There are few things in life that are as cute as a tiny little "achoo" coming from a kitty friend — but if your cat is sneezing a ton and has other symptoms, it's probably a good indication that it's time for a trip to the vet's office. It could just be a case of the sniffles; however, sneezing can also be a sign of more troubling feline health issues.
While usually totally normal (just like in humans), sometimes excessive sneezing and unusual discharge might actually be warning signs for things like cancer and feline herpes, but it's not always cause for serious concern. So don't worry; there is a much higher chance your kitty's sneezes can easily be treated, but to find out exactly what's normal and what's cause for concern, we chatted with a veterinarian.
"If it's just a lot of sneezing and it's clear discharge and nothing else and the kitty is playful and doesn't have a fever and is eating and everything else is fine, it's probably not much of a concern," veterinarian Dr. Rhonda Casper told SheKnows. "But if there's any systemic signs of illness, you know, if they're just kind of laying there or not eating or they're running a fever — if they feel warm — then you need to be concerned."
She added, "If they are sneezing excessively, then it's probably worth getting checked out too."
Casper explained that just like a person, sneezing once or twice a day isn't a big deal, but constant sneezing means you want to get it checked out.
In cases of cancer and feline herpes, the sneezing is often accompanied by other symptoms.
Casper says that with cancer and feline herpes, there are oftentimes other warnings, like unusual discharge and fever rather than just sneezing, so it's important to know the signs.
"Usually there will be sneezing and it'll be a cloudy, pus-like discharge or it will have blood in it," Casper said of feline cancer symptoms. "I've seen where the nose is actually visibly deformed. They can have congestion, usually on one side, depending on what type of cancer. There is a lot of overlap between cancer and, say, a foreign body that is stuck up there and causing infection. There's overlapping symptoms, but those are the warning signs." So don't get too worried if your kitty starts having bloody sneezes; it could just have a bit of cat food stuck in its nose.
Obviously, you won't know for sure until you get your furry friend checked out, which is why it's so important to get them to the vet as soon as possible if irregular sneezing and discharge occurs.
As for herpes, Casper said symptoms can vary and some cats may never even have outbreaks, just like with the human version of the virus, but there are still some things to look out for.
"Usually with herpes, it's a transient thing like a cold sore or they might carry it and never have signs. Herpes can definitely cause really nasty nasal discharge. It's usually out of both sides of the nose."
Casper added that repeated sneezing could be a sign that your cat is a "chronic snuffler," which is a cat with a respiratory system that is prone to infection. In this case, it can be difficult to treat and control. It can also be unpleasant.
"I've seen really nasty things. Some kitties are called 'chronic snufflers' where they just have constant infection, really hard to clear and really hard to control."
If your cat is exhibiting any of these excessive sneezing symptoms, it's always a good idea to consult your vet as soon as possible.
Originally published December 2016. Updated July 2017.
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