Why Is My Cat Coughing

Why is My Cat Coughing? 7 Common Reasons

Just like us, our furry little friends also cough sometimes. This coughing may be something inconsequential like a reaction to dust or something foreign, or it could be a sign of an underlying health problem. A cough is a natural reflex to remove harmful particles, bacteria, and fluids from the respiratory tract to ensure proper breathing. 

If your healthy cat coughs sometimes, it’s not something to worry about. However, if it is severe and persistent, then it could be a sign of a more serious condition which you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a speedy recovery.

The Difference Between Wet and Dry Cough in Cats

why is my cat coughing and wheezing cat specialist checking

Your veterinary will perform a complete physical examination and several diagnostic tests to find out the cause behind your cat’s cough.
However, as cat owners, you should be able to tell what kind of cough your cat is experiencing. Wet cough is where your cat coughs up phlegm, a thick mucus produced within the respiratory tract in cases of lung infections. This increased production of phlegm makes it easier for the body to fight viruses and bacteria and clear out the lungs.     

Meanwhile, dry cough is different from wet cough, and doesn’t produce much phlegm. This type of cough is usually connected with health conditions such as cancer, asthma, and inhaled foreign bodies. It’s different from a wet cough as it doesn’t produce much phlegm. Carefully monitoring your coughing cat can make it easier for you and your vet to a correct diagnosis.

Reasons for a Cat Cough

why is my cat coughing and sneezing cat adoring by a female

There are several causes of coughing in cats, but sometimes the problem could be something quite obvious. Maybe you’ve invested in a new litter that’s particularly dusty or have switched to a household cleaner that has a strong smell. When inhaled, any irritant can lead to a cough in cats.

The following are some other common causes of coughing in cats:   

Respiratory Infections

Viral infections are common in cats. For instance, Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) can cause respiratory infections, resulting in your cat becoming lethargic and experiencing discharge from the eyes or nose. Another common infection that a majority of cats fall victim to is the feline herpes virus.

Other types of infections that can cause coughing, irritation, and inflammation of the lungs in cats include:   

  • Feline Calicivirus
  • Fungal Infections
  • Chlamydiosis
  • Canine and Avian Influenza
  • Bordetella


why does my cat cough after drinking water

If you find yourself wondering, ‘why is my cat coughing and wheezing,’ it could be because of asthma. Feline asthma, similar to human asthma, can be triggered by allergens like dust and pollen.

They can cause irritation and inflammation in the airways and lungs. In addition, obesity and stress can lead to asthma. If your cat starts to wheeze, struggles to breathe and coughs when exposed to pollen, smoke, perfume, dust, essential oils, or household cleaners, it’s a case of a feline asthma attack.   

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Disease veteran checking cat

Another common disease that results in coughing in cats is heartworm. Symptoms that indicate heartworms commonly include diarrhea, vomiting, gagging, and difficulty in breathing.

It can be fatal in cats, even when diagnosed early. It can be quite difficult for cat owners to realize that their pet requires immediate medical attention as the signs of heartworms also resemble asthma, allergies, and other illnesses. 

Your cat can get this parasitic infection when it’s bitten by a heartworm larvae-carrying mosquito. The larvae enter the bloodstream to develop and grow in the cat’s heart, lungs, and other vital organs.


Hairballs are quite common in cats. Although they swallow their fur while grooming, some of it may remain undigested. If your cat has an unproductive cough, it could be because it’s trying to cough up a hairball.

But if your cat has a hacking cough for more than a couple of days or if it’s retching or vomiting, then it could be due to a gastrointestinal problem.


Allergies Cat waring mask

Allergies in cats can also cause a dry cough. Cats can experience an allergic reaction in the windpipe and lungs called pneumonitis, which could result in a chronic cough. Other signs of allergies include wheezing, weight loss, watery eyes, and difficulty in breathing.    

Cats can be allergic to dust, pollen, and other airborne molecules that can cause a coughing fit. Coughing due to asthma and allergies have the same symptoms and can even occur together. If you find your cat suffering from asthma or allergies, then it’s vital that you see a vet for a complete checkup.


Tumors with Cat black color

A tumor in the lungs, trachea, or lungs could be the reason why your cat is coughing. For instance, tumor of the trachea and larynx can cause coughing or labored breathing.

Cats suffering from lung cancer can experience difficulty in breathing, and may not be able to exercise at all.

Inhaling Foreign Objects

A cough is a reflex that eliminates foreign particles from the respiratory system and airways. If your pet inhaled something that irritated its respiratory system, then it would experience a coughing fit. Your cat may also sneeze or cough to remove any foreign object stuck in its throat or nose.

Why Your Cat is Coughing Up Blood

Why Your Cat is Coughing Up Blood Cat looking forward

An occasional cough in cats is not something to be concerned about; however, if your cat coughs up blood, then it requires immediate medical attention.

The following are potential causes that can cause your cat to cough up blood:

  • Severe infections
  • Cancer
  • Trauma
  • Exposure to poisons that can affect normal blood clotting

Treatments for a Coughing Cat

Treatments for a Coughing Cat Veteran checking cat

Before beginning any treatment plan, an accurate diagnosis is essential as the treatment depends on the cause. You must take your cat to your vet for a proper checkup. Your vet will want to know the symptoms and run tests to find out if your pet has an underlying condition.

Once the cause is determined, he or she might put your cat on the following treatments:

  • Steroids: Asthma in cats is treated with the help of steroids, as they reduce the inflammation in the airways.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are given to cats to treat respiratory infections that can cause coughing.  
  • NSAIDs: These painkillers help to reduce pain caused by illnesses or any discomfort your cat may be experiencing after surgery. 
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines are used to relieve coughs caused by allergies.
  • Surgery: Your cat may need surgery if it’s suffering from a lung infection or if it has inhaled a foreign object. 
  • Environmental changes: You may need to make a change in your cat’s environment to make it more comfortable. For instance, you may need to invest in an air purifier if your cat is coughing due to allergies.

Final Thoughts

There are several reasons for a coughing cat, ranging from asthma and allergies to more serious problems like tumors and infections. If your cat has a persistent cough, it’s best to consult your vet to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

As a cat parent, it’s vital that you know the symptoms and signs of common illnesses that can cause your cat to start coughing. Also, keep an eye on your cat to ensure it doesn’t have any difficulty in breathing.


Picture of Evelyn Baxter, Writer and Cat Expert

Evelyn Baxter, Writer and Cat Expert

Evelyn is an animal advocate, cat expert, and the proud mom of 2 rescue cats, Sugar, a beautiful fluffy tabby and Beebee, a black, fluffy beauty. Evelyn has studied animal care while volunteering at her local shelter. She loves all animals and wants to share the animal knowledge she has been lucky enough to gain together with knowledge from other experts with cat parents across the world.