Why is my Cat Coughing?

Dr. Rozalyn Donner

Feb 21, 2023

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Is your cat coughing? Are you worried about what could be causing her to cough? Is her cough sudden, or has it been going on for a while? When is a cat cough something to be concerned with?

If you’re a cat owner, you’ve probably caught yourself asking at least some of these questions in the past. Coughing in a cat isn’t normal, but many times, the underlying cause of this condition in cats is not severe. In the article below, we’ll help you learn more about some of the most common causes of coughing in cats and what to expect from them.

Mild Causes

Listed below are the mild causes: 


Allergies are one of the most common causes of coughing in cats. A cat who tends to cough only at certain times of the year or when exposed to specific allergens is probably dealing with an allergy problem. In moderate to severe cases, your cat can be given regular allergy medication; however, most cats do not require this.


Irritants may be different from allergens. Your cat might not be allergic to an irritant, but it could still cause her to start coughing. Smoke, essential oils, and dust are common irritants that can contribute to coughing in cats.

Briefly Stuck Food

A briefly stuck piece of food in your cat’s throat may cause her to cough until she dislodges it. This situation is not nearly as serious as actual choking. If you’ve ever had food “go down the wrong pipe” for a moment when eating, you can understand what this feels like!


Perhaps the most common cause of coughing in cats is hairball. If your cat has a hairball, she will have coughing fits until she is able to cough it up. The hairball will typically look like vomit with a large clump of hair within it, so it can be easily identified as such.

Moderate Causes

Listed below are the moderate causes:


Asthma is more common in cats than you might realize. Many cats are diagnosed with this condition regularly, and your cat may be one of them. If your cat has asthma, they may need medication or steroids to help them recover from severe flare-ups, so talk to your family vet for more information.

Bacterial or Viral Infections

Bacterial and viral infections are common in cats, especially when it comes to the respiratory system. Many cats will experience at least one of these types of illness in their lifetimes. Rest, fluids, and antibiotics can help clear up the majority of common cat infections.


Although considerably less common than other symptoms, coughing may still occur in some cats who are particularly allergic to or irritated by their parasites. If your cat is dealing with any type of parasitic infection, you may notice that they develop a cough until the problem clears up. Talk to your family veterinarian if your cat is coughing along with a parasitic infection, as this could be a sign of an underlying immune system problem.

Severe Causes

Listed below are the severe causes:

Feline Leukemia

Unfortunately, many cats are diagnosed with feline leukemia, and particularly those who are not vaccinated against this deadly condition. Feline leukemia is always fatal to cats, but until it reaches this point, it may cause a variety of health problems and symptoms. Coughing fits are one type of symptom caused by this disease.

Heart Disease

Heart disease of any type may lead to frequent bouts of coughing in your cat. A cat who has congestive heart failure may cough after any type of exercise or exertion, for example. Heartworm can cause coughing in cats, too, but it is almost always deadly within a short time.


Choking will cause your cat to start coughing or wheezing right away. She may back up, paw at her face, or show other symptoms that indicate she cannot breathe. A choking cat needs to be seen by an emergency vet immediately, and you may also want to learn how to perform the Heimlich on cats, too.


Some types of cancer can cause frequent coughing fits in cats. Lung cancer is one common type that may contribute to coughing. However, even cancers such as liver cancer may cause coughing depending on your cat’s other symptoms.

Seek Veterinary Care if Your Cat is Coughing

If your cat has just started coughing suddenly, check her thoroughly and watch her behavior to make sure she isn’t having a health crisis. On the other hand, if her cough has been progressively getting worse for some time, watch her for other symptoms of illness or chronic health issues.

Most of the time, your cat will need to see a vet if she is coughing to help determine the “why.” Many underlying causes of coughing in cats can be easily treated or managed with the help of your vet, even if a Google search tells you that coughing falls under the severe category as described above. If your cat is coughing, a visit to your family vet is a good start for answers. If your cat’s coughing is so severe that she is having trouble breathing, go to the emergency vet instead.

VEG has locations all over the country, with emergency vets who are available 24/7 to help you and your pet. Our team knows that the potential causes for why your cat is coughing and we also know how important is to make sure you know the reason why they’re doing this. When you come to VEG, you can be rest assured that your cat will get the proper care they need.