Just like people, kittens and cats sneeze for a wide variety of reasons. Usually, the severity of the problem becomes obvious fairly quickly: an occasional sneeze is rarely a symptom of a serious problem, but constant sneezing (especially when accompanied by nasal discharge and lethargy or lack of appetite) could be a sign of illness.
If your kitten is sneezing, you may worry that something is seriously wrong. The good news is that there are many minor reasons for a sneezing kitten. It's important to know, however, is that excessive sneezing could be cause for a trip to the vet.
Minor Reasons for a Sneezing Kitten
If your kitten is sneezing now and then, there's a good chance that she's just reacting to some dust or fur that has tickled her nose. Remember that kittens' noses are just inches from the floor, so if your floor is dusty, you may notice a fair amount of sneezing. There's a simple cure for this issue: simply dust and vacuum your floors a bit more frequently.
If your kitten continues to sneeze but doesn't seem to have any nasal discharge, there's a possibility she has an object in her nose. A vet can check for and safely remove foreign objects.
Some cats and kittens do have allergies. Mold, dust, perfumes, smoke, pesticides, and cleaning supplies can all trigger sneezing. If your kitten is sneezing and scratching or has red eyes or nose, there's a particularly good possibility that they're suffering from an allergy.
If you do think your kitten has an allergy, chances are she's reacting to something in the air such as cigarette smoke, dust, pollen, cleaning products, or even perfume. You can work to reduce potential allergens in the air, but if your cat is really suffering it's a good idea to visit the vet. There are a variety of treatments that are appropriate for cat allergies.
Upper Respiratory Diseases That Require Treatment
Constant sneezing, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, lack of appetite, eye discharge, diarrhea, coughing, breathing difficulties, and nasal discharge, could well be a sign of a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection, like URI. If you see this level of symptoms, you may have a kitten with an illness such as feline herpes or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or less severe illnesses such as peritonitis or chlamydia. Most of these diseases can be avoided through the administration of vaccines.
One fairly common and highly contagious disease that can cause sneezing and breathing issues is feline calicivirus. Most vets vaccinate kittens so that they won't catch the disease, and if they do it usually runs its course within a week to ten days. There are, however, dangerous strains of calicivirus, so it's important to have your cat checked and treated for symptoms. It's also a good idea to keep infected cats away from other cats while they have symptoms.
What to Do About a Sneezing Kitten
If symptoms are severe, take your kitten to the vet. If sneezing is intermittent, however, and there are no other symptoms, you can start by cleaning up your kitten's environment. Here are simple steps you can take:
- Stop using air fresheners and disinfectants, to see if that makes a difference.
- Be careful with the disinfectants, particularly if she walks on the surface you spray and then licks her pads. Many disinfectants contain chemicals that can be quite harmful to cats. Plain bleach mixed with water makes a fine, safe disinfectant for cleaning a litter box, and works well for other surfaces, such as kitchen counters and sinks. It leaves a nice, clean scent, so you shouldn't need additional air fresheners.
- It's a good idea to check the litter you use, also. Some litters (particularly the clay type) throw up a lot of dust when kitty scratches in the box and can exacerbate allergy problems in both cats and humans.
Keep an eye on your kitten for a few days. If she shows any other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, such as watery eyes, sniffling or coughing, or if she continues sneezing after you've eliminated environmental problems, she really should be seen by your veterinarian.