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Why does my kitten keep sneezing?

Sneezing is a normal, protective bodily function in kittens. The act of sneezing expels foreign substances and objects out of the nose before they can damage the nasal passages or be inhaled.

An occasional sneeze is perfectly natural and nothing to worry about. But what about persistent sneezing? This is not normal and can indicate an underlying medical condition, especially when accompanied by other symptoms.

There are several reasons why kittens might keep sneezing including:

  • Inhalation of irritants or allergens.
  • Upper respiratory infection.
  • Foreign objects in the nasal passages.
  • Dental problems.
  • Sinusitis and rhinitis.
  • Nasal obstructions (polyps and tumors).

When kittens sneeze, their tiny bodies seem overpowered by the force, so to watch them sneezing, again and again, is awful. We explain in detail potential reasons for a kitten’s persistent sneezing.

Closeup of a tabby and white kitten sneezing with its eyes shut

Identifying the cause of kitten sneezing

If your kitten keeps sneezing, the cause can be difficult to determine. To help them form a diagnosis, vets will ask you particular questions.

Therefore, you should observe your kitten’s sneezing patterns so that you can provide as much information as possible. Videoing your kitten sneezing will also help.

Veterinarians will want to know:

  • How many times a day your kitten is sneezing, and how long they have been sneezing. You may need to contact your breeder or shelter to determine if the sneezing started before you got your kitten.
  • If the sneezes are individual or come in clusters. If they come in clusters, how long do the episodes last?
  • If the kitten recovers immediately or if they appear to be drained of energy afterward.
  • If the sneezing distresses them.
  • If there are other symptoms, or if you have other cats, and if they are sneezing as well.
  • If it is improving or getting worse.
  • If the sneeze produces a watery spray or actual mucous or if it is a dry sneeze.
Grey kitten among pink feathers that could trigger sneezing

Sneezing caused by Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper respiratory infections are the feline equivalent to the common cold humans get.

In kittens, they are very contagious and are characterized by persistent sneezing, runny noses, and eye discharge.

A kitten may also show fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and dehydration.

Kittens are particularly at risk of developing upper respiratory infections. Other groups include old cats, unvaccinated cats, and immunocompromised cats.

The most common cause of upper respiratory infections in adult cats or kittens is the feline herpes virus, which cannot be cured. Once your kitten is infected, they can have flare-ups throughout their life.

These flare-ups can be caused by stress or other injuries or conditions that temporarily depress your cat’s immune system.

A less common viral cause is the feline calicivirus. Cats with the feline herpes virus are also at risk of developing secondary bacterial infections, which can also cause sneezing.

Fungal infections (which are very painful in the nasal passages) may also cause persistent sneezing.

You should always take your kitten to a veterinarian if you suspect an upper respiratory infection.

They typically also stop eating and drinking when they are sick, and the veterinarian will give them subcutaneous fluids as well as antivirals and antibiotics.

Usually, these infections are cleared up in 7-10 days with treatment. Without treatment, they can worsen and develop into more dangerous situations that will require hospitalization.

If your kitten is immunocompromised, they are especially susceptible to contracting the feline herpes virus and having flare-ups.

Feline leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus are common diseases in cats, and both compromise the immune system of your feline friend.

Kitten sneezing with its mouth wide open

Sneezing caused by inhalation of irritants or allergens

Kittens can sneeze in response to inhalation of irritants or allergens. Recurring exposure to these substances can cause persistent sneezing, and treatment will involve eliminating the source of the irritants or allergens.

Potential irritants or allergens for a kitten include perfume, cleaning products, dust, pollen, smoke (including cigarette smoke), certain cat litters, and candles.

If your kitten has a sudden sneezing attack, look for a possible irritant or allergen that could explain it.

Were they near you when you sprayed your perfume? Were you sweeping or cleaning? Had they just used the litter tray?

If any of these activities triggered your kitten’s sneezing, then you should be able to notice a pattern, and you can make changes to prevent these sneezing attacks in the future.

If you notice that your kitten sneezes every time you put on perfume, try to go without it for a week and see if the sneezing stops. If it does, consider changing your perfume.

If they sneeze while you clean the house or after you clean, they may be irritated by the dust or cleaning products.

Try using a vacuum in place of a broom as they generate less dust, but the noise can scare your kitten, so make sure they are not around when you vacuum or invest in a quieter model.

If you already use a vacuum, it might be the cleaning products you use. Try a different brand or scent and see if that helps.

If your kitten sneezes when using their litter tray, the litter dust or cleaning products used may be the cause. Try changing the type of litter or the cleaning products.

Take your kitten to a veterinarian if they keep sneezing despite you making these changes or if they develop other symptoms such as eye discharge, green snot, lethargy, loss of appetite, etc.

Sneezing caused by foreign objects in the nasal passages

If your kitten has inhaled a larger object, such as a blade of grass or a feather from a toy, it might not come out of the nose with the first sneeze, so their body continues to try dislodging it.

Usually, your kitten will show signs of distress if something is stuck up its nose. They may shake their head or scratch their nose.

In this case, you need to take your kitten to the vets so they can remove it with a nasal flush or tweezers.

Kitten about to sneeze with one paw lifted

Sneezing caused by dental problems

The fact that dental problems can cause sneezing in kittens seems strange, but the nasal passages and the roots of the upper jaw’s teeth are right next to each other.

A severe infection or inflammation can cause the breakdown of the barrier between the tooth and the nasal passages. This means that bits of food can get into your kitten’s nose and cause sneezing.

This is a very unpleasant condition, and your kitten will be very unhappy and reluctant to eat and drink. They will definitely need to see a veterinarian in this case.

Sneezing Caused By Sinus And Nasal Problems

Kittens can suffer from sinusitis and rhinitis. These inflammatory conditions often occur together.

Your kitten will also display other symptoms, including nasal discharge, difficulty breathing (due to a blocked nose), ocular discharge, reverse sneezing, and pawing at their face.

Take your kitten to a vet who can provide anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and mechanical treatments such as a nasal flush.

Sneezing caused by nasal obstructions

Your kitten may be sneezing because they have a nasal polyp or a tumor (although tumors are more common in old cats). Polyps and tumors cause irritation and inflammation in the nasal passages and cause sneezing.

You are not likely to know that your kitten has a polyp or tumor unless you take them to a vet, so if your kitten is sneezing more than is normal, it is always the safest option to get a professional opinion.

These causes of persistent sneezing are rare.

Why does my kitten keep sneezing? Conclusion

Persistent sneezing in kittens is not normal. The cause may be quite innocent, or it can indicate an underlying medical condition.

The two most common causes of persistent sneezing in kittens are inhalation of irritants or allergens and upper respiratory infections.

If an irritant or an allergen causes the sneezing, you don’t have to take your kitten to the veterinarian unless they start displaying other symptoms.

Try to ascertain what the irritant or allergen is and eliminate it from your activities if possible; if not possible, minimize usage and keep your kitten away during use.

Feline herpes virus, which leads to upper respiratory infections, is the most common cause of persistent sneezing in cats of all ages.

Once a kitten is infected, they can have flare-ups throughout their lives. Upper respiratory infections need to be treated by a veterinarian.

Common concurrent symptoms include nasal and ocular discharge, fatigue, loss of appetite, dehydration, and coughing.

Because kittens are so small and vulnerable, it is strongly recommended to take them to the vets if you are ever unsure about anything health-related.