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 mildly sneezing kitten. Excessive or moderate and severe sneezing, should always be checked out by a veterinarian.
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 has more than just a mild sneeze, possibilities include allergies, foreign objects stuck in nose or upper respiratory diseases. Foreign objects can be stuck in your pet's nose without you knowing. A vet can check for and safely remove foreign objects. This may require sedation, nasal flushing and/or endoscopy to do this.
Some cats and kittens do have allergies. Mold, dust, perfumes, smoke, pesticides and cleaning supplies can all trigger sneezing. 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's sneezing is more than mild, it's important 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). If your cat is doing more than just an occasional sneeze, it is important to have them checked out by the vet.
Upper respiratory infections in cats are often highly contagious and passed back and forth between cat's easily. So if you bring a new cat home with signs of an upper respiratory infection or other illness, it is important to prevent them from socializing with the healthier kittens until the vet has cleared them and their signs have resolved.
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 can range from mild to severe.
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.
If the symptoms are more than mild or if your kitten sneezes blood, take it to the vet as soon as possible. She may prescribe anti-viral treatment, 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, scented laundry detergents, perfumes and smoking inside 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.