How much sneezing in a cat is normal?

I’m fostering a cat and her newborn kittens. The kittens are almost two days old. I’ve never had a cat before Isis, and I’ve only had her about a month, so I don’t know what’s normal. We took Isis to the vet the day after we got her and she’s clear of FLEV and FIV. I was a vet tech for about a year before we moved here (Okinawa), so I do know something about feline respiratory issues but not much about normal cat behavior.

A few days before she had the babies Isis was sneezing maybe 10 times a day or so. Not sneezing fits, just single sneezes every once in a while. No runny nose or labored breathing or eye discharge. No fever or coughing. Normal energy and food intake. She has not been out of the house or had any direct contact with other cats since I got her. In absence of anything but the occasional sneeze, and because she was sooo pregnant, I decided not to take her to the vet. I know most of these respiratory problems are viral, so there isn’t really much a vet can do about them anyway, and by taking her to the vet there was the possibility of exposing her to other sick cats (when she really didn’t appear sick–just occasional sneezing.)

So, she’s still sneezing a few times a day. Still no other symptoms–she looks great for having just given birth. She’s being an excellent mother.

The babies, too, look good. They’re eating well and don’t seem to be having any trouble breathing, no discharge from nose or eyes. Gaining weight. Quite lively when they’re fighting for a nipple. But I’ve heard a couple of them sneeze once or twice. Also, occasionally they seem to pant for 1-5 seconds. Someone mentioned to me that kittens come out of the womb trying to hiss at you, so it could be that I’m mistaking that for panting. I’m really not sure. I’ve seen them do it maybe 5 times, spread over 4 kittens and 2 days now. The temperature in the room is about 76.

Now, especially with the kittens, I really don’t want to take them out of the house and maybe expose them to a virus and stress them out if at all possible. When people brought in sick kittens when I was a vet tech, I don’t remember doing much other than making sure they got enough fluids and food. But is this normal? I know I sometimes sneeze when I’m not sick. My dogs sneeze once or twice a day and I think nothing of it.

I’m not in a position to call a vet–when we take our animals to the vet on base you don’t even get to see the actual vet, only a tech, so I know it would be impossible to get one on the phone. It’s quite difficult to even get a receptionist on the phone, and it usually takes at least a week to get an appointment for a sick pet. When my dog’s spay incision was infected they wouldn’t see me for five days, and even then I never saw an actual vet. The off-base vets don’t speak much English, but if it was an emergency I could at least get an appointment at one.

So, should I be worried?

Aahhh…the sneezing cat. We had the sneezing thing sweep the house a few weeks back. The softies were a bit lethargic. Then everyone recovered. Last week my Large kitty started with it (including runny eyes). But he’s recovered. It sounds worse than it is, I think. If there’s nothing truly “scary” about it, I’d give it a few more days.

We’ve had cats forever and this is the first time we’ve had anything like this. I wonder if there isn’t an abnormally high amount of crap in the air this year.

As long as moma and babies are eating and drinking (and nursing), are active and have no discharge from the eyes or nose, I wouldn’t take them in - I think it would stress them. If you see any discharge from eyes or nose, or if they stop eating, take them in.

IANAV, but have worked for many and that is what they would tell clients over the phone.

You are feeding Mama Isis kitten food, right? She needs it while she is nursing the squeakers.

And yes, tiny kitten hisses do rather look like they are panting. They will stop once you start handling them, which you should be already doing.

Thank you, this is a relief to me. They’re so young, so obviously colds are more serious at their age than for an adult cat. Their mouths are wide open when they’re hissing/panting, so I think it probably is hissing rather than panting, which I would expect to be more shallow.

Isis has been on kitten food since we got her–she went through 2 bags in 3 weeks, and she’s not a big cat. She was underweight when we took her in but she looks great now. Still eating like a horse, which of course she should be. Thanks for the input.

When my kitten was all sneezy, the vet was extremely helpful over the phone. You can call and talk to somebody and they can tell you if you really need to bring anybody in or not.

I prefer to sneeze in a tissue.

Seriously, what they said. And kudos to you, not every new kitty mama would understand that the stress of being moved to the vet might be just as dangerous as some sneezing. Cats do get “colds”, and as long as they’re eating and not oozing anything out of anywhere, I’d be very conservative with messing with them right now.

Update: I think I saw Isis sneeze once today, and one kitten sneeze one time (I wasn’t with them all day, but enough). Still eating almost constantly. I’m feeling better about things.

I think what freaked me out was that, in preparation for the birth, I watched some youtube videos of cats giving birth. One was a lady fostering a pregnant cat, and the cat had a respiratory infection when she gave birth. All the babies caught it at 4 days old, and despite veterinary care they were all dead by day ten. So I saw sneezing and kind of got freaked out. But they all look good and healthy today, so I think all will be well. Thanks for the advice, everyone.