Having a cat sneak up and unexpectedly sneeze right in your face can be quite startling! You may be worried about catching an illness or what to do next. This comprehensive guide will provide detailed information on the causes of cat sneezing, when to see the vet, how to clean up, and tips to prevent future sneezy attacks.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Cat sneezes on humans are typically harmless and no cause for alarm. Simply wash the affected area gently with soap and water. Monitor your cat for other signs of upper respiratory infection like discharge from nose/eyes, fatigue, or loss of appetite in which case a vet visit may be needed.

Common Causes of Cat Sneezes


Just like humans, cats can suffer from allergic reactions to things like pollen, dust mites, and mold. These allergies can cause itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing fits. Allergies are one of the most common reasons for chronic sneezing in cats.

If you notice your cat sneezing often, especially at certain times of year, allergies may be to blame.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Cats can catch upper respiratory infections from viruses and bacteria. These infections often cause congestion, runny noses, and sneezing as common symptoms. Some examples of upper respiratory infections in cats include feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, Chlamydophila, and Bordetella.

If your cat is sneezing frequently along with discharge from the eyes or nose, see your vet to check for an infection.

Foreign Objects or Irritants

It’s not uncommon for curious cats to stick their noses where they don’t belong. Sneezing can sometimes be caused by foreign material getting lodged in the nasal passages. Examples include grass seeds, small pieces of debris, or household dust.

Sneezing may occur as the body tries to expel the foreign object. Cats can also inhale irritating substances like cigarette smoke, dust, or strong perfumes that trigger sneezing fits.

Dental Disease

Believe it or not, dental disease can manifest as sneezing in cats. Tartar buildup on the teeth allows bacteria to proliferate in the mouth. This bacteria can then get inhaled into the nasal passages and cause sneezing or nasal discharge.

Regular dental cleanings for your cat can help prevent this issue. You should also brush your cat’s teeth at home between dental visits.

Smoke and Air Pollution

Cats with respiratory sensitivity can experience sneezing and coughing when exposed to smoke or air pollution. This could include smoke from cigarettes, wood-burning stoves, vehicles, or wildfires. Keeping your cat indoors when air quality is poor is recommended.

Using air purifiers in the home can also help reduce irritants.


In some cases, excessive grooming of the nose area can cause sneezing. Cats with allergies or skin irritation may overgroom, causing inflammation of the nasal passages. Providing enrichment activities can help curb overgrooming behavior.

Consulting with your vet to address the root cause (allergies, stress, etc.) is also advised.

When to Take Your Cat to the Vet After Sneezing

Persistent Sneezing

If your feline friend is sneezing more than a couple of times per day, it’s a good idea to schedule a vet appointment. Frequent sneezing can indicate the early stages of an upper respiratory infection (URI) or a reaction to an irritant or allergen.

It’s best to have your vet investigate the cause sooner rather than later, as URIs can progress into more serious secondary infections if left unchecked. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics or provide other treatment recommendations based on the diagnosis.

Additional Symptoms Like Discharge or Fatigue

See your vet promptly if you notice any additional concerning symptoms along with repeated sneezing. For example, keep an eye out for eye or nasal discharge, coughing, wheezing, lethargy, reduced appetite, or other signs of illness.

The combination of sneezing plus these other symptoms can signal an active infection or respiratory issue that requires veterinary attention and care.

Known Exposure to Other Sick Cats

Be on high alert and monitor your cat closely if they have recently spent time with another cat exhibiting signs of illness. Unfortunately, upper respiratory infections are highly contagious among cats.

If your kitty has come into contact with infected felines and then develops sneezing or other symptoms, schedule a visit with your vet right away to either rule out or begin early treatment for URI.

Young Kittens or Senior Cats More Vulnerable

Both very young and very old cats tend to have weaker immune systems, making them more vulnerable to infections and illness. If you have a kitten under one year of age or a senior cat over 10 years of age that begins persistently sneezing, err on the side of caution and take them in for an exam.

It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the higher risk populations of feline friends.

