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What's wrong with my cat, and should I take him to the vet?
July 26, 2009 12:49 PM   Subscribe

What's wrong with my cat, and should I take him to the vet?

Two days ago, my cat began sneezing a lot. Every few hours he would sneeze. This has continued into today. He is still sneezing a lot, so much so that it is interfering with his ability to sleep. Recently he has also started holding his mouth open, almost like he can't breathe through his nose. Also, the sneezing seems to have become more frequent.

He does not have a runny nose or runny eyes. Up until today he's been active as usual, despite the sneezing. Today he seems more lethargic, but still has no symptoms other than sneezing. There does not seem to be one cause of the sneezing; it's continued at all times of day and in all rooms of the house.

May or may not be relevant: He's an indoor cat, has had no exposure to other animals, and he is overdue for his annual vaccinations. I did change the type of litter, but that was more than a month ago, so I'm not sure if that could have anything to do with it.

Unfortunately, the vet clinic is closed until tomorrow.
posted by Lobster Garden to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
 
I have no clue what might be wrong, and, given that, I would take my cat to the vet under the circumstances you describe.
posted by Zed at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2009


Of course you should take him to the vet.
posted by amro at 12:54 PM on July 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


He might have gotten something lodged in his nose, such as a plant seed (hopefully not a foxtail) that was brought in on someone's pants leg. Or he could have inhaled any number of things commonly found in a household. Or he could be having an allergic reaction to something that he's come in contact with.

Definitely something you want to see a vet for soon as your description has his physical state in decline.
posted by jamaro at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2009


Cats don't breathe through their mouths unless something is wrong. You might want to check his respiration rate; cats should breathe about 16-20 times a minute. Anything much faster for more than 15 minutes and you should find an emergency vet clinic.
posted by swerve at 1:04 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


When this happened to my sister's cat, she had a 3 inch blade of grass stuck up her nose.
posted by kimdog at 1:16 PM on July 26, 2009


If this were one of my cats, I would be concerned that the symptoms have not improved by now. The mouth-breathing and lethargy are also red flags IMO.

Most (all?) vet clinics have an after-hours emergency line. Call them and describe your cat's symptoms and how long they've been happening. If your clinic doesn't have one, call another one in your area. The vet on call will ask the appropriate questions and tell you whether you should bring your cat in immediately for an emergency appointment or wait until tomorrow.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:21 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The cat is sick. Take him to the vet.
posted by fifilaru at 1:34 PM on July 26, 2009


In a previous cat question someone linked to this chart, which is very useful. It sounds like your cat is "sneezing intermittently", and without any other symptoms, they suggest bringing him to the vet within the next week or two. But lethargy is certainly another symptom, and I'm not sure where the line between constantly and intermittently should be drawn. If it were my cat I'd probably call the after-hours line, I guess.
posted by advil at 1:41 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


One of my cats was going through this most of this past winter. It went on for months: sneezing all the time, sometimes up to 25 consecutive sneezes in a row, occasionally she had (icky) strings of mucous on her face like a toddler with a cold. I was fearful of nasal tumors, took her to the vet twice, had tests run; they found nothing. Then I happened to change away from clay-based cat litter (for other reasons unrelated to her). And what do you know, within a couple of weeks her sneezing totally stopped. That was an unexpected bonus. It turned out she was having a reaction to the litter. We were using scoopable clay litter and I went to grain-based (based on this thread). So yeah, your switch to a different litter may well have triggered the kitty's reaction. Try a non-clay or unscented litter for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


My eldest, AJ, has been sneezing intermittently for a week or so now. Since she was in the hospital for five days (a kidney issue diagnosed thanks to my fellow MeFites' advice), I was concerned she had picked up a rhinovirus. When I asked her doctor (we've been back to see him every day since she got out of the hospital), he said that since she wasn't producing any snot, he wasn't concerned. He also said that this is allergy season.

I'd take the cat to the vet on Monday. Perhaps he's stuffed up from allergies and just can't breathe past it (hence the lethargy and mouth breathing). If he's not laboring to breathe, then I'd think a trip to the doctor can wait till tomorrow.

(As a side note: I'm sniffling and stuffed up today from allergies, too).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 2:49 PM on July 26, 2009


Thanks for the concern, but I know it's nothing serious (hence the question). He is only a bit lethargic, his breathing rate is normal and I haven't seen him mouth-breathe again since this morning. The comments here make me think he is either having some allergies, or maybe has something in his nose. Either way if he hasn't improved by tomorrow morning I will make a vet appointment. If all else fails, I'll just switch back to his regular litter.

he said that since she wasn't producing any snot, he wasn't concerned. He also said that this is allergy season.

That is reassuring. Thanks.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:30 PM on July 26, 2009


Thanks for the concern, but I know it's nothing serious (hence the question).

Your question was: What's wrong with my cat, and should I take him to the vet?

You don't know that it's nothing serious.
posted by amro at 7:28 PM on July 26, 2009


Cats typically will not eat if they can't smell. Is he eating okay?
posted by JujuB at 7:43 PM on July 26, 2009


I hope at this point he's already been taken care of, but to add to the conversation... Cats can't breathe through their mouth like humans can, they only breathe through their nose. (I had a cat as a child who died from a nosebleed because she suffocated.) I have a cat who had a lot of sneezing spells, and our vet said he might have allergies and to give him Benadryl if it continued. (Luckily, he's much improved since then.) But definitely take the cat to the vet!
posted by LolaGeek at 5:25 AM on July 27, 2009


I wouldn't do emergency vet, but if he's overdue for shots, why wouldn't you schedule an appointment with the vet anyway? If it turns out he's OK, then you didn't waste time.
posted by Kurichina at 8:11 AM on July 27, 2009


Cats can't breathe through their mouth like humans can, they only breathe through their nose.

Cats can breathe through their mouths. They do not unless something is very wrong. Please note "open-mouth breathing" on this previously-mentioned chart.

It's important to remember that cats are very good at hiding illness. My last cat started breathing through her mouth in response to a build-up of fluid in her chest. We rushed her to an animal hospital, where she spent several days in critical care. She seemed fine until I saw her mouth hanging open; she had even eaten her dinner a few hours before. But the vets thought she had been very sick for several days.

Lobster Garden, I hope your cat is okay.
posted by swerve at 10:11 AM on July 27, 2009


Vet says he has an upper respiratory infection, his immune system's fine, he needs antibiotics, no biggie. Amro, it is obvious that sneezing is not serious, and your comment is snarky and in no way helpful.
posted by Lobster Garden at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2009


My comment was not snarky. I was reiterating that because you did not know that it was nothing serious, you should take him to the vet. I wouldn't assume that a sneeze was nothing serious.
posted by amro at 5:04 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


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