Respiratory Problems in Cats

Is your cat coughing or sneezing? Maybe she has a nasal discharge or is snoring loudly? Respiratory problems in cats are not uncommon. Symptoms are similar but can have a variety of causes.

The Cat’s Breathing

The cat’s airway is divided into the upper and lower airways. The nose, throat, and larynx were part of the upper respiratory tract. Trachea and lungs to the lower airways.

Symptoms of respiratory problems in cats

Typical signs of an upper respiratory problem include sneezing and nasal discharge, snoring, and choking. Lower respiratory tract disorders are manifested by coughing, shortness of breath or shortness of breath, and breathing through the open mouth. All symptoms can also be accompanied by poor general health, fever, and decreased appetite.


Common causes of respiratory problems in cats are allergies, foreign bodies in the airways, dental problems, vermin-like lungworms, and infections. However, they can also be signs of other illnesses such as heart problems.

Respiratory problems in cats are serious. If the mentioned symptoms occur, the kitty should be presented to the veterinarian immediately! This is especially true in the case of breathlessness or bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes – here, going to the emergency service is the order of the day. Your trusted vet can rule out a serious, life-threatening condition and identify the cause of the problem.


A common cause of respiratory problems in cats is infections such as cat flu, caused by viruses (herpesvirus, calicivirus) or bacteria (Bordetella, chlamydia, mycoplasma). Solid nasal discharge is a common sign, but sick animals also snore conspicuously and show a reduced general condition. The virus can be detected with a swab sample, treatment consists primarily of supporting the cat’s immune system and reducing symptoms. Cat flu is a serious condition that should definitely be treated by your vet! Ideally, cats should also be vaccinated against cat flu from kitten age.

Even with pneumonia, cats show coughs, shortness of breath, or bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes and a poor general condition with fever. Pneumonia is treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics prescribed by the veterinarian, which the cat often receives for several weeks or even months. Expectorants and inhalation can also ease the course of the disease here.

Asthma in Cats

Cats can also get asthma! The inflammation of the bronchial tubes manifests itself through attack-like, chronic coughing up to shortness of breath. An x-ray of the lungs shows typical changes. Cortisone is said to reduce the body’s inflammatory response, while inhalation or special drugs are said to open the bronchi and make breathing easier.

Dental Problems

Problems with the teeth can also cause respiratory problems. Symptoms range from coughing to choking to sneezing – the vet can usually provide an accurate diagnosis here!


Parasites such as lungworms are most common in wild cats that eat snails. They can cause symptoms of airway inflammation, a chronic cough being the most common. Sometimes the infection goes without symptoms. The vet can detect lungworms with an X-ray or a stool sample. Treatment consists of administering a suitable worming agent – but repeated doses are often necessary here. Unfortunately, the accompanying respiratory problems rarely go away with the worms. The damaged airways often have to be built up in a targeted manner until the cat is completely fit again.

Allergies in Cats

Allergies in cats are not uncommon! If respiratory problems occur mainly during certain times of the year or during certain situations, this can indicate an allergy. Just like humans, cats can be allergic to pollen, but dust mites, fungal spores, and food can also cause an allergic reaction. Therapy differs depending on the symptoms and their cause.

Foreign Body

If a chewed blade of grass or another foreign body enters the windpipe or larynx, it can cause irritation, which can be expressed in the form of coughing, sneezing, or choking. Usually, there are foreign bodies in the nasopharynx, but they can migrate into the nasal cavity and cause great damage here. That is why a quick trip to the vet is essential here!


Polyps are benign formations of the mucous membrane that occur mainly in young cats. The growths grow in the throat or at the mouth of the ear canal, typical symptoms are nasal discharge and snoring noises. The vet can easily remove polyps under anesthesia.

As you can see, respiratory problems in cats can have a variety of causes! Please contact the veterinarian as soon as the symptoms occur. They can make a clear diagnosis and treat your cat early on.

We wish you and your cat all the best!

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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