Sneezing in Kittens

Sometimes it's no big deal, but occasionally there's cause for concern

Kitten Pierre

Jeanne Grunert

Just like people, kittens and cats sneeze for a variety of reasons. An occasional sneeze isn't 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 an 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.

Why Do Kittens Sneeze?

If you notice your kitten sneezing now and then, there's a good chance that it's just reacting to some dust or fur that's tickled its 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: Just 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 it has an object in its nose. A vet can check for and safely remove foreign objects.

Cat Allergies

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 good possibility that it's suffering from an allergy.

If you think your kitten has an allergy, chances are it's reacting to something in the air. You can work to reduce potential allergens in your home, especially in areas where the kitten spends a lot of time, 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

Constant sneezing, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, lack of appetite, eye or nasal discharge, diarrhea, coughing, or breathing difficulties, could well be a sign of a viral, bacterial, or fungal upper respiratory infection.

If you see these symptoms, you may have a kitten with an illness such as feline herpes or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or a less-severe illness such as peritonitis or chlamydia. Most of these diseases are preventable with vaccinations but are more difficult to treat once your cat has contracted one of them.

Calicivirus

One fairly common and highly contagious disease that can cause sneezing and breathing issues is feline calicivirus. Most vets vaccinate kittens so they won't catch this disease, but if they do, it usually runs its course within a week or so.

There are, however, several dangerous strains of calicivirus that may affect your cat, so it's important to have your pet checked and treated for any symptoms. It's also a good idea to keep infected cats away from other cats while they're exhibiting symptoms and until their treatment is completed.

Treatment

If the symptoms are severe or if your kitten sneezes blood, take it to the vet as soon as possible. She may prescribe a nasal decongestant or antibiotics, depending on what's causing the sneezing. A humidifier near where the cat sleeps may also help with minor breathing issues.

In some cases, the vet may prescribe steroid treatment, but in severe cases, after other treatment options have been exhausted, your cat may need surgery to remove whatever is compromising its breathing.

How to Prevent Sneezing

If your kitten is sneezing intermittently and there are no other symptoms, you can start by cleaning up your kitten's environment. There are a few easy changes you can make:

  • Stop using air fresheners and disinfectants to see if that makes a difference.
  • Be careful with any disinfectants you do use, particularly if the cat walks on the surface you spray and then licks its paw pads. Many disinfectants contain chemicals that can be harmful to cats. About 3/4 cup of plain bleach mixed with a gallon of water makes a safe disinfectant for cleaning a litter box and works well for other surfaces too, such as kitchen counters and sinks. It leaves a nice, clean scent, so you shouldn't need additional air fresheners.
  • Thoroughly rinse your kitty's litter box and other kitty-frequented surfaces with plain water following the use of bleach solutions or other cleaning products.
  • Check your kitty's litter as well. Some litters (particularly the clay type) throw up a lot of dust when the 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 it shows any other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, such as watery eyes, sniffling or coughing, or if it continues sneezing after you've eliminated environmental problems, you should take it to the vet sooner rather than later.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.