Just like people, cats need to sneeze sometimes. Though usually a harmless occurrence, excessive sneezing can be a sign of a more serious problem.
Why cats sneeze
A cat may sneeze for the same basic reasons that we do: because of dust, or because there's something in their nose. This in itself is nothing to worry about. It's normal for the body to try to flush out an irritant.
Sometimes though, sneezing can be indicative of a greater problem. If your cat sneezes a lot, the root of the problem needs to be investigated.
A respiratory infection, which is often caused by a virus, can be the cause of sneezing. In most cases, these infections are caused by the feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, chlamydia or mycoplasma bacteria. These illnesses cause watery eyes and coughing.
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A cleft palate can also cause repetitive sneezing. Cats can be born with a cleft palate or can develop one as a result of an accident or injury. The condition is essentially a hole in the cat's palate. Nasal polyps, which obstruct the nasal cavity, can also cause cats to sneeze a lot. Nasal tumours, which are often found in elderly cats, are a known cause of excessive sneezing, but often in combination with other symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
You should also know that sneezing isn't always down to your cat's nose; it can also be a result of a dental problem. A gum infection which spreads to your cat's sinuses can cause sneezing too.
Allergies are rare among cats, but are another reason for cats sneezing excessively.
What should I do if my cat sneezes a lot?
It's simply a case of identifying the cause of the sneezing and its frequency. If your cat is only sneezing occasionally, there's nothing to worry about.
However if your cat is sneezing often and isn't showing any signs of improvement, keep an eye on it. Try and see if there are any secretions alongside the sneezing – for example, if your cat's eyes or nose are weeping, or if it is sneezing blood.
If the sneezing continues after several days, seek advice from your vet. It's essential to get your cat checked if it seems tired or if it's lacking appetite. The sneezing may be a sign of infection that needs professional attention. In most cases, the symptoms will disappear after a few days.
It's possible to protect your cat from coryza, which is caused by a combination of a virus from the herpes family, the calcivirus and the reoviridae virus, by vaccinating it. However, some cats still fall ill despite the vaccine. In some more serious cases, coryza can become very serious. Your cat can be a carrier of the disease for its whole life without showing any symptoms, or may fall ill as soon as it contracts it.