Why Does My Kitten Keep Sneezing?

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A tabby kitten is held by its young pet parent by a window. The kitten looks alert through the window at something or someone outside

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Sneezing is an important bodily function that kittens, cats, humans and pretty much all mammals rely on to get unwanted things out of their nose! The inside of the nose is very sensitive and acts as a filter to avoid potentially hazardous things getting into the windpipe and lungs. So, sneezing, like many things in life, is good in moderation! However, there are times that excessive sneezing may be a sign of ill health or other problems, such as a foreign object lodged in the nose. Let’s take a look at the main causes of sneezing and when you should get help.

What is making my kitten sneeze?

Cats are incredibly sensitive to smell and use this sense much more than we humans do. The sense of smell in cats is also very strongly linked to appetite. Kittens love to explore and will be constantly sniffing their environment and all the nooks and crannies they can get into. This means they’ll come into contact with lots of things that can make them sneeze, such as:

  • Dust. No matter how clean your house is, small kittens will find dusty places.

  • Cat litter. Some brands of cat litter are very dusty and this can be quite overwhelming for a sensitive little nose.

  • Perfume, scented candles and cleaning products. Smells that we find pleasant and use on a daily basis can be very overpowering for animals that are as sensitive to smell as kittens. Try to avoid these powerful odours if possible.


  • Cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoking is as harmful for our pets as it is for the other humans around you. Please don’t smoke around your pets.

  • Pollen and mould. 

  • Foreign bodies. Cats, especially kittens, have very small noses but things can still get lodged in there. One of the most common problems is a blade of grass that gets accidentally inhaled while exploring the garden or grazing, as cats like to do occasionally. This is very irritating and will usually cause very sudden, frequent sneezing. Your kitten may also paw at their face or shake their head.

As well as physical things that can irritate the nose, there are medical issues that can too:

  • Viral infections. Kittens rely on immunity from their mums in the early stages of life, so if their mum isn’t vaccinated they may be vulnerable to infection. Also, kittens often come from breeding establishments or shelters with multiple cats, so they may be exposed to more illnesses or a higher load of virus. 

  • Bacterial infections such as chlamydia.

  • Tumours in the nose are very rare in kittens, but can be a cause of sneezing.

When should you worry?

As we said, sneezing can be a very good thing and is a totally normal body function, so occasional sneezing is nothing to worry about. If it seems frequent, see if you can associate it with something avoidable, such as a certain smelly product, or when they’ve just been in the litter tray. You may be able to eliminate the source of irritation quite easily.

However, if your kitten is unwell, and especially if they go off their food, they can become ill and debilitated very quickly due to their small size. Always seek veterinary advice for sneezing if your kitten:

  • Stops eating or eats less than normal.

  • Becomes depressed and doesn’t want to play.

  • Has swollen or red eyes.

  • Has any eye or nasal discharge.

  • Is pawing at their face or head-shaking.

  • Is sneezing all the time or in frequent bouts.

  • Looks in poor condition.

  • Coughs.

  • Has other problems such as diarrhoea.

Remember to talk to your vet about vaccinations, preventative healthcare and good nutrition, and take your kitten for the checks recommended by your vet. This way, you can make sure they are growing well and are happy as well as healthy.

Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA