A sneeze is a reflex that occurs when something triggers tiny receptors in our noses to blast out air and expel contaminants. Anything that can act irritating can trigger the response.
Cats are like people in that the same types of things can trigger a sneeze. These things can be airborne contaminants (like smoke), allergens (allergic rhinitis) and even infectious particles. Any cat can sneeze occasionally and it is not particularly concerning, but if they do it more than just once in a while, should make you pay attention. There can be more serious reasons for cats to sneeze.
We all know how black pepper can cause our noses to tingle. Irritating vapors or even particles can trigger a sneeze response in cats too. Smoke or fumes from cleaners or exhaust can make cats sneeze. Usually irritant sneezing will be sudden and then pass quickly. Anything that makes you sneeze has the potential to also affect your cat.
Cats with allergic disease can sometimes sneeze more often than normal. The allergies can trigger the nerves that initiate the sneeze reflex just like the other causes. Allergies are not curable, but can be managed. If you notice your cat sneezing frequently, especially during times of the year when allergens are prevalent, please ask your vet for help.
Even indoor cats get contagious diseases sometimes. Upper respiratory infections are the most important and common cause of sneezing in cats. These tend to be very contagious among cats and are sometimes even airborne. Some of these pathogens can even be tracked inside on people’s feet or clothing.
Cats with an upper respiratory infection will probably have more than just sneezing though, since these pathogens can also cause fever, runny eyes, coughing, mouth ulcers, and/or anorexia. If your cat has these or any other signs that he is not feeling well, be sure to call your veterinarian.
More serious causes
There are miscellaneous causes for chronic sneezing, too, that only your vet can help you figure out. These are things like polyps inside the nose or even tumors in the nasal cavity. These unusual causes of sneezing tend to be a bigger deal, so get help for sure if your cat continues to sneeze frequently or develops any other sign of trouble, like a bloody discharge from the nose.
If you think that your cat is sick, you are probably right. You know your cat. Let your veterinarian help. If your cat is sneezing frequently and/or for a prolonged period or has other signs of trouble, you’ll want to figure out why.
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