why is my cat sniffing so much?
November 21, 2013 12:10 PM   Subscribe

my cat is reverse-sniffing...short, half-second bursts maybe once or twice an hour. this is a new development, i.e. she hasn't always done this and I wonder if anyone out there can let me know what this is about. Google search is not helpful.

i've had my cat for about 18 months now, she is 7-8 years old (previous owner was not sure). this behavior only began recently, maybe when i first moved to NY last september but i think even later than that. i don't know how to describe this sound besides a sniff, except a reverse sniff...rather than inhale, it's an exhalation but the same sound as a strong sniff...she just forcefully exhales through her nose, like one would do if they were trying to blow out something, but not a long version like when she's annoyed at me when i give her unwanted cuddles. she doesn't do it super often, maybe twice an hour but she never did it that often before. is it possible that this is something adverse?

i've also noticed that her voice is very nasally/phlegmy. i mean, i dont know if all cats voices are nasally because my roommate's cat is not very vocal, but she also is not overweight (I think my cat is around 13 lbs - i've been giving her diet food, carefully measuring out my proportions, and trying to play with her much more - even though she does the crazy running around thing a lot on her own, but i don't think she is SUPER fat, just cuddly). she just has a very phlegmy, nasally voice like when she meows or purrs it sounds very ...nasally. is this normal or a result of her being overweight?

Pics included so you can see how overweight she is.
posted by bengalibelle to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
Sounds like she might have an upper respiratory infection.
posted by Eicats at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Vet. Could be a cold or an infection. One of our kitties coughs (hard to explain what it sounds like), and when we took her to the vet, we found out she is asthmatic.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:15 PM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

It sounds like she's sneezing. She could have an infection. She could also have allergies (my cat sneezes when the landlord mows our lawn). Couldn't hurt to take her to the vet.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:23 PM on November 21, 2013

Yeah, sounds like a cold. Does the nose drip? Did you notice anything else like puffy eyes, more gunk in the eyes, dirty ears, less appetite, increased need for sleep?

My old cat would get a sort of build-up in her nose that would dry out. Maybe your cat has something sticking in the nose? I could clean my cats nose with a damp cotton ball (soaked in boiled, cooled water) and then just get the build-up out (with clean, washed human hands).
posted by travelwithcats at 12:36 PM on November 21, 2013

Kitty has the sniffles. She thinks she's people!

Very cute kitty. Take her to the vet, just to be sure.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on November 21, 2013

My parents have a cat with chronic sinus issues, and she does this when her poor nose is acting up. I'd haul kitty off to the vet.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2013

My cat has allergies and sounds like that when they're acting up. I typically vacuum and check over my linens and whatever to make sure they're mildly scented or not scented at all.
posted by spunweb at 12:50 PM on November 21, 2013

Yup that's just how cats sound when they sneeze.

Has she been outside or in the contact of other cats? My cat came home from the vet and gave my other cat a cold. He sneezed for a day or two, and then it was done.

If it goes away, then it was just a passing allergen / cold. If it continues, doctor time.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:47 PM on November 21, 2013

Oh and if you want to make her hate you but help the congestion, put your shower on hot, and chill with her in the closed bathroom for a while.
posted by spunweb at 1:53 PM on November 21, 2013

My cat has this problem, and I suggest taking yours to the vet. It could be any number of things - allergies, asthma, FVR - and the vet can diagnose.

It turns out that my cat has FVR and it caused lasting damage to her sinuses, so I give her some L-Lysine every day with her food. Your vet might want you to try using this product; it might help, but check with your vet first.
posted by k8lin at 2:19 PM on November 21, 2013

absolutely go to the vet just to make sure. if your cat gets a clean bill of health, i wouldn't worry much about it. our cat likes to find the dustiest corners or items and take giant sniffs (which involve a little bit of breathing out quick and forcefully through the nose) and then sneezes. we were worried about it at first, but vet says he's fine and he keeps seeking out this behavior.
posted by nadawi at 3:26 PM on November 21, 2013

Oh, regarding weight: this weight chart is quite good. Judging by the pictures of your cute kitty, she is overweight. I don't think her weight causes her current respiratory issues though. But as cats age, they can develop issues like snoring or heavy breathing. The soft tissue inside the nose, mouth and palate can start sagging. Can be more pronounced in overweight animals. Just like in humans.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:10 PM on November 21, 2013

FWIW, my brother's cat looks just like that and does it all the freaking time. We've been to the vet with Bowie (sorry no pics) and there's nothing physically wrong with him. The vet says it's just the mix of breeds (most likely some maine coon in there). So there's that...
posted by kathrynm at 5:59 PM on November 21, 2013

Oh, and to be clear. I'm not saying give your cat a shower. You just want her to breathe the steam to loosen up the congestion.
posted by spunweb at 6:44 PM on November 21, 2013

I agree that it is most likely a sneeze, but I also wanted to throw in what one of my cats does, just in case. He is VERY high-strung and has lots of habitual mannerisms (must be petted while he eats--a pain!). He is also not happy that he is not the only cat in the household, and I often hear him sort of sniff/snort when he is unsettled by something or one of the other cats walks by. I think of it as a tic. Your kitties getting along?
posted by thebrokedown at 8:43 PM on November 21, 2013

thanks for all the feedback guys! yeah i posted pictures to verify how overweight she is but also to get some kitty cuteness feedback which i've never done before. each of you who called her cute made me SQUEEEEEEE~ this might be the beginning of a very vain path in my life... i will take her to the vet next week as it does sound like she is sneezing.

to thebrokedown, interestingly my moojie is also one who likes to be petted when she eats, but is extremely cuddly and affectionate (with me), we just moved in with this new kitty on oct 1 and we've observed that moojie especially is unfriendly toward poochy, who is used to being with other cats. poochy wants to bond with moojie but moojie always hisses and bats at her, whereas poochy tries to headbutt her and is more playful. i think moojie is just more of the jealous type....but the noises do sound more sneezelike than annoyed snort-like.

posted by bengalibelle at 2:13 PM on November 22, 2013

also, she doesn't have nasal discharge or puffy eyes. she is very normal outwardly except for the sneezes. the softening of the palette sounds like a possibility as well.
posted by bengalibelle at 2:14 PM on November 22, 2013

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