My Cat is Coughing! Here’s Why and What You Can do

My Cat is Coughing

My cat is coughing, but this ain’t no hairball. Sound familiar? There are a number of reasons why cats cough, but unfortunately (for the cats) we humans tend to think it’s nothing but a furry throat and we just ignore it and get on with our lives.

It’s not a pretty sight, watching poor little kitty hacking away like there’s no tomorrow. I can tell you from experience, it looks like the end of the world for the coughing cat and this is seriously freaking disturbing for everyone involved. See what I mean?

An occasional cough may be a part of life – we all do it, but as with anything if it gets out of hand or the hacking continues, we need to look further into the reasons why.


What is a Cough?

Here’s my ‘learn something new every day’ useless fact, thanks to Medical News Today: a cough is also known as tussis. You can thank me for that at your next trivia night.

A cough is the body’s natural reflex to clear the throat and airways of irritants, which may include foreign particles, fluids and mucous. It’s a rapid explosion of air from the lungs either involuntarily or on purpose. Most of the time a cough will do its job of clearing the irritant and go away, but sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious illness.

Stalking Cat - My Cat is Coughing

Why do Cats Cough?

Probably the most common cause of coughing in cats is hairballs and all we can do is stand by and witness the drama, then clean up the hairy little yuck when it’s over. If it’s a case of cat coughing but no hairball, there could be any number of causes, including:

  • Feline asthma – probably the most common. Usually you’ll see your cat crouched down close to the ground, neck extended and hacking away as if his life depends on it – because it does. This kind of coughing is serious business; your cat literally can not breathe and needs to be seen by a vet as soon as possible.
  • Tight collar – by far the easiest to treat and should be the first thing you check if your cat is coughing a lot. A collar should be tight enough to not get caught on anything but loose enough that you can slip two fingers between the collar and the cat.Cat Collar - Cat Coughing But No Hairball
  • Fungal lung infection – commonly picked up from soil, and usually not good news.
  • Lung cancer – scary business. This is usually treated with medications or failing that, surgery.
  • Allergies – very closely resembles asthma in symptoms and causes, so you’ll need to work with your vet to figure out which is which.
  • Heartworms – also resembles the symptoms of asthma, but this one is spread by mosquitoes. Your vet will likely test for this to rule out one or the other.
  • Worms – quite common in cats and can be prevented easily with regular over-the-counter medications, but this should be done only in consultation with your vet.


What to do if Your Cat is Coughing

First and foremost – pay attention! Even if it’s the first time you see it, you’ll need to remember a few things about the cough so you can compare it to any future coughs and so you can give your vet an accurate description of what’s going on.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • The quality of the cough – is it wet or dry, does it last for ages or go away quickly?
  • The timing of the cough – is it mostly during the day, or at night? These things can help point your vet in the right direction.
  • Possible triggers – does the coughing happen during or after exercise? During or after eating? Keeping a journal of your cat’s symptoms is a good idea to help you recognise patterns.
  • Any other symptoms – look out for lethargy or weight loss, sneezing, wheezing, breathing difficulties or any other symptoms that don’t seem right to you.


Worried Cat - Why Do Cats Cough?


It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway – please do not try to treat this at home. Over the counter remedies can be great, but before you make assumptions PLEASE go to the vet, armed with as much information as you can gather.

Treatment for your coughing cat will of course depend upon the underlying problem. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, anti-fungals, corticosteroids or anti-parasite medications to help clear the problem causing the cough.


Make Life Sweeter For a Coughing Cat

All coughing is caused by something – your job is to find what that is and take steps to prevent it from being a problem. There are a few things you can do to help keep your kitty cough free:

  • Cut stress – keep feeding, play and general life as routine as possible for your kitty. Cats often get sick when their schedules are out of whack.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – feeding a high quality, appropriate diet and keeping your cat active will help prevent many health issues, including coughing.
  • Test for internal parasites that could be causing the cough.Sparrow Shine - Cat Sneezing Coughing
  • Switch to a dust free litter, preferably something unscented to minimise irritation.
  • Run an air purifier or humidifier to improve the air quality and filter out possible irritants.
  • Eliminate household sprays such as plug-in room fresheners, hairsprays, deodorants and insect sprays. If you can’t eliminate these things then at least make sure you’re not spraying them near your cat.
  • Don’t expose your cat to cigarette smoke, especially if he has asthma.
  • Keep up with regular vaccines and include worming in this routine, especially if you live in a mosquito infested area.
  • Don’t overlook hairballs but also don’t assume. If your cat is coughing but has nothing to show for it, the problem is likely to be something else.


