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Cat Coughing: Identifying the Underlying Conditions and Treatment

Cat Coughing: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

As a cat owner, you may have noticed your cat coughing and wondered what might be causing it. Cat coughing is not a normal behavior for cats, and it is an indication that something may be wrong with their respiratory system.

In this article, we will explore the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of cat coughing.

What is Cat Coughing

Cats cough when their respiratory system, including their bronchi, gets irritated or inflamed. Coughing is a reflex mechanism that helps to clear the airways from irritants, such as dust, hairballs, and foreign objects.

It can be a symptom of a respiratory problem, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, or a symptom of a more serious underlying condition such as heartworm disease or laryngeal paralysis.

How to Identify Cat Coughing

Cats can cough in different ways, and it’s important to identify the type of cough to help diagnose the underlying condition. Dry coughs are common and can be a result of irritation of the bronchi.

Wet coughs are more serious and can be caused by the accumulation of mucus in the respiratory system. Retching coughs often occur when a cat is attempting to expel a hairball.

Reverse sneezing is a common and harmless condition that occurs when the nasopharynx becomes irritated. Vomiting can also lead to coughing, as cats can cough up the contents of their stomach.

11 Common Causes of Cat Coughing

1. Viral Respiratory Infection: Upper respiratory infections are common in cats, and they can cause coughing, sneezing, and wheezing.

2. Chronic Bronchitis: This is a condition where the bronchi become inflamed, and it can cause coughing and difficulty breathing.

3. Infectious Bronchitis: This is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the bronchi.

4. Pneumonia: This is an infection of the lungs, and it can cause coughing, fever, and breathing difficulties.

5. Foreign Body: Cats can ingest foreign objects, such as toys or hair, that can become lodged in their respiratory system and cause coughing.

6. Asthma: This is a chronic respiratory condition that can cause wheezing, difficulty breathing, and coughing.

7. Allergies: Cats can be allergic to various things, such as dust, pollen, or food, and these allergies can cause sneezing, coughing, and skin irritations.

8. Heart Disease: Heart disease can cause coughing due to fluid buildup in the lungs or pulmonary hypertension.

9. Feline Infectious Peritonitis: This is a viral disease that attacks the immune system and can cause coughing, fever, and vomiting.

10. Lungworms: These are parasites that live in the lungs and can cause coughing, fever, and breathing difficulties.

11. Cancer: Cancerous tumors in the chest can cause coughing, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.

Rare Causes of Cat Coughing

1. Heartworm Disease: This is an uncommon condition in cats, but it can cause coughing due to damage to the lungs and heart.

2. Bronchiectasis: This is a condition where the bronchi become damaged and widened, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing.

3. Laryngeal Paralysis: This is a condition where the cat’s larynx becomes paralyzed, leading to difficulty breathing and coughing.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your cat is coughing, it is important to take them to a veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, which may include diagnostic imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound, to identify the underlying cause of the coughing.

Once the cause has been identified, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or steroids to reduce inflammation or antiparasitics to eliminate any parasites. In some cases, they may need to perform a procedure called thoracocentesis, which involves removing fluid from the chest cavity.

Treatment for Cat Coughing

For cats with a mild cough, medication such as dextromethorphan or guaifenesin can help to soothe the throat and reduce coughing. It is important to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the medication is safe for your cat.

When a coughing cat is experiencing breathing distress, it is vital to seek emergency veterinary care immediately.


In conclusion, cat coughing is not normal behavior, and it can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions. If you notice your cat coughing, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

The earlier the condition is identified and treated, the better the prognosis for your furry friend. In summary, cat coughing can be a sign of various underlying conditions, and it’s important to identify the type of cough and seek veterinary attention immediately.

Dry, wet, retching, vomiting, and reverse sneezing coughing types can provide clues to the underlying condition. 11 common causes include viral respiratory infection, chronic bronchitis, infectious bronchitis, pneumonia, and foreign body ingestion, while rare causes include heartworm disease, bronchiectasis, and laryngeal paralysis.

Diagnostic imaging and procedures, such as thoracocentesis, can help diagnose the condition, and medication, such as dextromethorphan or guaifenesin, can provide relief for mild coughs. Seeking emergency care is essential for cats experiencing breathing distress.

With timely diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis for the underlying condition can be greatly improved, and our feline friends can get back to their healthy and happy selves.

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