Cleaning Up After a Sneeze

Wash Affected Area Gently

If your cat sneezes directly in your face, the first step is to gently wash the affected area. Use a mild soap and lukewarm water to avoid irritating your skin. Be extra gentle around your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any germs or irritants left behind from the sneeze. Pat dry with a clean towel.

Disinfect Surfaces Cat Has Contacted

Cats spread germs through sneezing, so it’s important to disinfect any surfaces your cat has recently touched. Use a disinfectant designed specifically for veterinary use, such as Rescue Disinfectant Spray or Trifectant. Spray down things like food bowls, toys, cat towers, and beds.

Let the disinfectant sit for 5-10 minutes before wiping down. This ensures enough contact time to kill germs. Bleach can also be used diluted 1:32 with water.

Launder Linens and Fabrics Exposed to Sneeze

Fabrics like blankets, towels, curtains, and clothing that were sneezed on should be laundered immediately. Use hot water and add bleach if recommended for the fabric. Tumble dry on high heat. For items that can’t be washed, use the disinfectant spray method mentioned above.

Be sure to spray both sides of fabrics thoroughly and let them air dry fully before use.

Monitor for Signs of Infection

Keep an eye out for any signs of infection after being sneezed on by a cat. Look for symptoms like redness, swelling, pus, pain, and fever. See your doctor promptly if you notice any infection setting in.

Some common illnesses passed through cat sneezes include bartonellosis (cat scratch fever) and campylobacter. With prompt cleaning of the affected area and disinfection of surfaces, you can likely avoid getting sick. But it’s still important to monitor your health just in case.

Tips to Prevent Future Sneezy Attacks

Keep Cats Indoors to Limit Irritant Exposure

One of the best ways to reduce allergy triggers is to keep your cat inside. When cats go outside, they can pick up pollen, dust, and other irritants in their fur. When they come back inside, those allergens get spread around your home.

Keeping your cat inside limits their exposure to outdoor allergens and reduces the amount of dander and allergens in your home.

Some easy ways to keep your cat entertained indoors include:

  • Cat towers and scratching posts near windows so they can look outside
  • Food puzzles and treat balls
  • Interactive toys like feather wands and laser pointers
  • A variety of cardboard boxes and tubes to play in

If your cat sneezes often after being outside, talk to your vet about safe ways to keep them indoors more.

Use Air Purifiers and Control Allergens

Indoor allergens can also cause cat sneezing and human allergy symptoms. Using air purifiers can help trap dander, dust, and other particles. Place air purifiers in rooms where you spend the most time with your cat.

Also vacuum frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, dust regularly, and wash bedding weekly to control allergens. Avoid letting clutter accumulate since it can collect dust and dander.

You may want to ban your cat from the bedroom so you have an allergen-free space. Use washable curtains and encase mattresses and pillows in allergen covers.

Brush Your Cat Regularly

Brushing or combing your cat daily will remove loose hair and dander before it has a chance to become airborne allergens. This helps limit the amount of dander in your home environment.

Use a rubber brush or comb designed for cats. Brush in the direction of hair growth and avoid brushing too vigorously, which can irritate skin. Give treats after brushing so your cat associates it with something positive.

Schedule Annual Vet Checkups

Sneezing can sometimes indicate an upper respiratory infection in cats. Feline herpesvirus and calicivirus are common causes. Stress and poor ventilation may also trigger sneezing.

Schedule a yearly exam with your vet. They can check for nasal discharge, swollen eyes, excessive sneezing, and other signs of infection. If the cause is viral, antibiotics won’t help, but supportive care can ease symptoms.

Routine vet visits also help maintain your cat’s overall health and wellbeing to reduce sneezing episodes.


In most cases, an occasional cat sneeze on a human is no cause for concern. Simply gently cleaning the affected area and monitoring your cat for other symptoms should suffice. However, recurrent sneezing or additional symptoms may indicate an underlying illness requiring veterinary care.

Following the tips above can help prevent and mitigate future sneezy incidents.

With this thorough guide covering all aspects of post-sneeze care and prevention, you and your feline companion can rest easy! Let us know if you have any other pet health questions.

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