Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

Why Is My Cat Coughing?

Learn why your cat may be coughing.

Humans often cough for one reason or another. Maybe they have a cold, an allergy, or merely a tickle in their throat. But cats don't cough very often. Be sure you know the causes of coughing in cats and how to know when there's a problem.

What Is a Cough?

A cough is a sudden expiration of air from the lungs. It's usually caused by irritation or inflammation in the trachea or bronchioles of the lungs.

What Does a Cat Cough Sound Like?

A cat cough is a rough sound. The cat's mouth is usually wide open and the neck extended. Often, cats stand up when they need to cough. From there, cat coughs can sound different. Some are dry and hacking, while others are moist and even productive.

If your cat coughs more than a few times, it's a good idea to try and record it, so your vet can get a look at what's going on.

Hairball Coughing

When a cat coughs before bringing up a hairball, it isn't really a cough. That sound is a retch and comes from the digestive tract, not the respiratory tract. Still, it's probably one of the most common causes of a cat making a coughing sound.

If your cat coughs a few times and then brings up a hairball, this is probably the reason. The cough should be gone after the hairball comes up. Learn more: "Hairballs in Cats."

Asthma Attacks in Cats

Feline asthma is a top cause of coughing-like activity in cats. This is a lower airway disease (a condition of the lungs). Asthma is the result of an irritant getting into the airways and causing inflammation.

When a cat has an asthma attack, they may make coughing sounds. They may also pant, open-mouthed breathe, and develop a bluish tint to the gums. This is a medical emergency, and you should get your cat to a vet as soon as possible for treatment.

Heart Disease Coughing in Cats

While congestive heart failure commonly causes coughing in dogs (and people), it doesn't cause it as much in cats. That isn't to say it could never happen, and your veterinarian will evaluate this potential cause if your cat has a chronic cough.

Respiratory Conditions Causing Coughing in Cats

Most of the time, coughing in cats is related to bronchitis, which is an infection affecting the tiny airways, or bronchioles, of the lungs. Various viruses and bacteria can cause bronchitis in cats.

Heartworm infection can cause a cat to cough.

Foreign material in the lungs can cause a cough. This can happen when the cat inhales something, like grass.

Cancer in the chest cavity often causes coughing in cats.

Diagnosing Coughing in Cats

If your cat has a consistent cough, you should take her to the vet. The doctor will take a history from you, ask questions, and do a thorough physical exam. That exam may give the doctor an idea of what's going on. For example, if the lung sounds are harsh, muffled, or wheezy, the doctor may suspect various respiratory conditions. If there's a fever, an infection may be the problem.

X-rays of the chest can help diagnose cancer, infections, and heart disease. Blood tests can indicate infection or heartworm disease. Other tests may be done as necessary.

Treatment of Coughing in Cats

Treatment of a cat's cough must be based on its cause. Diagnosis is necessary for an effective treatment plan to be developed. Treatment may include antibiotics, airway dilators, supportive care, oxygen therapy, or other medications and procedures.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Hairballs in Cats

First Aid for Coughing and Choking in Cats

Feline Asthma: Lower Airway Disease

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: HCM in Cats

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