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My 10 year-old cat had some discharge in both eyes a week ago, and was lethargic and uninterested in food, so I brought him into the vet. I was told he seemed to be in good health, but they recommended a "senior" blood panel, and prescribed antibiotic ointment. The results were very good overall, with an elevated white blood cell count suggesting he probably just had an irritant in his eyes, perhaps a bit of his own fur. I was told to continue applying the ointment to his eyes. The discharge did not return, and he seemed in good spirits and was interested in food later the same day.

My concern is that during the exam, the vet asked if he had been sneezing, and while I hadn't noticed this before the exam, but he has been sneezing once or twice a day ever since. I don't monitor him constantly, so perhaps he is sneezing slightly more than this. It is not anything I would have paid attention to if the vet hadn't asked, but cats don't seem to sneeze nearly as often as humans do, so the fact that it's happening most days strikes me as unusual. I've also noticed that one of his eyes is often only halfway open, and last night I found that he was drooling slightly.

The internet is full of search results indicating that sneezing can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection, and drooling can indicate rabies (!), etc, but I realize he may just be old, and dealing with poor air quality due to tremendous fire activity in neighboring states and my own failure to vacuum as often as I probably ought to. Is daily sneezing dire enough to warrant another budget-busting trip to the vet?

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    I wouldn’t worry about one sneeze per day, or even several if there is an obvious external reason. Granted, bad air quality isn’t good for cats, but it’s also not specific to your cat. Contrast with one of my cats, which started sneezing and coughing several times per minute; I took him straight to a pet hospital. – StephenS Sep 22 at 13:22
  • Is it an indoors cat? – Tim Sep 23 at 10:23
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I'll be answering from my experience with our 4 cats as well as the 2 cats of my parents. As always: If in doubt, contact a 2nd vet.

The sneezing you describe doesn't sound worrying to me in any way. You shouldn't need to see a vet again. If your cat is an indoors cat, the chances of rabies are actually pretty small.

I'll go into detail on sneezing and drooling (again, based on my experience).

Sneezing

It always depends on how often the cat is sneezing over the day (1 or 2 times is nothing to be worried about from my experience) and how many sneezes there are for any given sneeze attack (so whether it's a single sneeze or a series of sneezes). Sneezing may be triggered by:

  • certain irritants * (smoke, ash, dusty cat litter, perfume, cleaning products, common house dust etc.)
  • something stuck in the nose or another part of the respiratory system (anything from irritants mentioned above to a booger or a blade of grass)
  • allergies of any kind (to food, dust etc.)
  • infections of the respiratory system (viruses or bacteria, rarely fungi)
  • tumours

* When your cat sneezes once or twice a day, check its immediate vicinity for possible irritants.

You should see a vet for sneezing, if:

  • your cat's sneezing every other minute or several times per minute (like StephenS mentioned in the comments).
  • your cat is ejecting mucus or even blood while sneezing.
  • your cat's getting drowsy, coughing, having watery eyes and/or is showing breathing difficulties or lack of appetite.

Drooling

Drooling may or may not be a sign that something's wrong. Cats may drool, when:

  • they're getting pet and highly enjoy this. You can see drool drops forming on the mouth, which will then fall to the ground when getting big enough. This ain't nothing to worry about.
  • they've ingested something that's bad for them. It doesn't have to be lethal or even toxic. You should still try to find the culprit and remove it from the household or put it somewhere the cats can't reach. If they've ingested large amounts of a toxic plant, see a vet. Check out Pet MD or how stuff works for more info on toxic household plants.
  • their mouth hygiene is lacking. If you've ruled out the other options, this should be looked at by a vet. Bad mouth hygiene can lead to or be a consequence of kidney damage. (In your case, you've ruled out kidney problems by doing the blood panel)
  • their respiratory system may be infected. This should also be looked at by a vet.

One of our cats started drooling a lot when we fought its dermatophyte infection. The cat would lick off the medicine from its fur and start drooling. This lead to serious liver problems (which we got rid of luckily). Our other 3 cats at that point didn't show these symptoms.

You should see a vet for drooling, if:

  • your cat's having really bad mouth smell, although it didn't eat recently. This could be a sign for kidney issues or infections of the teeth or gum.
  • your cat's eyes, mucosae or skin around the ears are showing a yellow-ish discoloration. This could be a sign for liver issues
  • your cat ingested large amounts of a toxic plant and doesn't manage to vomit.
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