what does it mean when a cat coughs

Cats can cough for a variety of other reasons, including the presence of foreign material (such as inhaled grass) within the airway, or irritation from inhaled liquids or gases. “In cats, coughing is most often a sign of an inflammatory problem affecting the lower respiratory tract, especially some form of bronchitis.”

When Should You Be Concerned?

If your cat is coughing but not producing a hairball, it’s crucial to notice any additional symptoms they may be exhibiting.

Coughing infrequently but frequently (a few times a week or every few weeks) may indicate asthma. To get as much air as possible in between coughs, your cat may crouch low to the ground with their neck extended upward. Untreated asthma can be life-threatening.

If your cat does not produce a hairball, notice if they exhibit any other symptoms listed here.

See a veterinarian if your cat’s cough is severe, lasts longer than a few days, or starts to get worse. A chronic cough could be a sign of asthma or a respiratory infection.

Your cat will cough up phlegm or sputum if they have a wet cough. This kind of cough sounds wet and may be a sign of a lower respiratory issue.

Your cat may be wheezing because their lungs aren’t getting enough oxygen when they cough. Lower respiratory tract constrictions and/or inflammation-induced swelling are the two main causes of wheezing. This could be an indicator of feline asthma.

In addition to coughing, your cat may be sneezing, which could indicate a viral or respiratory infection. 5.

In addition to the cough, your cat may have a parasite or infection if they start to lose weight or show less appetite. 6.

Take your cat to the veterinarian if their cough is persistent so they can determine what might be causing it to recur. A persistent cough may be a sign of asthma or allergies. If asthma is not regularly managed, its symptoms will recur. Asthma is a lifetime condition.

When your cat coughs, it’s a sign that they’re not getting enough oxygen if their tongue and gums start to turn blue or grey. In this case, take them to the vet immediately.

Treatment for Cat Coughing

Treating a cat’s cough means treating the underlying cause:

  • Irritants: When irritants are eliminated from a cat’s surroundings, coughs brought on by inhaling them will go away.
  • Respiratory infections: Most bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections heal quickly when treated with the right antimicrobial drugs for the cat. Although they are not as often prescribed, antiviral drugs can be helpful in certain situations.
  • Asthma: Medications for inhaled or systemic use to widen airways and lessen swelling and inflammation are administered to cats with asthma, along with the elimination of possible triggers from their surroundings.
  • Pleural effusion: A needle and syringe can be used to remove fluid that builds up around a cat’s lungs, but sometimes further care is required to treat the fluid’s underlying cause and/or stop it from accumulating again.
  • Inhaled foreign objects: Antibiotics are frequently administered to prevent or treat secondary infections, and bronchoscopy or surgery may be required to remove inhaled objects.
  • Cancer: Treatment options for respiratory tract cancer typically include immunotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and/or palliative care.
  • Trauma: While some wounds that cause coughing can heal with medical attention, others call for surgery.
  • Heartworm disease: Heartworm prevention is essential for cats because there are few treatment options available for feline heartworm disease once it has been contracted.

Additionally, symptomatic and supportive care (such as fluid and oxygen therapy) can be beneficial for cats who are coughing.

Treatments that can be done at home include wiping away nasal discharge on a regular basis and, if advised by your veterinarian, placing your cat in a steamy bathroom to relieve congestion. Cough suppressants are rarely given to cats.

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Dr. With years of expertise in the veterinary and writing industries, Jennifer Coates is a skilled veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant.

Why Is My Cat Coughing?

There is a long list of potential reasons why cats cough, but occasionally the issue is clear.

Irritatants of any kind can cause coughing when inhaled, so is it possible that your cat is coughing while in the litter box because you recently bought some particularly dusty cat litter?

Extended periods of exposure to allergens, like secondhand smoke, may result in more frequent episodes of coughing in cats.

Other common causes of coughs in cats include:

  • Infections of the respiratory system: Both viral and bacterial respiratory infections are frequent reasons why cats cough. Occasionally, fungal or parasitic organisms may be involved.
  • Asthma: When certain triggers occur, cats with asthma experience airway narrowing, airway swelling, and mucus accumulation, all of which can result in coughing.
  • Pleural effusion: A cat may cough up this abnormal fluid accumulation around their lungs.
  • Inhaled foreign objects: Cats will cough to try to get rid of things they have inhaled, such as food particles or grass blades.
  • Cancer: When a cat has respiratory tract cancer, coughing may be one of the first signs that its owners notice.
  • Trauma: Cat coughing may result from thermal, chemical, or physical damage to the respiratory system.
  • Heartworms: Coughing is one of the subtle symptoms of heartworms in cats.

Coughing is a common side effect of heart disease in humans and dogs, but not in cats. Coughing cats almost always have some type of respiratory condition.


When should I worry about my cats cough?

If your cat’s cough is persistent, continues for more than a few days, or begins to worsen, take them to the vet. A cough that persists may be an indication of a respiratory infection or asthma.

Why does my cat cough but no hairball?

But if no hairball is produced, there’s likely a more serious issue at play. Dry, wheezing coughs are often a sign of feline asthma, especially if the cough consistently occurs multiple times a week. Cats with asthma crouch low to the ground and stick out their necks to inhale as much oxygen as possible.

What does a cough sound like in a cat?

Coughing is usually a hoarse/hacking sound with the head and neck extended and often “snaking” side to side. The cat may swallow once or a couple of times. Often nothing is produced. Occasionally the cat may end the cough with a gagging sound and some foamy white liquid.

Why is my cat coughing and gagging?

Hairballs are the most common cause of gagging in cats. Often, cats must gag multiple times before they are able to successfully cough up a hairball. If you notice your cat hunkering low to the ground, coughing and twisting their head back and forth, this is a sign they are about to cough up a hairball.