Common Conditions That Can Cause Cat Coughing
Cat asthma, or feline asthma, is very similar to asthma in humans—it is chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Like in humans, asthma attacks in cats are often triggered by allergens or even stress.
When cats with asthma breathe in allergens, it triggers an immune response that causes inflammation which results in irritation, swelling, and muscular constriction of the airways2. This response leads to mucus accumulation and narrowing of the airways, making it hard for oxygen to reach the lungs. Once this response occurs, it makes it very difficult for the cat to breathe.
Feline Upper Respiratory Infection (Cat Flu)
Cat flu is a general term for upper respiratory infections caused by certain feline viruses and bacterial infections. These infections mostly affect the nose and throat.
Cat flu affects cats of all ages and breeds. In most cases, it is viral in nature and highly contagious.
Symptoms of upper respiratory infections in cats include:
- Lethargy (no energy to play)
- Runny nose
- Mouth ulcers
- Eye ulcers
- Loss of appetite
- Discharge from eyes
- Difficulty breathing
Feline rhinitis is a condition where the lining of the nose (mucous membranes) are inflamed.1 When these tissues become inflamed, breathing becomes much more difficult due to swelling and an increased amount of nasal mucous.
The condition can be short-term and clear up in a few weeks, or can be long-term (chronic) and last for life. Damage of the lining of the nasal passages can also increase the risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection which can worsen symptoms.2
Feline bronchitis affects the lower airways in a cat's lungs. The airways (bronchi) carry inhaled breath filled with oxygen to the alveoli where gas exchange happens. Bronchitis causes the walls of the bronchi to become inflamed, swelling the walls and releasing mucus into the airways. This causes the airways to become narrowed and congested and air can no longer reach the alveoli effectively.
As a result, coughing is triggered as a reflex to help clear the airways. This creates a vicious cough-irritation cycle; an inherent characteristic of bronchitis.
In cats, chronic bronchitis (also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD) is a long term and irreversible condition that can lead to permanent lung damage.
1"The Danger of Hairballs" Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-h… 2"Is It Normal for Cats To Cough?" Pet Health Network.http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-diseases-conditions-a-z/… 3Ibid. 4Ernest Ward, DVM. "Coughing in Cats" VCA Hospitals. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/coughing-in-cats 5"Is It Normal for Cats To Cough?" Pet Health Network. http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-diseases-conditions-a-z/… 6Ibid. 7"Coughing In Cats – Is It Normal For A Cat To Cough?" Cat-World.https://www.cat-world.com.au/coughing-in-cats.html 8"Why Does My Cat Cough So Much?" WebMD. https://pets.webmd.com/cats/coughing-cats-causes-feline-coughing#2 9Ernest Ward, DVM. "Coughing in Cats" VCA Hospitals. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/coughing-in-cats 10Ibid. 11"Coughing In Cats – Is It Normal For A Cat To Cough?" Cat-World. https://www.cat-world.com.au/coughing-in-cats.html