October 3, 2022
Based on an article that first appeared at

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 repetetive, 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:

  1. A cat exposed to Herpes once, has Herpes forever.
  2. Vaccines protecting against Herpes do exist, but are often administered too late since Herpes can be transmitted in the womb.
  3. Herpes may also be transmitted between sneezing cats.
Why is my cat sneezing

THE FELINE HERPES VIRUS HAS AN INSIDIOUS TRICK UP ITS SLEEVE!

Like a train carrying a stowaway, your cat might be carrying Herpes around her whole life, sneezing it all over every cat she meets. No big deal most of the time, since your sneezing cat is snotting on grownup cats who already have Herpes in their system.

When we get into trouble, however, is when a STRESS – be it physical or emotional (you know how emotional cats can get!) 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, she’s sneezing boogers all over your face. Yuck! Why?

Because the stress compromised her immune system, temporarily shutting down her normal defenses. The Herpes virus that had lain dormant in her system since she originally came in contact with the disease 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, and they’re eating and drinking and pooping and peeing, and your sneezing cat is 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:

  1. Clear eye discharge turns into yellow green eye boogers with squinting and redness
  2. Clear nose discharge turns into yellow green nose boogers
  3. Nasal congestion causes a drop in appetite (cats won’t eat if they can’t smell their food)
  4. Other symptoms develop that may suggest pneumonia – coughing, lethargy, fever
  5. Other symptoms develop that may suggest sinusitis – lethargy, fever, headache – cat is scrunched up in a little ball with her head in her paws, not socializing
  6. Dehydration develops – refer to our blog post (not yet written!) on how to tell if your cat is dehydrated.
Should my sneezing cat go to the vet

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:

  1. Clean your house thoroughly to minimize airborne irritants like dust or perfumes.
  2. Change to a low-dust cat litter – bigger granules don’t clump as well, but they give off less dust.
  3. Add moisture to the air, with a vaporizer, steam from a hot shower, or boiling kettle of water.
  4. Apply saline nose drops to help thin mucus in the nasal passages and relieve irritation that may cause sneezing.