Too bad House, MD isn't a vet
March 28, 2008 8:04 PM   Subscribe

SneezyCatHelpFilter: I adopted an adult female Maine Coon-ish cat back in January. Any suggestions cures on why her nose runs and she keeps sneezing?

The previous owner, a close friend, adopted her 6 years ago as a skinny, starving stray. The cat had a runny nose and frequent sneezing from day one, which continues to this day. Previous vet visits, including x-rays of her skull, showed no discernable reason for the condition (Vet: "She's just a sneezy cat, maybe allergies."). While watching her drink about a week ago, I noticed that it appears that a lot of the water she drinks ends up coming right back out her nose. When I first adopted her, I discovered that the bridge of her nose is definitely wider than I've seen on any other cat and one of her eye openings in her skull appears larger than the other, figuring this was no big deal because of the previous vet's x-rays... but now I'm thinking they are related.

I have an appointment in three weeks for a cat-specialized vet, but any ideas on what to try in the interim? She is up on her shots and is feline herpes negative. I switched her to a corn- and wheat-free cat food three weeks ago, but no change. She has been an inside exclusive cat (with a filtered, AC home) and then an "in-and-out as she pleases" cat, but neither seems to effect her nose (so maybe not allergies?).
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
I had a Maine Coon cross, and she was a sneezy cat too. The vet diagnosed her with allergies and said that I could treat her with a kitty nebulizer. Basically it would be a little mask I'd put on her face and it would attach to a machine or something that would let her breathe in the medicine. I passed on that. She never seemed upset with her sneezing, so I just let it go. The vet said to watch to make sure that the mucous she was sneezing never changed color or consistency, as that would indicate an infection. So I just kept an eye on her for that.

One data point...the cat and I would sometimes get allergies at the same time even though she was strictly an indoor cat and I was, of course, going in and out. So it's possible that she's allergic to something within the house, something you're bringing in, something coming from the vents, or whatever.
posted by christinetheslp at 9:14 PM on March 28, 2008

As she was a skinny, starving stray, it's quite likely that at some point in her past life she caught a dose of cat flu. This often happens and even though a stray cat can recover without treatment, there can be lasting damage to the nasal passages and the sinuses. The tissue damage may just be a slight thickening and be enough to irritate the nerves in the nose. An x ray may not pick up tissue thickening if it's slight. As her nose appears wider, it could well be an architecture issue and she might just be getting more of a noseful of dust or allergens.

As you have 3 weeks before you see the specialist, keep a diary on when she sneezes (frequency/time of day/number of sneezes/where she is when sneezing/what she was doing when she started sneezing etc) you might see a pattern emerging and the vet could find this useful in diagnosing what her problem is. I'd also include a description of the water-down-the-nose too, this does seem significant. If she has a litter box, try switching to a dust extracted form of litter, as you have seen no improvement by removing wheat from her diet, you could try one of the wheat based litters as these are reported to be less dusty than other types.

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 12:54 AM on March 29, 2008

One of my cats sneezes and vet recommended buying powdered l-lysine (health stores have it in capsules you can just pull apart) and adding it to wet food/tuna/etc. It apparently helps to boost their immune system.
posted by zennoshinjou at 8:28 AM on March 29, 2008

Lysine is a useful for herpes flare-ups (both human and feline). A high intake of lysine inhibits viral shedding. I don't think that lysine has general antiviral or immune-boosting properties though. Since you said that your cat has tested negative for feline herpes, giving her lysine won't hurt her but it probably won't help her either.
posted by rhiannon at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: An update... I went ahead an ordered some l-lysine caps anyway (found out about it while searching here before the posting originally). Other than her drinking water, I haven't found anything that specfically sets off a sneeze.

I really don't care about mucus on everything; she's still much cleaner than my two young nephews. I'm concerned about her health and her happiness... her poor nose is usually sore and it can't be good to have water drain/bubble out everytime she takes a drink. If there's no fix, that's fine with me. Her love and positive qualities far outway a little snot here and there.

Thanks all for your help.
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 7:33 AM on March 30, 2008

When I adopted my 2nd cat, Dignan, he had a terribly sneezing problem too.

He had 2 siblings who also had the same problem. They were all found by the secretary of the cat clinic that I adopted him at when she was driving to work one morning. They were all in a bag that opened on the side of the road. They were in bad shape as they were most likely there for a day or two - covered in mud and leaves.

They stayed in the cat clinic for a good month 1/2 before they were ready to go home. But once he came home the sneezing was insane! I'm sure that old apartment still has dried cat snot in some corners!

Anyway, we tried a lot of different things. Lysine didn't help, Gentocin-Neo-Dex nose drops didn't help, and neither did a basic antibiotic. Eventually, my vet wanted to try something he read about and ended up putting the Dignan on "Azithromycin" and it actually worked. He also used the same solution on Dignan's siblings who each had the sniffles at their new home too.

His sneezes went away and haven't been back since.

(As a side note, the worst part was on one or two occasions getting sneezed at right in my face in the middle of the night! Yuck!)
posted by punkrockrat at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2008

I assume that since your cat has been tested for herpes, the vet has also ruled out chlamydia, but that, too, can cause URI-like symptoms (my cat got Azithromycin for that).

If the sneezing is related to the water drinking, have you thought about other ways for her to get water? (I assume she's drinking from a regular bowl.) My cats like their Petmate fountain, and one likes to drink from the bathroom sink. My thinking is that changing the angle of your cat's head while she's consuming the water might maximize the amount that goes down her throat instead of coming out of her nose. Possibly crazy thought, but since you seem concerned, it might be worth trying.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:00 AM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: Updated more info: I've also tried 3 different cat litter formulas (1 wood-, 2 clay-based) with no noted change.

have you thought about other ways for her to get water?

She likes drinking from the bathroom sink, but tends to be sloppy (she's moderately clumsy); it looks like water still comes out her nose, but I can't be certain.

the worst part was on one or two occasions getting sneezed at right in my face in the middle of the night!

That sounds familiar...

Me: [feels tiny circles pressing down on chest and breathing on face. Wakes up.]
(sleepily) "Good morning, Kai. How are y-"
Kai, the cat: ACHOO! <purr, purr, purr>

(Three times so far. Why does she wait until my mouth is open?)
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: And thanks for the Azithromycin tip. I'll be sure to bring it up with the new vet.
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 12:36 PM on April 1, 2008

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