Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

Last Updated on July 8, 2021 by Jenny

8 Reasons Why Your Cat May Sneeze

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 simply 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? Here are the most common reasons for cats sneezing and what to do about it.


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The Usual Suspects

Cats don’t sneeze very often and when they do it usually happens once or twice, after which it stops. However, sometimes, they sneeze once every hour or so, and the sneezing is accompanied by nasal discharge. Here are the common reasons why cats sneeze:

  • 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

These make the cat sneeze once or twice. The sneezing stops as soon as these stimuli are eliminated.

  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Inflammations of the nasal cavity and/or sinuses
  • Allergies
  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
  • Inflammations or Infection of a tooth with sinus implication

These make the cat sneeze in repeated episodes. The sneezing is typically associated with other symptoms as well.
Seal Mitted with a blaze Ragdoll Cat Charlie saliva on his mane Cerenia trip to the lake

Identify Patterns

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

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. It might be tempting to use a bit more product to clean your floors because the house smells better afterward.

But overusing cleaning products can be dangerous for the cat. Sneezing can be a valuable tip because it might alert you to the issue. The strong smell makes the cat sneeze and you will be aware of 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.

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The cat sneezes after it goes to the litter box

Sometimes, stirring up the litter might make the cat sneeze. But if this happens often, then you should look into the matter. Make sure you clean the litter box on a regular basis and that you rinse it thoroughly.

Make sure you clean the cat’s litter every single day. Cat urine has a very strong smell and it gets stronger the more you leave it in the litter box. Your cat’s sneezing might be a sign that you need to clean its litter box more often.
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The cat sneezes when your air freshener is on

Air fresheners can be toxic for cats and they are very dangerous for them. If you notice them sneezing, then 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.

The cat sneezes when it sits on your clean linens or clothes

Cats love to sit on their owners’ clothes and linens. Clean clothes are a special treat, but if you notice that your cat often sneezes after having spent some cozy time on your clothes, then you should look into the detergent and fabric softener you use.

If you use a lot 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.

Upper respiratory infections

This is a common issue for cats and you have to 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 in color
  • fever – infections are associated with fever
  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite

The cat is not active because of the fever and it 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 to the effects of the nasal discharge. The cat may not have an appetite and it may not want to drink water.

If you notice this, then you have to get the cat to the vet because it needs antibiotics and fluid therapy. Upper respiratory infections have a bacterial cause and they 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. You should also encourage 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.

Benefits of Cat Water Fountains

Inflammations of the nasal cavity and/or sinuses

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.

The causes leading to rhinosinusitis can be bacterial, fungal, or viral. The symptoms are similar to those of upper respiratory infections, but since rhinosinusitis is a deeper inflammation that goes all the way up to the sinuses, there are some variations.

  • The nasal discharge ranges from clear in mild cases to light yellow or green in more severe cases, or even bloody.
  • Difficulty breathing – the cat breathes through the mouth as its nose is clogged up with secretions.
  • Discharge from the eyes – in rhinosinusitis, eye discharge also appears because the inflammation is deep
  • Pawing at the face -the cat is bothered by the inability to breathe properly and cleans itself continuously
  • Reverse sneezing – as the cat attempts to clear its nose and breathe, it will inhale rapidly and intensely  
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Fever may or may not be present -depending on the cause

If you notice these symptoms in your cat, then you need to take it to the vet. The first step is identifying the cause of the rhinitis, sinusitis, or rhinosinusitis, which dictates the correct treatment. If the cause is bacterial, then the treatment will be antibiotics. If the cause is fungal, then the cat will need antifungal medicine. If the cause is viral, then the cat will need stimulants for its immune system and antibiotics to prevent complications.

Fluid therapy is essential in treating rhinosinusitis because the cat often becomes dehydrated. Since it doesn’t have an appetite, it also needs its nutrients administered intravenously to be able to fight the disease. Additionally, you should give the cat its favorite food or even try out special wet food for convalescent cats which is packed with the nutrients it needs and is extra flavorful to make it appealing to the cats.

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll Cat Trigg


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, though, the dermatological symptoms are also accompanied by sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and wheezing.

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

If the symptoms subside, then the allergen is a type of food, which must then be identified by introducing each type of food (chicken, fish, beef, etc) individually. If the symptoms come back after introducing a certain type of food, then that is the allergen, and it will have to be excluded from the cat’s diet entirely.

However, food allergies are not the only cause. If the symptoms only come up in spring or a particular season, then the cause might be pollen or something that only occurs seasonally.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR)

This is a herpesvirus infection that typically occurs in unvaccinated cats of all ages. Kittens are particularly susceptible to it and they 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 make sure 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

The treatment for FVR requires immunostimulants, as well as antibiotics, which are administered for the prevention of further complications. Since the body is greatly affected by fighting off the viral infection, it is very susceptible to secondary bacterial infections, such as infections of the digestive tract. The doctor will decide if this is necessary according to the cat’s specific symptoms. Additionally, the cat needs eye drops and fluid therapy to fight the dehydration and anemia. The cat’s nose and eyes will need to be cleaned several times a day. This is a crucial part of the treatment.

FVR is treatable in most cases, but timing is extremely important. If the cat receives treatment as soon as it starts showing symptoms, then it has very high chances of being cured completely. However, if the disease progresses before the cat gets treatment, then it might be left with some long-term complications.

Some cats that have contracted FVR never fully recover and develop chronic inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. Other serious complications of FVR concern the cat’s eyes. Some cats may lose their sight in one or even both eyes if the keratitis is not treated in due time.

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll Cat Trigg

Tooth Infections with Sinus Implications

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

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

  • The cat refuses to eat because the tooth is painful
  • Fever
  • The inflammation of the gum, which 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, then it needs to 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.

Fluid therapy is crucial in this case because the cat is often unable to eat or drink water because of the painful tooth. It will need moist food which does not require chewing – such as pates until the tooth is treated and the pain subsides. Pain management is also very important as tooth infections are extremely painful.

As you can see, there are plenty of causes for cats sneezing. Isolated episodes of sneezing are nothing to worry about, but if you notice a pattern behind the sneezing, then you should try to find out more about the cause. If the sneezing is associated with other symptoms, then you should consider taking your cat to the vet because it might need medical attention.

Does your cat sneeze often? Have you noticed any patterns around the sneezing? Tell us all about them in the comments section below.

Helpful articles:

Toxic Air Fresheners and Cats

Litter Robot Auto-Cleaning Litter Box

Litter Robot Multiple Cats: FAQ

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3 thoughts on “Why Is My Cat Sneezing?

  1. ddp1125@aol.com says:

    Thank you for the article on cats sneezing. I think I’m going to have to visit the vet with my Ragdoll or even the emergency vet if he gets worse as the day goes on.
    I have a 5 month old rescue cat I got so my baby could have a friend. He had a viral infection or that one with herpes at the beginning of the name. He had been treated and declared healthy but it must not have been all gone because he got sick with it again. Now my Ragdoll is showing symptoms. My vet said he shouldn’t get it since he was vaccinated. I’m so scared for my Ragdoll and I feel guilty for getting a rescue now.

    • Jennifer Dean says:

      Yes, sounds like a vet visit is in order =). If things have changed in the house too – like a new air freshener or a new detergent, that might be causing it too.

  2. Patti Johnson says:

    SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS post, Jenny honey! Great topic and info! TYSVM!!! Miss PSB doesn’t sneeze often but it’s good to understand all this! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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