I have a female tortie of unknown age - somewhere between 12 and 16. Overall she's a very healthy and content creature, but in the past few years she's developed a very strange mannerism.

Whenever she rubs against something with a corner, and the corner rubs a spot in her right cheek, she sneezes. I've been observing this for a while - it's only on the right side of her face, and only when a corner hits it. It's very consistent too - sometimes she'll sit and rub for a few minutes, and sneeze a couple dozen times in a row. The sneezes are very light, almost more like huffs - like ticking your nose with a feather. She doesn't recoil at all, and the constant sneezing doesn't seem to bother or exhaust her; she'll stop rubbing and continue on her merry way.

As mentioned, it's been happening for a few years now. It doesn't seem to pose any kind of problem to her heath, so I'm not worried - mostly just entertained and curious. Has anyone seen this before, or know anything about it? I've checked her for gum inflammation, or any kind of irritation/injuries/scars around the spot, but she's pristine. I can't even make her sneeze by scratching her cheek or poking the spot, only happens when she's rubbing.

  • My tortoiseshell also has a sneeze button. She has her whole life and she is very healthy. She is 1/4 persian and has kind of a flat face. I wonder if it is just a matter of tickling her sinuses right. Like cartoon characters with feathers lol
    – user6113
    Nov 14 '15 at 15:09
  • I had a tortie who had rolling skin disease and it was strange because she had hallucinations with it... but no sneeze button. The cat I have now is a domestic shorthair and polydactle. He sneezes every time I rub his belly! He also sneezes when the air is cold... so instead of taking him to the vet where they're going to have to make him dependent on shots every so often, I decided to use an herbal blend something like nettle.. and similar homeopathic remedies ..clears it right up!
    – Melanie
    Jan 16 '17 at 2:39

We have a cat that sneezes a lot, there are many reasons why a cat might sneeze including various viruses and dental issues. However, your cat is sneezing under a specific condition, which is basically a cheek rub with sufficient pressure against a hard, angled, surface.

The underlying cause of this can, in fact, be dental even if you can't see it. In fact, it's unlikely you would see it, most dental issues in cats will happen below the gum line. An abscessed tooth or other dental problem that is bothering her, thus causing her to rub it to relieve it, could very easily cause the sneezing to happen. Consider that we too will rub sore areas as a means of relieving the ache, this is activity, specifically to that cheek, seems similar in nature.

Unfortunately, examination of the teeth in this circumstance requires putting her under and, if there is an issue, then removal would probably be required to stop the sneezing and, more importantly, ease the pain. Cats are extremely capable of hiding pain, so don't assume that what appears to be contented behaviour means that she isn't in discomfort.

So, I'd have a vet check it out, if it is a dental problem, then it's not going to get better, it will probably get worse as it has with one of our cats. Veterinary medicine being a little less exact than human medicine had decided our cat's sneezes were viral... she now faces a possible full edentation (teeth removal) as a result.

  • Thanks for the informative answer! I'll make sure to bring it up next time she goes into the vet. If it is something dental-related, do you suppose there would be any other indicators? She eats crunchy food with gusto (and more than a few pieces at a time) so I'm not sure how else to tell.
    – CodeMoose
    Apr 11 '14 at 13:08
  • @CodeMoose - Dental issues are really hard to spot in a cat. As I noted, they don't really show pain very much and that makes it tricky. Our cat, who appears to have pretty serious dental issues now, will easily eat dry food because they don't really chew them that much in the end.
    – John Cavan
    Apr 11 '14 at 13:13

Is there a spider web in that corner?

It could be (as you say) some weird pseudo reflex kind of thing... or it could be she actually does pick something up. My Manx likes corners and will chew on spiderwebs if she finds them, sometimes she will also sneeze if one gets on her nose.

Watch carefully to see when it happens and check out where it happens yourself. Also mention it to your vet the next time you take her in for a checkup. You've already checked for mouth problems (a smart move) and it seems highly unlikely that this is a real problem, but it can't hurt to watch it and or mention it to the vet.

  • 1
    It sounds to me like it's a convex corner, like the corner of a box or a table, rather than a concave corner, like the corner of a room. So not a likely place for spiderwebs.
    – Spidercat
    Apr 10 '14 at 23:26

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