What to Do When Your Cat is Coughing and Sneezing

An occasional sneeze or cough from your cat is quite common, but how do you know when it’s something to be concerned about? Is that strange noise coming from your cat a cough or a sneeze? It’s not always easy to tell, so taking a video of your cat during an episode can help your vet with their diagnosis. Continue reading to learn more about the reasons why your cat may be wheezing, coughing, or sneezing.

Why is My Cat Coughing?

Cats can cough just like humans, although it occurs less frequently. When irritants, dust, mucus, or other particles enter their airways, a protective reflex is triggered in the form of a cough. Occasional coughing is normal, but frequent coughing could indicate an underlying issue. Here are some common causes of coughing in cats:

  • Respiratory Infections: These infectious diseases affect the upper or lower respiratory tract and can cause coughing.
  • Feline Asthma: Chronic inflammation of the small airways in the lungs can lead to coughing. Common triggers include household cleaning products, pollens, dust mites, and even certain foods.
  • Pneumonia: Inflammation of the lungs can result in a wet cough due to fluid buildup.
  • Pleural Effusion: Abnormal fluid buildup around the lungs can cause coughing.
  • Hairballs: What may sound like coughing is often the cat retching or gagging to expel a hairball.
  • Foreign Object in the Throat: Coughing may occur if a cat has inhaled a foreign object or if there is irritation from inhaled liquids or gases.
  • Cancer: A mass in the chest or throat area can put pressure on the air passages, leading to coughing.
  • Heartworm Disease: Although rare, heartworm disease can cause coughing in cats.
  • Parasites: Lungworms can cause coughing in affected cats.
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When Should I Call the Vet About My Cat’s Cough?

If your cat’s cough continues for more than a few days, becomes more frequent, is productive, or if your cat appears sick or is losing weight, it’s important to consult your veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your cat’s cough.

Why is My Cat Sneezing?

Just like humans, cats can sneeze for various reasons. Sneezing can be triggered by environmental factors or may be a sign of illness or infection. Here are some common causes of sneezing in cats:

  • Environmental Factors: Household dust, pollen, perfumes, cigarette smoke, and cleaning products can cause reflexive sneezing.
  • Foreign Object: Objects like lint, grass, or hair may get stuck in a cat’s nasal cavities, resulting in sneezing. It’s important to have this checked if the foreign object isn’t naturally expelled.
  • Respiratory Infections: Sneezing is often associated with viral or bacterial infections of the upper respiratory tract.
  • Dental Disease: Inflammation or infection of a tooth can affect the nasal passages and trigger sneezing.
  • Cancer: Certain forms of cancer in the nasal passages can manifest as sneezing.

When Should I Call the Vet for My Sneezing Cat?

If your cat’s sneezing is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms such as nasal discharge, labored breathing, loss of appetite, or fever, it’s advisable to call your vet. These symptoms could indicate an upper respiratory infection or another underlying condition that may require veterinary care.

What are Cat Respiratory Infections?

Respiratory infections in cats affect the nose, throat, and lungs. Upper respiratory infections cause sneezing and coughing, while lower respiratory infections affect the windpipe and lungs. Symptoms may include sneezing, nasal congestion, runny eyes or nose, change in voice, and decreased activity or appetite.

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Causes of Respiratory Infections in Cats

Respiratory infections in cats can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. Feline Herpesvirus (FVR) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV) are the most common viruses involved. Bacterial infections such as Bordatella bronchiseptica (B. bronchiseptica) or Chlamydophila felis (C. felis) are also known culprits. Fungal infections are transmitted through the environment, and parasitic infections may arise from eating infected prey.

How to Stop the Spread & Prevent Respiratory Infections

While you can’t catch an upper respiratory infection from your cat, they can be highly contagious among felines. It’s important to take proper steps to prevent the spread of viral infections:

  • Keep sick cats isolated in a separate room.
  • Provide fresh water and a comfortable resting area for the sick cat.
  • Prevent interaction between sick and healthy cats by using a towel or blanket at the bottom of the door.
  • Wash your hands and change clothing after interacting with a sick cat.
  • Clean and disinfect food and water bowls, litter boxes, and carriers used by the infected cat.
  • Keep your cat up to date on vaccinations.
  • When introducing a new cat, keep them separate until the incubation period for viral illnesses has passed.

Treatments for Cat Coughing and Sneezing

The treatment for a cat’s coughing and sneezing depends on the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, run necessary tests, and gather information about your cat’s environment to make an accurate diagnosis. Treatments may include medications, cultures, fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, surgery, or cancer treatment.

Schedule an appointment with your vet if your cat is experiencing coughing or sneezing. Regular check-ups can help detect and address any issues early on, ensuring your cat’s health and well-being.

Remember, prevention and early detection are key to keeping your cat healthy. For more information on cat grooming services, visit Katten TrimSalon.