The dreaded sneeze. It's not something you hear from your cat very often, unless he spends a lot of time spelunking in a dusty basement. A sneeze or two doesn't necessarily mean your cat's sick, but it's a possibility you should consider. Cat's can spread germs when they sneeze.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections are a group of viral and bacterial infections that cause similar symptoms, including distressed breathing, sinus congestion and sneezing. Feline calcivirus and feline herpesvirus cause over 80 percent of contagious URIs, according to the ASPCA. These respiratory diseases spread rapidly and can go through an entire animal shelters in a matter of days. If your cat does haven a URI, his sneezing will continue indefinitely until the disease abates. Other common signs of a URI include lethargy, elevated body temperature and a runny nose.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Every cat owner is at least a little afraid of feline immunodeficiency virus. This highly contagious disease degrades the feline immune system, leaving infected cats vulnerable to secondary infections. The virus causes sneezing, nasal discharge and other cold-like symptoms similar to URIs. The good news is, FIV doesn't usually spread from sneezes. While cats can transmit the disease through social contact and discharge, the virus usually requires direct contact with the bloodstream through a wound or other injury to take hold, according to the ASPCA.
So what else besides contagious diseases could make your cat sneeze? Allergies is one explanation for your kitty's discomfort. He may have simply taken a big whiff of dust or pollen, or is allergic to something in the area. Cats have sensitive noses, so exposure to perfume or other pungent chemicals irritates their nasal passages. Your cat is also likely to sneeze during the week following veterinary vaccinations, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If your cat does sneeze, isolate and keep an eye on him throughout the day. Schedule a vet visit if the sneezing doesn't stop by the next day, or if you notice any other symptoms of an infection. It's better to start treatment early before the disease grows and spreads. If your cat does have a contagious disease, your vet will prescribe medicine and other treatment if necessary. Keep your cat isolated from other pets until the vet gives him a clean bill of health.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.