Cats cough for a variety of different reasons, ranging from nothing to worry about to very serious. It’s important to work with your vet to figure out what’s causing the cough and the best treatment for whatever the problem may be. Feline asthma is a common cause of coughing in cats, your vet will be able to use the information you provide and determine if any tests need to be done. Eliminating common irritants and keeping up to date with regular vaccinations and worming will help to keep your kitty cough free but please make sure you check with your vet before you try anything at home.


What’s going on with your coughing cat? If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the box below…

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  1. I like the article very much. I think every cat falls under the category. As I have yet to meet a cat that didn’t do something different from the next one. Coughing is no exception, both my sister and my mother have more then just one cat so my question to you is what do think when 3 cats are coughing but never at the same time or possibly for the same reasons. They all just seem to wanna yack yack yack and even right after they just coughed up a hairball. Do you think it’s all serious stuff or them just being weird?

    1. I know, they’re all so freaking weird. It’s like every cat is its very own species.

      About the 3 cats coughing at the same place – I’d get that checked out. There might be something in the air that’s bugging them all, or they might have caught something off each other. Doesn’t sound good…

  2. Hi, thank you for such a great article. I did not realise just that cats could get asthma or that parasites could cause coughing.

    We are going to spend some time going through you steps for making life easier and look at what changes we can do around here.

    Thanks again,


  3. My friend’s cat coughs all the time however the reason can be the allergies.
    My friend gets some herbs all the time. I will definitely warn her about it and let her take care of the cat with the vet. If it does not work I probably look here again.

    1. Thanks Furkan! Feel free to share this stuff with your friends on social media – much easier than talking to people 😉

  4. Hi, thanks for this information. Whenever our cat coughs, I immediately think it’s a hairball and normally it is. But now that I’ve read this information and the great tips you’ve included I’ll pay more attention. Thanks for posting 🙂

  5. Wow, you sure do a lot of research for the post!! I have had cats all my life and I have not had any probs with cat coughs before but if I did (or they did) this would be the place to go it seems. You do a great job of relaying info about our furry friends and thank you for that.

  6. I’ve got two cats at home and one of them does cough from time to time. It is of course my long hair, and not long after that I do tend to find a hairball on the ground. That being said, I have an air purifier that is just sitting around and I do use standard clumping litter that can throw up some dust. I think I might start running my air purifier just for the sake of safety, probably couldn’t hurt for my own breathing…Thanks for this very informative post!

    1. Yeah you gotta watch out for those long hairs, they’re chronic hackers. I wrote a little something about air purifiers here, you should check it out. Good for everybody, not just asthmatics, not just cats and not just asthmatic cats. Thanks for saying hi, Craig.

  7. Thankfully, my cat only coughs up hairballs about twice a year, and that is scary enough. I agree wholeheartedly that if my cat were coughing all the time I’d be taking him to the vet to find out why. All the reasons you gave for possibilities is scary, not to mention you’re absolutely right, they look like they’re dying when coughing. As always, great information and something I will keep in mind if kitty ever starts coughing a bunch. Thanks!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this post! It was very informative and brought up very good points. I am lucky enough to not have had any problems, like this, with my cat. But now I know what to do, if this ever happens. My cat has been known to sneeze a lot, but through observation I have been able to notice that he only sneezes during the spring. It usually last for a few days and then he is done. Surprisingly he hasn’t sneezed at all this spring 🙂

  9. My little fur baby has been coughing a lot recently and it turned out she had mites in her ears. We treated them and the coughing went away almost immediately! It’s so sad to see our little fluff loves in pain and so hard that they can’t communicate what is wrong. Thanks for sharing this post to give others some ideas of how to treat a cough in their kitty.

    1. I tell you what Lois, as soon as Sparrow starts speaking English I am going to put him to work teaching all the cats of the world, so you and I don’t have to worry about what’s wrong our fluffy children so much. I’m so glad you took your kitty to the vet, who would’ve thought coughing and ear mites go together? Thanks for your comment.

