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When Should You Take a Sneezing Cat to the Vet?

Picture of a cat on a sofa

All cats sneeze sometimes, but some cats sneeze more than others. How can a cat owner know when it’s time to take their sneezing cat to the vet? Cats can get allergies just as humans do, and many tend to sneeze more often during certain times of the year (spring and fall mainly) when pollen counts are higher. There are many reasons why chronic sneezing can be occurring in a cat, and not all reasons warrant an expensive trip to the vet. Here’s what you should do if you see the following signs or symptoms in your sneezing cat:

  • Occasional sneezing. Cats, just like humans, will sneeze if they get a piece of dust or fluff up their noses. This is nothing for a cat owner to be concerned with, and definitely not a reason to take your kitty to the vet.
  • Nasal congestion combined with loss of appetite. If cats’ noses are stuffed up, they cannot smell their food. If they cannot smell their food, chances are, they won’t eat. A sudden loss of appetite in your cat combined with congestion or sneezing is a good reason to call the vet.
  • Clear eye discharge changes to yellowish green. Many sneezing cats will have a clear eye discharge, usually indicating a simple allergy. If, however, the eye discharge turns yellowish green, this could indicate an infection. Take that cat to the vet.
  • Clear nasal discharge changes to yellowish green. Same with nasal discharge- a clear discharge is normal in an allergic cat. If it turns yellowish green, again, it could be a sign of an infection forming and is a good reason to call the veterinarian.
  • Sneezing is combined with coughing, fatigue, and/or fever. If your cat is sneezing and coughing, or sneezing and has a fever, or sneezing and curling up in a ball staying away from her humans, not wanting to play or socialize, this is not normal behavior. This is a good time to call the vet.
  • If your cat’s sneezing seems severe or frequent. Cats who have lived outside at some point in their lives are more prone to developing chronic sinus or dental disease. (Indoor cats, of course, can fall victim to these as well). Both diseases can cause frequent uncontrollable sneezing and are good reasons to take your cat to the vet.
  • If your cat’s sneezing is combined with a bad smell from her nose or mouth. This, again, can be a sign of a more serious infection or even a sinus or dental disease. Call the vet.
  • If your cat sneezes and paws at her face, swallows a lot, seems to be gagging, and/or is breathing loudly. Any of these symptoms combined with sneezing in a cat can spell trouble – respiratory disease, nasal tumors, or foreign objects in the nasal cavity. Take that cat to the vet immediately.

Are there ways that cat owners can help keep cats healthy and not develop sneezing, allergies or immune system disorders in the first place? Yes, there are a few things you can do to lessen or prevent nasal and sinus infections in your cat, including:

  • If you’re a smoker, don’t smoke where your cat sleeps. Second-hand smoke can greatly and negatively affect a cat’s immune and respiratory systems.
  • Keep your house clean and dust-free. This will help to minimize any airborne irritants that can get into your cat’s nasal passages.
  • Use dust-free cat litter. Although it often doesn’t clump as well, dust-free cat litter is safer for allergic cats. Dust in many cat litters can trigger sneezing in cats (and their owners).
  • Avoid using synthetic room fresheners, room sprays, carpet deodorizers or artificially scented potpourri or candles. All of these can cause sneezing and other allergic reactions in cats.
  • If you have carpeting in your home, think about getting an air purifier. Carpet fibers can cause some cats to develop allergic reactions and sneeze.
  • Use a vaporizer or room humidifier to add moisture to the air. Dry air can irritate a cat’s nasal passages more quickly than moist air.
  • Buy cat foods that are free from grains, preservatives, byproducts or colorings. All of these can contribute to allergies and weakened immune systems in cats.
  • Avoid dry cat foods and consider feeding balanced, fresh cat foods. These can strengthen your cat’s immune system and help to prevent illness and disease.
  • Keep your cat’s food and water in non-toxic glass or stainless steel bowls. Other materials can contribute to disease and weaken a cat’s immune system.
  • Consider using nasal drops, if recommended by a veterinarian. Just as in humans with nasal allergies, nasal drops can help to thin the mucus in a cat’s nasal passages and relieve any irritation that could cause her to sneeze.

When in doubt with a sneezing cat, always call the vet. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Even if the sneezing is not caused by a disease or illness, your vet may be able to give you nasal drops or medication to help your kitty feel better during allergy season. A vet visit may cost a bundle but is worth the peace of mind it provides to a cat owner.

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