Why Kittens Sneeze, and What to Do About It

An American Shorthair cat pawing its nose
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If you're a new pet owner, you may have concerns about your kitten's health. If she's sneezing, you may worry that something is seriously wrong. The good news is that there are many minor reasons for a sneezing kitten. The important point to remember, however, is that excessive sneezing could be cause for a trip to the vet.

Why Do Kittens (and Cats) Sneeze?

Just like people, kittens and cats sneeze for a wide variety of reasons.

Usually, the severity of the problem becomes obvious fairly quickly: an occasional sneeze is rarely a symptom of a serious problem, but constant sneezing (especially when accompanied by nasal discharge and lethargy or lack of appetite) could be a sign of illness.

If your kitten is sneezing now and then, the chance is she's just reacting to some dust or fur that has tickled her nose. Remember that kittens' noses are just inches from the floor -- so if your floor is dusty, you may notice a fair amount of sneezing.

Some cats and kittens do have allergies. Mold, dust, perfumes, smoke, pesticides, and cleaning supplies can all trigger sneezing. If your kitten is sneezing and scratching, there's a particularly good possibility that they're suffering from an allergy.

Constant sneezing, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, lack of appetite, eye discharge, diarrhea, coughing, breathing difficulties, and nasal discharge, could well be a sign of a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.

If you see this level of symptoms, you may have a kitten with an illness such as feline herpes or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or less severe illnesses such as peritonitis or chlamydia. Most of these diseases can be avoided through the administration of vaccines -- though it's important to know that nasal vaccines can also lead to several days of sneezing!

What to Do About a Sneezing Kitten

If symptoms are severe, take your kitten to the vet. If sneezing is intermittent, and there are no other symptoms, you can start by cleaning up your kitten's environment.  Stop using air fresheners and disinfectants, to see if that makes a difference. Also, you need to be careful with the disinfectants, particularly if she walks on the surface you spray and then licks her pads. Many disinfectants contain chemicals that can be quite harmful to cats. Plain bleach mixed with water makes a fine, safe disinfectant for cleaning a litter box, and works well for other surfaces, such as kitchen counters and sinks. It leaves a nice, clean scent, so you shouldn't need additional air fresheners.

It's a good idea to check the litter you use, also. Some letters (particularly the clay type) throw up a lot of dust when kitty scratches in the box and can exacerbate allergy problems in both cats and humans.

Keep an eye on your kitten for a few days. If she shows any other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, such as watery eyes, sniffling or coughing, or if she continues sneezing after you've eliminated spraying, she really should be seen by your veterinarian.