Guide to Treat Cat Coughing

icon June 5, 2023

As much as we adore our feline companions, they are not immune to health issues. One common concern that can worry cat owners is when their furry friends start coughing. Cat coughing can be distressing for both the cat and its human companion, and it is important to understand the potential causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatment options. In this article, we will delve into the world of cat coughing and provide insights to help you better care for your beloved pet.

Why Is My Cat Coughing So Much?

Why is My Cat Coughing?

1. Respiratory Infections

Cats can contract viral or bacterial infections that affect their respiratory system. Common examples include feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus. In addition to coughing and wheezing, symptoms may include sneezing, nasal discharge, and fever.

2. Heartworm Disease

Although more prevalent in dogs, cats can also be affected by heartworm disease. The presence of heartworms in the lungs and blood vessels can cause coughing, especially during physical exertion.

Read More: Do Cats Need Heartworm Prevention?

3. Foreign Bodies

Cats are curious creatures, and sometimes they may inhale small objects, such as grass blades or string, which can irritate the respiratory tract and induce coughing.

4. Heart Disease

Some heart conditions in cats can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, causing coughing, especially during physical activity or at night.

5. Allergies

Cats can be allergic to various substances such as pollen, dust mites, or certain foods. Allergies can trigger coughing as the cat tries to clear its airways.

6. Asthma

Feline asthma is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation and constriction of the airways. Coughing is a common symptom, along with wheezing and difficulty breathing.

7. Parasites

Pneumonia in cats is a serious disease that usually refers to inflammation of the lungs. It comes on quickly and makes your cat feel very sick - there may be fever, loss of appetite, lack of activity, and maybe even difficulty breathing. Various causes include:

Bacterial, viral, parasitic, protozoan (i.e. Toxoplasma gondii), fungal or mycobacterial infections.

Accidental aspiration, which occurs when your cat accidentally inhales vomit or stomach fluids, usually accompanied by severe vomiting or anesthesia/sedation episodes.

8. Cancer

In rare cases, coughing can be a symptom of respiratory or lung cancer in cats.

Why Is My Cat Coughing So Much?

What Does a Cat Cough Sound Like?

A cat's cough is typically described as a harsh, hacking sound. It may resemble a retching or gagging noise, similar to the sound a cat makes when trying to expel a hairball. The cough may be accompanied by a choking or wheezing sound.

It's important to note that while occasional coughing in cats can be normal, persistent or frequent coughing may be a sign of an underlying health issue and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. 

Why Does My Cat Coughing Sound Like a Duck?

If your cat's coughing sounds like a duck, it could be due to a variety of reasons. Here are a few possibilities:


Cats groom themselves regularly, and sometimes they ingest hair during the process. This can lead to the formation of hairballs in their digestive tract, causing coughing or gagging sounds. The sound might resemble a duck due to the effort of expelling the hairball.


Cats can also suffer from feline asthma, which is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting their airways. When an asthmatic cat experiences a flare-up, it may cough or wheeze, producing unusual sounds that might resemble a duck.

Symptoms of Cat Coughing

Recognizing the signs of cat coughing is crucial for early detection and appropriate treatment. Common symptoms associated with cat coughing include:

  • Frequent coughing episodes
  • Gagging or retching sounds
  • Wheezing or labored breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy or reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pale gums (indicative of a more serious condition)

When it comes to cat coughing, seeking veterinary advice is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. The veterinarian will perform a thorough examination, which may include blood tests, X-rays, or other diagnostic procedures to identify the underlying cause.

Cat Coughing: Causes And Treatment

Cat Coughing With Other Symptoms

If your cat's coughing persists, becomes severe, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is important to consult a veterinarian.

Cat Coughing and Wheezing

If your cat is coughing and wheezing, it could indicate a respiratory issue that requires attention.

  • Feline Asthma
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Allergies

It is essential to have your cat examined by a veterinarian if they are experiencing coughing and wheezing. The vet will perform a thorough examination, which may include diagnostic tests like X-rays or blood work, to determine the underlying cause.

