Sniffly, Sneezy, and “Snuffler” Cats: Understanding Chronic Rhinitis in Feline Friends


April 16, 2019

Do you have a feline friend who constantly struggles with nasal congestion, sneezing, and recurring infections? Well, you’re not alone. Many cat owners face this challenge with their furry companions. This article will shed light on chronic rhinitis in cats, commonly known as “sniffly cats” or “snuffler cats,” and provide insights into how to manage this condition.

Understanding the Anatomy of a Cat’s Nasal Passages

Before delving into the specifics of chronic rhinitis, let’s take a moment to understand the intricacies of a cat’s nasal passages. These passages contain structures called nasal turbinates, which are composed of folds of bone and tissue. These turbinates are essential as they increase the surface area for incoming air to be warmed, humidified, and filtered. They act as defenders, trapping and removing allergens, dust particles, bacteria, and other irritants that may harm the respiratory system.

The Role of Viral Infections

Unfortunately, some common upper respiratory viruses that cats are exposed to, especially during their kitten years, can cause damage to the nasal turbinates. Viruses such as Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpes Virus can blunt the turbinates, leading to the loss of tiny hair-like projections called cilia and scarring. When this occurs on a large scale, the turbinates become a gathering place for mucus, irritants, and bacteria, allowing them to thrive and cause infections.

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Managing Chronic Rhinitis in Cats

While we cannot permanently eliminate the problems faced by cats with chronic rhinitis, there are steps we can take to minimize the frequency of infections. Here are some strategies you can try:

Nasal Flush for Severe Cases

For severely affected cats, periodic nasal flushes may be recommended. Although this requires sedation and is not a permanent solution, it can stretch out the time between infections, providing some relief.

Saline Nasal Spray

Using a plain saline nasal spray, which can be found in any drugstore, may help thin mucus and stimulate sneezing to expel mucus and bacteria. Apply a few drops to each nostril once or twice daily during an active infection. In between infections, a few applications per week may be sufficient for your cat.

Increased Water Intake

Encouraging your cat to drink more water can keep mucus thinner, preventing clumping and obstruction in the damaged turbinates. Although cats may not understand the benefits of drinking more water, you can still try to make it more appealing. For tips on how to increase water intake in cats, check out this blog post by Dr. Jen Seidl.


During cold and dry weather, using a humidifier can help decrease nasal passage irritation and prevent mucus from drying out, reducing discomfort for your furry friend.

Acupressure Points for Drainage

There are specific acupressure points around the face and nose that can promote drainage from the sinuses and nasal passages. Applying gentle pressure to LI 20, located next to the nose just above the top of the nostril, and BL 2, positioned straight up from the inner corner of the eye, can be beneficial. Treat both sides of the face for the best effects.

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Medication Options

Occasionally, medications like Cerenia, commonly used to treat vomiting and prevent motion sickness, may help reduce nasal congestion in cats. However, results can vary, so it’s worth trying if other strategies haven’t provided sufficient relief.

Pulse Antibiotics

In stubborn or severe cases, a treatment plan involving “pulse antibiotics” may be considered. This schedule-based approach aims to minimize antibiotic overuse and resistance while effectively managing recurring infections.

Anti-Viral Medications

In rare cases, anti-viral medications may be recommended. Although most viral infections are no longer active, Feline Herpes Virus can flare up seasonally or during periods of stress, potentially contributing to rhinitis episodes.


Finding Comfort for Your Feline Companion

Dealing with chronic rhinitis in cats can be frustrating, but with proper understanding and management, you can work towards keeping your cat as comfortable as possible while reducing the need for antibiotic treatments. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our clinic and speak to one of our knowledgeable doctors.

Karen Christopherson DVM CVA

Remember, at Katten TrimSalon, we care about the well-being of your furry friends. Visit us at to learn more about our services and how we can help you and your beloved cats.