Excessive Cat Sneezing and Nasal Discharge


Why Is My Cat Sneezing a Lot?

Almost anything that irritates or tickles a cat’s nose can trigger a sneeze, but if your cat or kitten sneezes a lot you may start to worry that there's something wrong. If sneezing is the only symptom your cat displays—i.e., no discharge from eyes or nose, good appetite, no change in behavior or activity level—then something as simple as an allergy or contact with irritants like cigarette smoke or air fresheners may be to blame. However, if your cat’s sneezing in accompanied by a runny nose and eyes, he might have an upper respiratory infection.

Do Cats Get Colds?

The viruses that cause colds in people are generally species-specific. Except perhaps under the rarest of circumstances, the viruses that make people sick with a cold are incapable of causing illness in cats. So if you’re wondering “can cats catch a cold from people,” the answer is almost always “no.” On the other hand, several feline viruses (e.g., feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus) and even a few bacteria do cause clinical signs that look a lot like those that people with colds develop. Upper respiratory infections can occur in any cat but are most common in kittens or under-vaccinated adults who have had contact with other cats.

Cat Cold Symptoms

Some common symptoms of the infections that cause “kitty colds” include:

  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the eyes or runny nose; this may be watery or thick and clear, white, yellow, or green.
  • Excessive swallowing (if there is drainage into the back of the mouth and throat).
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Raised third eyelid

Primary Causes of Colds in Cats

“Colds” in cats are usually caused by infection with certain types of viruses. Feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus are the most common. In some cases, secondary bacterial infections can develop, which may lead to pneumonia.

Immediate Care & What to Give a Cat for a Cold

  1. Keep the eyes and nose free of discharge using a soft cloth or paper towel moistened with warm water.
  2. Offer warmed canned cat food or meat-based baby food to encourage your cat to eat.
  3. Provide plenty of fresh water for drinking.
  4. Do not try to give your cat any kind of medication without consulting your vet as many human medications are toxic to cats.
  5. Cats who are not interested in food or have especially severe or worsening symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian. 

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