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?
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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…