by Suzanne Morris, DVM

Allergy season is here and if you experience sniffling and sneezing, you may also notice similar signs in your kitty companion. Kitty owners typically assume that antibiotics must be warranted for the sniffles, but the majority of upper respiratory signs in cats are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotic therapy. There are a multitude of other underlying causes of these upper respiratory signs, including dental disease (tooth abscess), allergy, fungal infection, cancer, polyps, foreign bodies (i.e., plant matter, parasites, food), and congenital conditions such as cleft palate.  While the initial, or primary, disease process may likely be viral, sometimes opportunistic bacterial infections can develop, which can be addressed with an antibiotic.

Diagnostics to investigate the cause of the sniffles can range from nasal cell/biopsy samples to and advanced imaging such as MRI/CT scans. Other factors such as the kitty’s age, duration of signs, and characteristic of signs can help guide a diagnosis.  For kitties with recurrent or chronic sniffles, a condition known as chronic rhinitis, or inflammation of the nasal cavity, may be suspected.

Ideally, the underlying cause can be determined and treated. However, in chronic rhinitis cases, the clinical signs are managed with medications that might include antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medications (such as steroids). If opportunistic bacterial infections are suspected, an antibiotic might be prescribed. Often, as in the case of chronic rhinitis, the signs never completely resolve and can be a source of frustration for all involved.

If you notice your kitty sneezing or sniffling on a daily basis, it may be time to have her/him evaluated by your veterinarian to determine possible causes.


Shell L. Rhinitis. VIN Feline Associate. (2012, accessed 22 March 2019).