Why Is My Kitten Sneezing?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

24 April 2019

Every kitten will sneeze every now and then when they breathe in some dust or the like. However, if your kitten keeps on sneezing, sneezes more, or develops other symptoms, it may be necessary to visit the vet because your kitten could have an infection.

Sneezing cat
Common causes of infections
Infections, whether viral, bacterial or fungal, are one of the main causes of infections and are common in younger cats and kittens. These types of infections are especially common in kittens who come from shelters. However, the vaccinations they receive during their first months may prevent many of the infections.
Viral infections
Viral infections that can cause sneezing as one of the symptoms, are the Feline herpes virus, and the Feline calicivirus.
The Feline herpes virus — which is not transferable to humans — is basically a “head cold” in kittens and cats. The symptoms of this virus include:

  • Sneezing attacks
  • Watery or pus-containing nasal discharge
  • Loss of their sense of smell (which adds to their lack of appetite)
  • Eye discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • A lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • General malaise

Treatment for an infection of the feline herpes virus will involve both antibiotics (in case of any secondary infections) and eye medications for any eye infection. Nasal decongestant drops may also prescribed.
The Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is a virus that affects a kitten’s mouth and upper respiratory system. The symptoms of FCV include:
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • A loss of appetite
  • Eye discharge (clear or with pus)
  • Nasal discharge (clear of with pus)
  • Ulcers on tongue, hard palate, nose, lips, around their claws
  • Pneumonia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inflammation of their joints
  • Lameness (which is seen most frequently in kittens)
  • A painful walk
  • Fever
  • Salivating excessively because of the ulcers
  • Squinting

If you suspect that your kitten has FCV, it’s best to get them to the vet in the early stages of the illness, as it could become pneumonia if left untreated. The good news is that, if caught early, you will be able to care for your kitten at home while they recover and a prolonged stay at the vet should not be necessary.
Other infections that can also cause sneezing
Other infections your kitten may get, includes Feline infectious peritonitis, chlamydia (that often causes conjunctivitis), FIV (feline AIDS), bordetella, and mycoplasma.
However, let your vet do a proper health check on your kitten to ensure that the correct diagnosis is made. If you want to, make a list of all the symptoms and how long they have been present before you go to the vet. This will help when getting the tiny patient’s history.
Irritants and allergens
You can also check the surroundings for irritants or allergens your kitten may have inhaled and that causes the sneezing. Do this for every room in the home and think of any new or strange smells that may have triggered your kitten to sneeze. If there are any patterns to your cat’s sneezing, it could be that there is a smell in the home that is causing it.
Potential irritants and allergens include smells like:
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfume or body spray
  • Pest sprays
  • Fine cat litter, scented cat litter, cat litter that forms a lot of dust
  • Cleaning products
  • Candles or incense
  • Dust and/old mold
  • Pollen
Intranasal vaccines
Kittens may also sneeze for a few days after receiving an intranasal vaccination. Keep an eye on them nevertheless to make sure that no other symptoms are present.


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