Cats sneeze a lot. 99% of the time, when your cat randomly sneezes, it’s because they got a bit of fluff up their nose, just like when you or I sneeze. It’s not a big deal! Unless, of course, the sneezing is repetitive, has a sudden onset, and is associated with other symptoms like nasal or eye discharge (either clear or colored).
Love Is Fleeting, but Herpes is Forever – the Chronic Recurring Sneezing Cat
Cats get Herpes, just like humans do. Not the exact SAME Herpes, mind you – you can’t get Herpes from your cat. Nevertheless, cat Herpes behaves in many ways similar to human Herpes. For instance:
- A cat exposed to Herpes once, has Herpes forever.
- Vaccines protecting against Herpes do exist, but are often administered too late since Herpes can be transmitted in the womb.
- Herpes may also be transmitted between sneezing cats.
The Feline Herpes virus has an insidious trick up it's sleeve!
Like a train carrying a stowaway, your cat might be carrying Herpes around their whole life, sneezing it all over every cat they meets. This is no big deal most of the time, since your sneezing cat is often sneezing on grownup cats who already have Herpes in their system.
When we get into trouble, however, is when stress – be it physical or emotional - strikes your favorite feline. You go out of town for a few days, the neighbor comes in to take care of Fluffy, and next thing you know, they're sneezing all over your face. Yuck! Why?
Because the stress compromised their immune system, temporarily shutting down their normal defenses. The Herpes virus that has lain dormant in their system suddenly leaps to action, making your cat sick.
When Should I Take My Sneezing Cat To The Vet?
Herpes in adult, fully immunized cats usually presents as a mild case of sneezing with runny nose and runny eyes. It’s no big deal and, in fact, if there is no colored eye discharge or colored nose boogers, the kitty is eating/drinking/pooping/peeing normally, and they are otherwise and acting mostly normal, we don’t treat them at all.
On the other hand, if your sneezing cat has a compromised immune system, or is feeling physical or emotional stress, the Herpes outbreak may be more severe. Consider taking your cat to the vet if:
- Clear eye discharge turns into yellow/green eye mucus with squinting and redness
- Clear nose discharge turns into yellow/green nose mucus
- Nasal congestion causes a drop in appetite (cats won’t eat if they can’t smell their food)
- Other symptoms develop that may suggest pneumonia – coughing, lethargy, fever
- Other symptoms develop that may suggest sinusitis – lethargy, fever, headache (Your cat is scrunched up in a little ball with their head in her paws, not socializing)
- Dehydration develops
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your poor sneezing cat breathe better, while the immune system does its job:
- Clean your house thoroughly to minimize airborne irritants like dust or perfumes.
- Change to a low-dust cat litter – bigger granules don’t clump as well, but they give off less dust.
- Add moisture to the air, with a vaporizer, steam from a hot shower, or boiling kettle of water.
- Apply saline nose drops to help thin mucus in the nasal passages and relieve irritation that may cause sneezing.
If you think you're cat needs to be seen by a veterinarian, give us a call - we're here to help!