why is my cat coughing

Why Is My Cat Coughing?

Reviewed by Lauren Goode, DVM

Have you ever wondered why is my cat coughing? It’s normal for cats to cough. Coughing is only a reflex that aids in the removal of foreign particles from the respiratory tract.

Although coughing isn’t always a cause for concern (for example, when a cat is attempting to pass a hairball), it’s crucial to know when your cat needs medical help.

Cats cough when the “coughing receptors” that line the pharynx “the area behind the nose and mouth”, larynx “the voice box”, trachea “windpipe”, and smaller airways are irritated “bronchi”.

Visit  your veterinarian if your cat develops a severe or chronic cough. Early detection and treatment are critical for a quick recovery.

Causes of Cat Coughing

why is my cat coughing

A protective reaction is triggered when irritants, dust, mucus, or other particles enter the airways and try to get rid of them. 

This reaction is a cough, which is an attempt to clean the airways. Coughing in cats can be caused by a variety of factors. 

While a cough isn’t a sickness or disease in itself, it can be an indication of something more serious.

Other common causes of coughing in cats include:


It’s the most prevalent respiratory disease in cats. It affects about 800,000 American cats, or about 1% of all domestic cats in the country. 

Cats  who spend at least some of their time outside are more prone to develop it.

When your cat’s airways are irritated, they get inflamed and shrink. 

It is difficult for them to breathe as a result of this. They may develop a mild, persistent cough. 

Asthma can be caused by pollen, mold, cat litter, dust, cigarette smoke, perfume, obesity, and stress.

Take your cat to the veterinarian if you observe them coughing. Asthma can rapidly worsen, and they may be unable to breathe at all.

Respiratory Infections

Coughing in cats is frequently caused by bacterial and viral infections. Fungal or parasitic organisms may be involved on occasion.


Mosquitoes are the carriers of this disease. If you reside in a region where these bugs are prevalent, your cat is at greater risk. Because the symptoms are similar to those of asthma, your cat could be misdiagnosed.

Pleural Effusion

Coughing can be caused by an abnormal buildup of fluid around a cat’s lungs, which is known as pleural effusion.

Other Causes

Other causes include lung cancer, inhaling foreign bodies, having a tight collar, or heart failure.

In addition, coughing is a common symptom of heart disease in both humans and dogs, but not in cats. Coughing cats are generally always suffering from a respiratory problem.

Wet Cough vs. Dry Cough in Cats

why is my cat coughing

A detailed health history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing are used by veterinarians to determine the reason for cat coughing. 

The difference between a wet cough and a dry cough in cats is one clue that pet parents can pick up on at home.

A cough that throws up phlegm—the thick mucus that is typically produced within the respiratory system in reaction to infection—is referred to as a “wet cough.” 

Increased phlegm production aids in the removal of viruses, germs, disease-fighting cells, and other particles from the lungs.

Coughs that are dry, on the other hand, do not create a lot of phlegm. Dry coughs in cats are commonly linked to illnesses such as asthma, inhaled foreign substances, and cancer. 

These distinctions aren’t foolproof, but they can steer you and your veterinarian in the right direction.

Cat Coughing and Other Signs

why is my cat coughing

Coughing is frequently associated with other symptoms, which might help the vet  in diagnosis.

Sneezing: Coughing and sneezing in cats, for example, are frequently connected with an upper respiratory infection in cats. 

Sneezing and a runny nose are symptoms of a sinus infection, but some of the discharge runs back into the throat, causing a cough.

Wheezing: In cats, wheezing is a common symptom of asthma, and it’s commonly seen in connection with coughing and difficult, fast, or open-mouth breathing.

Hairballs: You’re probably not dealing with a cough when a cat’s “cough” brings up a hairball. 

While your cat may appear to be coughing, they are actually retching or gagging, as the hairball is emerging from the stomach tract rather than the respiratory tract.

While a cat’s cough isn’t a cause for concern, a cat coughing up blood is a potential emergency. If your cat is coughing up blood, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Treatment for Cat Coughing

why is my cat coughing

The veterinarian will treat your cat by treating the underlying cause. Inhaled or systemic medicines to widen airways and reduce inflammation and swelling are used to treat feline asthma.

If the cause was respiratory infections, most bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases will clear up when the cat is given the right antibiotics.

Antiviral drugs are less typically prescribed, but they can be helpful in some situations.

In case of pleural effusion. A needle and syringe can be used to remove fluid from around a cat’s lungs, but extra treatment may be required to address the fluid’s source and/or prevent it from accumulating again.

To remove inhaled items, bronchoscopy or surgery may be required, and antibiotics are frequently prescribed to prevent or cure secondary infections.

Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy, and/or palliative care are commonly used to treat cancers of the respiratory system.

Finally, heartworm prevention is critical for cats since treatment options for feline heartworm illness are limited if your cat has been infected with heartworm disease.

Cats are rarely given cough suppressants.

When to See a Veterinarian

why is my cat coughing

If you notice your cat coughing more than usual or has other signs that show up with coughing like sneezing or wheezing. 

It’s best to visit your veterinarian to do a check up on your cat to identify the underlying cause in order to get treatment as soon as possible.

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