Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sneezing in Cats

What causes sneezing in cats? Here's an explanation of some of the common causes.

I'm worried about Mittens, one of a trio of cats my friend Pixie owns. She (Mittens, not Pixie) has been sneezing and wheezing for weeks. According to Pixie, Mittens' owner (or I guess I should say guardian), the sneezing comes and goes. Well, I don't imagine that Mittens would be sneezing 24/7!

I remember when I got my black cat Saki as a kitten. It was only after I took her home that I realized that she was sneezing quite often. I thought it might go away in a few days, but it didn't. The couple whom I got Saki from said that maybe she caught a cold from sitting by the window with her siblings too often. I'm not sure if that's the way cats catch colds. In any case, since she had a runny nose in addition to sneezing, I took her to the vet. She got some antibiotics and was fine in a couple of days. Ever since then, I've made it a point to take her to the vet as soon as something seemed wrong.

As to Mittens, she looks relatively healthy and has a good appetite. She regularly goes outside to play. The problem with cats is that they can act perfectly healthy even when they're quite sick. With cats, appearances can be quite deceptive.

So what causes sneezing in cats? Ah, more questions to ask!

From just the little bit that I know:

Sneezing in cats can be caused by both infectious and noninfectious agents.

Infections are from a virus or a bacteria.

Cats can have respiratory infections, like colds or flus. Most of the time, with cats, you're dealing with upper respiratory infections. The viral or bacterial infection is particular to cats so people don't need to worry about getting infected. At least I don't have to worry about that when Mittens sneezes all over me!

Noninfectious causes of sneezing in cats include:

Allergies -- Like people, cats can be allergic to pollens and mold in the air. This causes cats to sneeze. Or, certain products can cause the cat to sneeze. For instance, dusty cat litter might not agree with certain cats. Then there's cigarette smoke (smokers, take note!), household cleaners, perfumes, deodorants, and so forth. Anything that can cause humans to sneeze can also potentially cause sneezing in cats.

Certain breeds of cats, like Persian cats with flat faces and little squished noses have compressed nasal passages, making them more susceptible to sneezing.

Surprisingly, tooth abscesses can sometimes be the culprit. If a tooth that has its roots close to the nasal passageway becomes infected, sneezing and nasal drainage may occur.

And what about poor Mittens? What could be the cause of her sneezing?

Pixie thought that Mittens might have a foreign object in her nose. That's not too common in cats because their noses are small, but it did happen to Sammy, her other cat. He got a long stalk of something or other stuck in his nose. It was very visible and obvious.

The vet who examined Mittens ruled out the possibility. She isn't allergic, she doesn't have a tooth abscess, and she's not a Persian (she's part Siamese, so she's not even a traditional Siamese).

The vet raised the possibility of penumonia. But after a slew of tests, he thinks it might be something else. Her heart, he says, is enlarged, and there are "activities going on around the heart." Not exactly sure what that means, but he seems to suspect a tumor.

Or at least that's what he seems to be saying. We placed several calls to him for the results of Mittens' blood work, however, every time any of us call, he's "in surgery," and to date, he hasn't returned our call.

Poor Mittens. Because her previous owner was abusive, she had a bad kittenhood, and now this.

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