Sudden Sneezing & Runny Nose

Cats may suffer from sneezing and runny noses for several different reasons.
Cats may suffer from sneezing and runny noses for several different reasons. (Image: cat image by nutech21 from

When your cat has runny nose or starts sneezing, it could be a sign for something possibly worse. Cats do not get human cold viruses, so finding what is causing the symptoms is the first step in determining the correct treatment.

General Symptoms

One of the top signs of nasal irritation in cats is sneezing. It is a reaction to a stimulation of the lining of the nose. It could be a foreign object in the nose. If the only symptom the cat is showing is sneezing after a couple of hours, it is most likely just a minor nasal irritation or an allergy. Some irritants can be cigarette smoke, pollens and dust. If the sneezing continues for more than a day, it could be a sign of a viral respiratory disease. Herpesvirus or rhinotracheitis are the most common. Violent sneezing, along with head shaking and pawing at the nose, suggests a foreign body in the nose.

Rspiratory Infection

A cat with an upper respiratory infection is not a happy pet. It will have bouts of sneezing for the first day or two followed by inflamed, watery eyes. It may have watery nasal discharge and a fever. Because the infection affects the nose, most cats will likely lose their sense of smell and therefore, they will lose their appetite and not east as much. As it continues, the watery nasal discharge will thicken, becoming purulent and sticky. The cat will be forced to breathe with its mouth open in an attempt to breathe better. Because upper respiratory infection in cats are due to different strains of viruses, the accompanying symptoms may vary.

Veterarian Care

Veterinary examination is indicated when there is blood in the discharge or if the sneeze persists. There could be a lot of other conditions connected to sneezing and running nose. Those are just early symptoms. If the sneeze and runny nose develops into a cough, only the vet can make sure of what it is. Some of the causes include hair or fur balls, chronic brronchitis, respiratory infections, allergies or feline Bordetella (kennel cough).


Another cause for sneezing is bacteria. Cats are susceptible to bacterial upper respiratory tract infections caused by pasteurella, bordetella, streptococci and pseudomonad bacteria. Many of these bacteria are not particular about whose nose or eyes they irritate and can cause similar problems in you. Some pets silently carry these bacteriain their system. Although they appear perfectly healthy they can spread the infections to all the animals that they contact. It is quite common for two or more organisms to be involved simultaneously in respiratory tract infections.


A lot of cats will recover naturally in seven to 10 days. Cats with immune system problems or kittens may need help from a veterinarian. Because of the loss of appetite and lack of fluids, the cat can get dehydrated. That's why kittens need veterinarian care before it get severe. If the sneezing persists more than 10 days, you will need to see the veterinarian.

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