What is Feline Asthma?

Thousand Mile Sparrow - What is Feline Asthma?

It’s a major bummer.

Feline asthma is a common respiratory disease involving inflammation, hyperactivity and obstruction of the airways. Without the big words: your cat’s airways are inflamed and blocked and little kitty can’t breathe properly. About 1% of cats are affected and while there is no cure, the good news is that the symptoms will generally respond quickly to treatment.


Which Cats Are Most at Risk of Feline Asthma?

Cats between the ages of 6 and 9 years old are most at risk, however feline asthma can also present in both very young and elderly cats. There’s no evidence to suggest that female cats are more susceptible than males or vice versa. Siamese and Himalayan cats appear to present with asthma more frequently than other breeds, although this has not been definitively proven.


Causes of Asthma in Cats

The exact cause of asthma in cats is not known, but much like human asthma it is an immunity related condition and can be triggered by environmental allergens, including:

  • Asthma Flowers - What is Feline Asthma?Fireplace and/or cigarette smoke
  • Mold/mildew
  • Household chemicals
  • Sprays such as air fresheners, hair sprays, deodorants
  • Pollens
  • Dust
  • Cat litter
  • Cold, moist airs
  • Extreme stress


Asthma cats are also susceptible to exercise and stress related attacks. Cats being the dainty little creatures they are will often hide any illness, so you should pay attention to your pet and consider a visit to your vet if something seems out of character.



Stethoscope - What is Feline Asthma?There isn’t a specific test to determine feline asthma, instead, your vet will take into account a combination of information gathered from the cat’s human as well as clinical testing. Your cat’s age, health history, habitat and diet are all taken into account, as well as the presence of breathing difficulties and coughing. Many other diseases and parasites such as heartworm and lungworm share common symptoms with feline asthma, so your vet will likely use several diagnostic tests to rule these out. Diagnostic tests for feline asthma may include:

  • Blood tests – this is the quickest and easiest way to determine if there is any bronchial infection and also to rule out the presence of other infections or parasites.
  • Chest X-Ray – generally done in two stages: one with your cat laying on his side and one laying on his back with limbs extended out of the way. X-Rays are painless and unobtrusive. Many cats are ok with being in these positions, but sometimes a small amount of sedative may be used to keep the cat still and avoid any distress.
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage – known as the more pronounceable BAL, this is a procedure performed under general anaesthetic where a tube is inserted into the trachea to extract fluids from the airways. The BAL is a very useful test as an examination of these fluids can detect other conditions of the lungs as well as asthma. The downside is the general anaesthetic, which is not recommended for a cat suffering from severe respiratory distress.



Unfortunately, there is no cure for feline asthma, it is a progressive disease that usually does not improve significantly over time. However, careful observation of your cat’s breathing, getting to know the signs of an asthma attack and intervening with medication when necessary will help your asthma cat live a happy life for many years.


  1. Many of times we focus on humans having asthma but overlook that cats can sometimes have the same issues as we do. Great job on raising awareness in this area! I love cats too so I will also keep these tips in mind to make sure they get the help that they need.

  2. I am the proud mother of three (well four if I include the dog) furry kids. It was four kitties until this past July when my Brad’s cancer treatment stopped working and I had no choice but to send him over the bridge. He was sixteen as are my two females (Janet & Columbia) and the baby of the group is my fifteen year old asthmatic Rocky. He and Sparrow look like brothers. I knew the owner of Rocky’s father who also had asthma as did one of Rocky’s older brothers. He has had it since he was a baby. Rocky has always been ultra sensitive to treatments and an antibiotic shot reaction almost took him to the edge. Last year the vet discovered that he also has a hyperthyroid condition so I have his medication formulated so I can just apply it in his ear. The vets I have taken him too over the years have never looked into his asthma despite me telling all of them that he seems to have a cat asthma and occasionally spits up clear mucous, has coughing spells, etc. When it’s humid out he coughs even more, which I do also so he must have inherited that from me (it’s my world and if I think I birthed them leave my world in tact please :). I want to try the holistic methods as with his sensitive system it is easier flushed from his system than steroids. Anyway, my babble aside, thank you for this site and the valuable information I should have read years ago but was too hung up on the traditional methods. Rocky and I are going rogue now!!

  3. Good evening cat people!! My QUEEN, a 10 year old persian has asthma lately (I think, the vets here,( in France) can’t say…) I am looking for a solution and of course read with quite a lot of interest your website (and messages). When I got asthma (me!), doctors told me: it’s for life! I changed environment, and of course asthma was gone. I live with 9 cats (who do go out, sometimes…), and for several of them when they got health issues (7 of them are my QUeen’s children and grand-children, and one was adopted), vets often told me: it’s for life and go home with cortisone…I am convinced that we can always find the cure…We just need to find what is the problem. So, back to Tiya, I am giving her antihistaminic at this stage while changing what I can (I am going to change the liter moving to another kind…Imagine the pain with 9 cats…Anyway, I saved my queen from deadly allergic/asthma (?) attack with antihistaminic (of course you do need to make the cat drink as much as possible). She is in my back…I have to go for a huge cuddle-time PUURRRRFECT!

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