Why does my cat keep sneezing?

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Is your cat sneezing more often than usual? Find out why your cat's sneezes may have increased.

Sneezing is a normal body reaction to anything that irritates the lining of the nasal cavity (the inside of the nose). It is a forceful expulsion of the air from the lungs, and its primary function is to get rid of the cause of the irritation. Any healthy cat will sneeze every so often if something irritates their nose — for example, dust inhaled into the nose while sniffing.

My rule of the thumb is that, if a cat infrequently sneezes, as it would happen to an average person, I consider it normal. If the sneezing is persistent, it is usually related to a disease process or severe irritation of the lining of the nose (for example, by chemicals present in the air). In people, sneezing can be associated with allergies, but the allergies related to sneezing are not that common in cats (though they can occur).

The most common cause of sneezing in cats is the herpes virus, which is one of the cat flu viruses. Initial stages of the disease caused by this virus can be associated with an increased frequency of sneezing. Unfortunately, the herpes virus can hide in a cat’s body for life and create flare-ups in the time of stress throughout the cat’s life.

Other infections that cause sneezing are related to calicivirus (another variety of cat flu virus) or bacteria, mainly chlamydia felis. Sometimes, cats can have a foreign body inside the nose, causing the irritation. In these cases, I would usually expect to see a discharge from one nostril and pawing at the face, but the signs may be very vague and confusing. Unfortunately, in some cases, the sneezing is caused by a tumour growing inside the nose.

Advice given by vet Aga Zoltowska.