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Cat shaking head & sneezing

Updated March 23, 2017

As humans deal with fighting off cold viruses, cats also are subject to catching respiratory viruses or infections. You may notice your pet sneezing or shaking her head, usually a sign of some type of nasal irritation. Because of the different possibilities, it is important to take your cat to the veterinarian.

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Cat sneezing can be caused by a number of things, from a bacterial or viral infection to allergies to irritants. It's also possible some foreign object is lodged in the nostril, though this is not common because cats' noses are so small. According an article on iVillage.com, if the cat is shaking his head and sneezing, it's most likely an upper respiratory infection. This can be a serious illness for the cat and must be treated by a veterinarian.


Feline respiratory diseases is a common disease for cats. The disease is caused by a virus and is contagious among cats. It can lead to death in kittens, but not many adult cats will die from it. According to Go Pets America, the two major viruses responsible for feline viral respiratory diseases are the Herpes virus and the Calicivirus.


When you bring in your pet to the vet, the veterinarian will likely do a physical exam to look for signs of infection. The vet may be able to figure out the cause based on the cat's age and other signs of illness, such as nasal discharge. If the cat shows signs such as a mucous-based discharge, fever or loss of appetite, the vet will most likely diagnose the illness as an upper respiratory infection. If the cat is also itching and rubbing her face, it may be an allergy (possibly seasonal) or nasal irritation. In more serious cases, bloody discharge along with sneezing can be a sign of a fungal infection or even nasal cancer.

General Treatment

Once the cause of sneezing is diagnosed, the veterinarian can prescribe a treatment. If, by chance, there is a foreign object lodged in the cat's nostril, the vet will need to remove it. Antibiotics will treat a bacterial infection and antifungal medicine will treat fungal infections.If it's a viral infection, antibiotics generally will not work, except for a secondary infection, and the virus will have to run its course. However, if the virus is Feline Herpesvirus, an antiviral medication may be recommended.


Prevention is the best cure for cat respiratory viral infections. Keep your cat's antiviral vaccinations up-to-date.

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About the Author

Amy Dombrower

Amy Dombrower is a journalist and freelance writer living in Chicago. She worked in the newspaper industry for three years and enjoys writing about technology, health, paper crafts and life improvement. Some of her passions are graphic design, movies, music and fitness. Dombrower earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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