washington the cat likes to sneeze

Veterinary Corner: My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine

Okay, so you all know that I was pre-vet for several years before I decided to ditch the whole science thing and pursue a humanities degree. But I still picked up a minor in biology and I strongly disagree with the idea of over specialization! So I’m adding a post type to Presidential Pup called “Veterinary Corner”. These posts will be based on my own research but will also include fact checking from Dr. E from Parkside Animal Health Center.

Just to be clear, despite having a doctor involved, that does not mean that this or other posts constitute medical advice! This is just for fun and informational purposes! Always take the advice of your veterinarian!

“My Cat Keeps Sneezing But Seems Fine!?”

So let’s get right into it! For the first one in our series, I’m answering a question that I had about my cat Washington. Washington is a 2 year old gray and white shelter cat. He is also the best cat I’ve ever had! He gets along great with my two dogs and is generally just a happy little feline! But about 6 months ago he started sneezing pretty frequently. Everything else was the same though, he was still eating, drinking and sleeping normally. Everything else seemed fine! So while this certainly doesn’t sound like a medical emergency, I started to get pretty worried after a while. So I called Dr. E and asked “What should I do? My cat keeps sneezing but seems fine!?” Here are the two major concerns you have to decide between:

Consider Environmental Irritants

The first thing to look for is basic changes to the environment. There’s a saying in both human and veterinary medicine that goes something like, “When you hear hoofbeats, look for the horse, not the zebra.” It comments on the tendency of veterinarians, and laypeople, to jump to the most complicated and often most unlikely conclusion first. It’s with that in mind that Dr. E asked me to look at the simple possibility of an environmental change first before considering flesh eating bacteria or other extraordinary concerns.

  • Living in Colorado means very dry air! Washington may just be sensitive to climate, just like people get sensitive to the dry Colorado weather. Something as simple as adding a humidifier to your home may help the situation. Often, we see bloody nasal discharge which makes pet owners totally flip. But the reality is, bloody nasal discharge is more often a result of dryness in the nasal passages than some major underlying disease.
  • Check the litter! Even if you’re scooping frequently, old litter can create small irritants as it dissolves and ages. This can cause your cat to keep sneezing despite everything else being fine since the sneezing will most often occur around litter box time. You can also try changing the litter. Just like people’s sensitivities change with time so does your cat’s! So just because Washington has never had a problem with clumping litter before doesn’t mean it hasn’t become a problem now.
  • Clean the house! Cats love to find little nooks and crannies and this often means find their way into dusty and dander filled spots of the house. Check your cat’s preferred hangouts for areas of dirt and debris.

Consider the Feline Herpes Virus or Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

Since Washington comes from a shelter environment, he almost certainly was exposed to the Feline Herpes Virus. Even if he wasn’t a shelter cat, almost all cats have been exposed to the herpes virus. Most cats carry the virus but it won’t become evident unless the cat gets stressed out. This is going to be different for most cats. If your cat does have feline herpes virus and keeps sneezing but seems fine then your cat probably is fine. If you see additional symptoms, like anorexia, congestion or conjunctivitis (discharge around the eyes) you should certainly bring your cat in to see your veterinarian. (And as a side note, I can’t recommend Dr. E and Parkside enough if you need an Aurora veterinarian.) But back to the topic at hand! Herpes virus is just one of many components of an upper respiratory infection and any symptoms beyond sneezing could indicate a more concerning type of infection.

  • Herpes virus flare ups may not require a visit to the veterinarian. Once you know your cat has the virus you can monitor closely for signs but since it is a virus there’s little that can be done at the initial stages.
  • If you see any additional medical concerns then it’s time to see your veterinarian.

Horses, not Zebras!

Not today Mr. Zebra!

So there you have it! That’s us looking for horses when we hear hooves (or sneezing) rather than hunting zebras. While there are a lot more things that could be going on when your cat sneezes investigating these first two problems is generally the best way to go.

Thank you Dr. E for allowing me to put information from Washington’s visit into this post! And if you live in Aurora and want to visit Parkside, check them out at:

Parkside Animal Health Center

5001 S Parker Rd #101

Aurora, CO 80015

(303) 699-3344


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