If your cat starts coughing one day, it’s understandable that you might feel concerned. Are they sick? Are they choking? While coughing in cats is occasionally due to a serious medical issue, more often than not, it’s a sign of a minor and treatable condition.

Below, we go into more detail about the conditions that can lead to coughing in cats, and what you should do to address coughing in your own feline family member.

Causes of Coughing in Cats

There are many potential causes for coughing in cats. Most of the time, coughing is the result of minor and treatable conditions like allergies, asthma, and respiratory infections. However, coughing could also be a sign of a more serious condition such as a heartworm infection, pleural effusion, or lung cancer. Another possible cause of coughing in cats is an injury affecting the lungs or upper airway.


Environmental allergies are an incredibly common cause of coughing in cats. Luckily, allergies are often a very treatable condition in cats, though they cannot be permanently cured.

In addition to coughing, other symptoms of allergies in cats include:

  • Sneezing and wheezing
  • Excessive scratching and itchy skin
  • Red and irritated skin (may or may not have a rash)/li>
  • Itchy and red eyes
  • Clear discharge coming from the nose and eyes
  • Excessive grooming

If you suspect your cat is suffering from allergies, contact our hospital to schedule an exam. We can help you determine the cause of your cat’s allergies and explore treatment options to relieve their symptoms.

Fungal, Bacterial, or Viral Respiratory Infections

In addition to allergies, viral and bacterial infections can also cause coughing in cats. Along with coughing, viral and bacterial respiratory infections can also cause these symptoms:

  • Sneezing and wheezing
  • Nasal and eye discharge (may be colored or clear)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Snoring

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory infection, reach out to us to make an appointment so we can diagnose and treat their condition before it worsens.


Asthma is another condition that may lead to coughing in cats. Asthma is caused by the tightening of the airway, which occurs as a result of exposure to an irritant such as smoke or an allergen. Cats with extreme allergies or immune system issues and obese or overweight cats are at an increased risk for developing asthma.

Here are some common symptoms of asthma in cats, in addition to coughing:

  • Wheezing and showing difficulty breathing
  • Appearing lethargic
  • Making quick, shallow breaths
  • Dry heaving and vomiting

Do you think your cat might have asthma? Contact Chicago Drive Veterinary Clinic so we can make a definitive diagnosis and recommend treatment options to improve your pet’s quality of life. Asthma attacks can potentially be life-threatening, so timely treatment is essential.

Inhalation of a Foreign Body

If your cat inhales a foreign body, they are likely to have a coughing fit. In addition to coughing, your cat may also paw at their mouth, have a sneezing fit, or dry heave. Should you suspect your cat has inhaled a foreign body, you should contact us right away at (616) 669-0501, or take your pet to the emergency vet immediately.

Note: Do not attempt to remove the foreign body from your cat’s mouth or throat on your own. You could risk pushing the object farther in and injuring your cat. Our team, or an emergency vet, will be able to help.

Heartworm Infection

Although it may be surprising to some cat owners, a heartworm infection can cause coughing and general breathing difficulties in cats.

Some other common signs of a heartworm infection in cats include:

  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Heartbeat abnormalities
  • Dry heaving and vomiting
  • Appearing lethargic and a reduction in activity

Heartworm prevention medication has been shown to effectively prevent heartworm infections in cats and dogs. Due to the life-threatening nature of heartworm disease, it is crucial that you take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect they have a heartworm infection.

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid around the lungs. There are many possible causes for this condition in cats, and the symptoms mainly consist of coughing and difficulty breathing. Treatment for pleural effusion requires removing the fluid from your pet’s chest cavity.


Injury to the lungs or airway can cause excessive coughing in cats. This coughing may be accompanied by the presence of bloody discharge. Injury to a cat’s respiratory system is extremely serious and requires prompt treatment. If your cat sustained a potential injury to their lungs or airway, they should see an emergency vet as soon as possible.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is also known to cause coughing in cats, and this type of coughing may be accompanied by bloody discharge. Many cancers are not necessarily preventable, but they can be treated effectively if they are caught early on. Make sure your cat sees us on an annual basis for their physical exam and blood work so we can make sure they’re staying healthy!

When To See a Vet

While your cat’s occasional cough or coughing fit may not be due to a serious health problem, you should contact your vet regardless if you have concerns. We would be more than happy to answer your questions, suggest the best course of action, and put your mind at ease. Our team will do whatever is needed to help you provide the best care for your feline family member.

If you have any questions about your cat’s health, don’t hesitate to contact Chicago Drive Veterinary Clinic for help. We are here to make sure your cat is happy and well!