections with Sinus Implications

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Tooth infections in cats can be challenging to spot because cats often don’t allow their owners to check their teeth or the inside of their mouths. If your cat is particularly bothered by this, look at its teeth and gums every once in a while and check for tooth infections.

This dental disease can go unnoticed and progress to the point where the sinuses are also involved. If the infection gets to the cat’s sinuses, sneezing will become a symptom. Here are some of the others:

  • The cat refuses to eat because the tooth is painful.
  • Fever
  • The inflammation of the gum can progress to the point where it covers the entire half of the cat’s face, where the infected tooth is located.
  • Difficulty breathing – the cat will breathe through its mouth
  • Wheezing, coughing
  • The cat keeps its mouth open – often because it is too painful to close it all the way.

If your cat suffers from these symptoms, it must go to the vet immediately because it needs urgent care. The doctor will administer antibiotics to fight the infection. This is the first step of the treatment. The tooth must be assessed and treated once the infection is treated.

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Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Sometimes you’ll catch your kitty in a compromising pose – as these cats prove.

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Grumpy cat looking at the camera
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

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Orange cat starring intently at the camera
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

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A Maine Coon cat and kitten
Photo credit: DepositDepot.

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Elijah and Zacharia - Ragdoll Kittens of Month 20190320_Wubs sink
Photo credit: Used with permission for Floppycats.

Cats in sinks are a common sight for many cat owners and enthusiasts. Enjoy the pictures.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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2 Comments

  1. Patti Johnson says:

    TYSVM for all this great info, Jenny honey! Enjoyed it very much and it’s very helpful! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

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