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Why Does My Cat Have a Stuffy Nose? 10 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


May 22, 2023
Close up chocolate cat with dripping nose


Close up chocolate cat with dripping nose

As a cat owner, it can be incredibly heartbreaking to see your cat suffer from any health issue, even if it’s as simple as a stuffy nose. This common problem among household cats occurs when the nasal lining is inflamed, resulting in feline rhinitis.

Feline rhinitis can be caused by various factors, such as foreign bodies in the nose or seasonal allergies. It can also range to severe conditions like bacterial infections or nasal cancer.

If you notice any rhinitis signs in your cat, consult your veterinarian. It’s crucial to recognize the cause and immediately provide the required treatment. Here are 10 interesting reasons your cat may have a stuffy nose or feline rhinitis.


The 10 Reasons Why Your Cat Have a Stuffy Nose

1. Upper Respiratory Infections

An upper respiratory infection (URI)1 is the most common cause of feline rhinitis. It inflames the mucous membranes in your cat’s nasal passages and causes common rhinitis symptoms. Rhinosinusitis is in combination with sinusitis, the inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. Bacteria and viruses spread rapidly between cats, resulting in such infections.

If your cat has an oculonasal discharge, conjunctivitis and nasal congestion, with or without fever, it’s possible that it has an upper respiratory infection. Other signs of a URI include intermittent and recurrent sneezing and coughing. Your cat may also lose its appetite and become dehydrated.

In severe cases, it can develop nose, mouth, or tongue ulcers.

2. Fungal Infections

Fungal infections 2 are another common reason behind feline rhinitis. They typically occur due to environmental fungi, which can enter your cat’s respiratory system and inflame its nasal passages.

The most common fungi causing rhinitis in cats is Cryptococcus. A fungal infection is highly possible if your cat has abnormal vocalization, noisy breathing, snoring, difficulty breathing, congestion, and nasal discharge.

Other signs of a fungal infection in your cat include sneezing and coughing. Such infections can cause eye problems and other neurological issues in severe cases. Other fungi that may infect the lungs and cause pneumonia and dyspnea are Histoplasma, Aspergillus and Blastomyces.

The vet may utilize nasal flushes, antifungal medications, and supportive care to treat a fungal infection in your cat.

Close up tumor in nose of cat due to infected in lung
Image Credit: Macro photo, Shutterstock

3. Bacterial and /or Viral Infections

A bacterial infection can also cause feline rhinitis due to Bordetella, Chlamydophila (or Chlamydia), and opportunistic pathogens such as Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and other bacteria. These infections can occur alone or combined with a viral infection such as Feline calicivirus (FCV) and Feline Herpesvirus type-1, which can cause more severe effects.

If your cat has a bacterial infection, it may show signs such as congestion, fever, clear to yellowish mucoid nasal discharge, and sneezing. The bacterial infection can become life-threatening if it transforms into pneumonia, so it’s best to treat it as soon as you spot the warning signs.

4. Allergies

Sometimes, your cat may have a stuffy nose due to simple allergies. Cats can develop allergies to various environmental allergies like mold, pollen, or dust. Your cat may also be allergic to certain foods or medications, so it’s best to take them to the vet for an allergy test.

Allergic reactions can inflame your cat’s nasal passage and result in flu-like symptoms. That includes congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing, and coughing. They may also experience respiratory problems, skin rashes, or severe itching.

Your vet will identify the allergen, advise you to avoid it, and provide medications like corticosteroids or antihistamines to alleviate the symptoms.

Cat sneeze
Image Credit: Sergio Huainigg, Pixabay

5. Parasites

Parasites 3 can also cause feline rhinitis. More specifically, nasal mites can live in the cat’s nasal passages and cause inflammation or irritation. Fleas and ticks can also cause allergic reactions and other rhinitis symptoms. Infection with large maggots of Cuterebra and adult Linguatula serrata could cause the same problem.

If there is a parasite, your cat may have irritated skin, congestion, and nasal discharge. It may also excessively sneeze and scratch its skin. Treatment for parasitic rhinitis involves medications to eliminate the parasite.

6. Oral Disease

Oral diseases like periodontal disease 4 or tooth decay can inflame your cat’s gums and tooth roots. Once the inflammation spreads to the nasal passage, it can cause feline rhinitis. It may also be caused by oral tumors, stomatitis, and gingivitis.

If your cat has difficulty eating alongside standard rhinitis symptoms, it most likely has an oral disease. Your vet may recommend extractions, dental cleaning, and other oral surgeries to treat this condition.

veterinarian checks mouth of maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

7. Nasal Cancer

Although nasal cancer is not common among cats, it can be incredibly severe. Your cat may be prone to various nasal tumors, such as lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma.

These tumors can inflame the nasal passage and result in obstructive signs, such as difficulty breathing, congestion, and nasal discharge. Other signs of nasal cancer include changes in appetite or behavior, nosebleeds, and facial swelling.

The vet may perform surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy for treatment based on the stage and type of nasal cancer.

8. Inflammatory Polyps

Inflammatory polyps are benign growths in the cat’s sinuses or nasal passage. After spreading, they can cause inflammation and obstruction. Signs of this condition include difficulty breathing, sneezing, congestion, and nasal discharge.

Inflammatory polyps also cause middle ear infections and chronic sinusitis. It’s crucial to treat it early on to prevent such complications. Treatment for this condition involves surgical removal, but the vet may also provide medication to reduce inflammation.

sick cat covered in blanket lies on the window in winter
Image Credit: Germanova Antonina, Shutterstock

9. Foreign Body

If your cat has no infections, parasites, or tumors, it’s highly possible that a foreign body is stuck in its nasal passage. Your cat may have inhaled or ingested a small object, causing obstruction, inflammation, and irritations.

These foreign bodies are usually small toys, plant material, and grass awns. Signs of a foreign body include breathing difficulties, sneezing, and nasal discharge. The vet may remove this object under general anesthesia and provide medications to manage the discomfort.

10. Idiopathic Feline Rhinitis

If the vet is unable to recognize any specific underlying cause for the stuffy nose, it may be a case of idiopathic feline rhinitis. The exact cause of idiopathic feline rhinitis is yet to be understood. However, veterinary experts suggest a relation to genetic, immune, and environmental factors.

So, your cat may be experiencing intermittent and recurrent sneezing and nasal discharge without any cause.

Siamese elder cat sick with cancer has a feeding food tube attached to its nose to stomach
Image Credit: SUJITRA CHAOWDEE, Shutterstock



If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably learned why your cat has a stuffy nose. Feline rhinitis can be uncomfortable and painful for your cat, whether it’s due to a respiratory infection or a foreign body in the nasal passage.

By seeking veterinary care at the right time, you can minimize the symptoms for your furry friend. Most importantly, it can help prevent further complications in the respiratory system.

Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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