  10. your site is very informative. I see myself going on here every now and again to find answers for my cat and his strange ways lol. My cat tends to cough a lot! But, the doctor would say it is just a fur ball but nothing ever comes up. Could crystals also be the issue for a cat coughing too? My last cat had crystals before he passed and I noticed he was coughing a lot.

    1. Hi Liz, thanks for the compliment! I take it you’re talking about urinary crystals? I’m not sure if that could cause a cat to cough, but it’s bad news either way. The good news is, you can help prevent crystals from happening by ditching the dry food and feeding your kitties a good, wet food. Here’s some more information on what to feed a cat if you’re interested. Come back and say hi again sometime soon!

  11. Thanks for sharing the causes as to why cats cough. I always wonder what the reason could be. My daughter has a cat and she would give it something to drink whenever it coughs. Usually the cough doesn’t last long, it goes away quickly. It’s usually nothing to worry about, but it may get worse someday.

    I’ll share this page with my daughter. She likes her cat and will appreciate this info.

  12. Couldn’t agree more with you,
    paying attention to your pet can be key & make a really big difference in the long run.
    Seems like a most effective way to outline the situation at hand & help with conclusive diagnosis.

    No easy task. Feels like it mostly narrows down to the big three: Environment, nutrition & individual conditions. Not always, but often we find the combination of three working together.

    Lately, for some reason, I’ve noticed one of my pets having hiccups – Fortunately, not a chronic thing, but making me curious nonetheless. Have to keep an eye on that one.
    In some sense, I’d like to pair up coughing with hiccups. Not necessarily, but one of them can lead to another.
    As simple as it sounds, I’d check it 3x over & ask myself:

    Is my pet getting enough water?
    Does my pet have access to it all the time?
    If there’s plenty of it, what’s the quality of the water my pet gets?

    Seems like the most rudimentary & easiest of things in to-do list but a lot of people tend to forget that.

    As we know, felines naturally tend to get their water from prey.. but then again, every home is different, every family has their own rules & every pet is likely on a little bit different diet – Different environment, different nutrition, different conditions

    The things we do, to avoid the disaster, eh?

    1. Henry from Team Chihuahua! Nice to hear from you again, my friend. Avoiding disaster is number 1 priority in my house. Not sure if Sparrow necessarily agrees with my methods sometimes, but my methods seem to be doing the trick. I’m very firmly in the same camp as you, the combination of factors needs to be looked at to figure out what’s going on with our pets. Would be so much easier if he’d just hurry up and speak English already.

      Funny you mention hiccups, I have a little something coming up about just that. Stay tuned!

  13. When it comes to coughing, it has miscellaneous categories. I think asthma- which is nothing but the quotidian kitten respiratory affliction, can cause coughing. It can worsen briskly and make your feline unable to breathe. Lung cancer, fungal infection, tight collar, heartworm, and other lung diseases can cause coughing in your cat. Thus, my suggestion is, whenever you notice your adorable four-legged family member is coughing, you should immediately give him a vet check-up. It is mainly because a capable veterinarian can easily figure out which is to hold accountable. Honestly, I am looking forward to getting more such factual blogs from Sparrow.

  14. I’m worried about my cat. He coughs if he’s laying down. If he jumps off the couch if he’s just sitting looking out the window. It can be a wet or dry cough, nothing ever comes up unless he’s just finished his food then he ususally throws that up. But no hair ball, bile or anything. After he’s done coughing he resumes to his normal self, I have another cat, she’s fine….never a problem with her.

    1. Hi Rose-Mary, thank you! I’m not sure if age makes a difference, Sparrow was 10 months old when he was diagnosed with asthma and he’s now just 4 years old so still pretty young to be having problems. I guess the older your cat gets the harder it could be for them to recover – just like all of us, really!

  15. Good evening,

    I have been reading the comments and am becoming convinced that our 1 year old has asthma. He came into the house as a 4 month old kitten. Our 9 year old resents Toby so I cannot leave them alone together. Could the stress from the resident female be his problem? ?


  16. We have a long haired, very vocal and loud cat who coughs about once a fortnight. No production from the cough except he can’t make a noise mewing after for quite a while, he just goes through the motions. The other cat we have is fine.

  17. Thank you for the heads up about cats and how they can end up coughing after meals. This has actually been happening with my very old pet cat recently, and I couldn’t tell if this was something I needed to address right away. After reading your article, I’ll get a veterinarian to take a look at my cat as soon as possible.

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