Cat Sneezing and Coughing

If your cat is experiencing both sneezing and coughing, it could be a sign of an underlying respiratory issue or an upper respiratory infection. 

  • Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
  • Feline Asthma
  • Irritants or Foreign Objects
  • Dental Issues

If your cat is experiencing persistent or severe sneezing and coughing, it's important to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How to Help a Cat When Coughing  (Home Remedies for Cat Cough)

Some of the more common treatments for cat cough include:


Antibiotics for respiratory infections or pneumonia, such as doxycycline or enrofloxacin.
Steroids for chronic bronchitis, polyps, or other inflammatory conditions, such as oral prednisolone or cat inhalers containing fluticasone
Antiparasitics for lung worms, such as oral albendazole or fipronil and avermectin B1 for the skin.

Puainta® Treatment for Cough, Cold, Sneezing and Runny Nose; Tablets for Cats Only


Increasing humidity in the environment can help soothe your cat's respiratory system. You can use a humidifier or place your cat in a bathroom with a hot shower running to create a steamy atmosphere. However, be cautious not to expose your cat to hot water directly or allow them to get too close to hot surfaces.

Reduce Allergens

If you suspect allergies are contributing to your cat's coughing, try to minimize their exposure to potential allergens. Keep the living area clean, vacuum regularly, and consider using air purifiers to filter out airborne allergens.

When Does a Coughing Cat Need Veterinary Attention?

Always consult your veterinarian if the cough persists for more than a few days or becomes more frequent or severe, or if there is shortness of breath, loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, runny nose, sneezing or fever. 

If you are unsure of the cause of your cat's cough or if you have any concerns about their health, it is best to proceed with caution and consult your veterinarian.


What is the Difference Between Dry Heaving and Coughing?

Dry heaving and coughing are two distinct actions that serve different purposes. Here's the difference between the two:

Dry Heaving

Dry heaving refers to the rhythmic, involuntary contractions of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm without any expulsion of material. It often feels like vomiting, but without any actual vomit or stomach contents being expelled. Dry heaving is typically associated with the upper gastrointestinal tract, specifically the esophagus and stomach.


Coughing, on the other hand, is a reflex action primarily associated with the respiratory system. It is the body's way of expelling irritants, excess mucus, or foreign substances from the airways. Coughing is typically characterized by a forceful expulsion of air from the lungs, often accompanied by a distinctive sound.

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough?

Yes, cats can contract a respiratory infection known as "kennel cough" or "infectious tracheobronchitis." While kennel cough is commonly associated with dogs, it can also affect cats. The infection is highly contagious and can spread in environments where cats are in close proximity to each other, such as catteries, shelters, or multi-cat households.

Kennel cough in cats is typically caused by a combination of viral and bacterial pathogens, including feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV). These pathogens can be transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected cat sneezes, coughs, or shares contaminated objects like food bowls or bedding.

Why is My Cat Coughing After Drinking Water?

If your cat coughs after drinking water, rule out that your cat is drinking too fast, there may also be a dental problem or something in the water that may irritate the cat's throat, such as the water being too cold or the water not being clean.

What if My Cat Is Coughing Up Blood?

If your cat is coughing up blood, it is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation that requires immediate veterinary attention. Coughing up blood, known as hemoptysis, can indicate a severe underlying health issue. 

Coughing up blood in cats can be caused by various serious conditions, including:

  • Respiratory infections or pneumonia
  • Trauma or injury to the respiratory system
  • Tumors or cancer affecting the respiratory tract
  • Bleeding disorders or clotting abnormalities
  • Severe respiratory or heart diseases

It's crucial to have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian promptly. The vet will perform a thorough examination, which may include diagnostic tests such as blood work, X-rays, or ultrasound to determine the underlying cause of the bleeding. Based on the diagnosis, appropriate treatment options can be recommended, which may include medications, supportive care, or more extensive interventions depending on the severity and nature of the condition.


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