Felis ISSN 2398-2950


Contributor(s): David Godfrey


  • A common sign of disease.
  • Usually shows disease of the nose, the nasopharynx and/or sinuses.
  • Most cases are caused by the cat flu viruses but there are many other significant causes.
  • Reverse sneezing is likely to indicate that the focus of disease is in the nasopharynx.



  • Anomalous: cleft palate.
  • Neoplastic: primary and secondary nasal tumors
  • Inflammatory: viral infection from feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus-1; bacterial infections (which may always be secondary); inflammatory polyps; foreign bodies (solid inhaled objects or blood from epistaxis); dental disease; fungal disease, cryptococcus Cryptococcosis, aspergillosis Aspergillosis, systemic fungi; allergic rhintitis/sinusitis, atopy Skin: atopic dermatitis, food allergy Food hypersensitivity; direct irritation from inhaled substances.
  • Idiopathic, chronic idiopathic rhinitis/sinusitis is a common diagnosis but it may be that it is always a consequence of chronic calicivirus Feline calicivirus or herpesvirus-1 Feline herpes virus: feline rhinotracheitis virus infections.
  • Trauma, nasal bone fractures and acquired oronasal fistula Oronasal fistula.
  • Parasitic: Cuterebra larvae.
  • Sneezing is mentioned as a clinical sign in some cats with allergic bronchitis (asthma) Allergic bronchitis.


  • Irritation to the epithelium evokes an involuntary reflex.
  • The receptors are probably subepithelial and may be nonmyelinated nerves.
  • A deep inspiration occurs and then a forceful expiration against a narrowed larynx and pharynx that are suddenly opened.
  • Squinting of the facial and periocular muscles and ocular and nasal discharge may occur at the same time.
  • The sneeze reflex may be lost with chronic disease.
  • Sneezing may often be accompanied by nasal discharge.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Riley P (1993) Nasopharyngeal grass foreign body in eight cats. JAVMA 202 (2), 299-300 PubMed.
  • Cape L (1992) Feline idiopathic chronic rhinosinusitis - A retrospective study of 30 cases. JAAHA 28 (2), 149-155 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Norsworthy G D (1998) Chronic Nasal Discharge. In: The Feline Patient, Essentials of Diagnosis and Treatment. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore. ISBN 0683 06556 4. pp35-38.
  • McKiernan B C (1995) Sneezing and Nasal Discharge. In: Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 4th edition. Editors: Ettinger S.J & Feldman E.C. W.B. Saunders. Philadelphia. ISBN. 0 7216 6795 3. pp79-85.