Does my cat need to see the vet?
Dear Dr. Baum —
One of my two cats has been making little sneezing sounds lately, and I am wondering whether she may need to see a vet.
We have been subjected to Santa Ana winds here in San Diego. Could that be the cause? Or is she developing an allergy to me? In any case, should I do anything, and is a trip to our vet indicated?
Cats, like people, sneeze for a variety of reasons. When judging the significance of the sneezing, it is important to take several factors into account. What is the intensity, the duration and the progression of the problem? Obviously if the effect on the cat is one where the ability to breathe and smell is affected, thus causing the kitty to not eat and generally feel lousy, it is obvious that you should seek veterinary care. If the sneezing is increasing in frequency and intensity a veterinary visit is also advisable. However, if the problem is limited to occasional sneezing, without any deleterious systemic effects, I wouldn’t panic and I would wait to see whether the problem stops by itself.
Think of all the reasons that might cause you to sneeze — allergens or irritants in the air are common. Colds, caused by viral infections are also common in cats. As a matter of fact, these upper respiratory viruses are so common in cats that in the 4 in 1 booster vaccinations, three of the four agents are upper respiratory viruses!! The reason that we are focused on vaccinating against these viruses is that in cats, much more so than in dogs, smell and taste are inter-related. Thus a cat with a stuffy nose is much less likely to “feed a cold” and can more easily become seriously ill.
In your situation, the extenuating circumstances of fire and allergen-laden Santa Ana winds would seem to be the cause of your cat’s problem. The other cat may or may not be affected, depending on its individual sensitivities and susceptibilities. However, the most important factor to consider, regardless of the cause, is the effect that it is having on your cat, and that should be the basis for you to seek veterinary care.