Why Is Your Cat Coughing, And What Should You Do?

17 July 2020
 Categories: , Blog


Most people cough every once in a while, even if they are healthy. It's the same for cats — a single cough should not make you feel alarmed. Your cat may just have inhaled something irritating or swallowed the wrong way. If your cat keeps coughing or seems to be having fits of coughing, on the other hand, you should be more concerned. There are a few possible, common causes of coughing in cats, and most of them require veterinary care.

Feline Viral Rhinopneumonitis

FVR, also known as feline herpesvirus, is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. It usually affects the upper respiratory tract, causing sneezing and a runny nose along with inflammation of the eyelids. However, it can also move down into the lower respiratory tract, particularly the bronchi, and lead to coughing and wheezing. FVR is passed from cat to cat, and it can remain latent in your cat's system for years before causing symptoms. So even if your cat has not had contact with other cats in a long while, FVR could be the reason for the coughing. 

There's no cure for FVR, but your vet can administer supportive therapies, like IV fluids and bronchodilating medications, to help your cat feel better. Most cats do recover with this vet care, although your cat may later have flare-ups in times of stress. 


Bordetella is also known as kennel cough. It is more common in dogs, but can also be seen in cats. It often appears soon after a cat spends time in a kennel or in another environment where they have contact with other, possibly sick, cats. Bordetella sounds worse than it is. It's not life-threatening, but your cat should see a vet to rule out other possible causes of the cough. Many cats lose their appetite when they become ill with bordetella, so your vet will likely prescribe an appetite stimulant.


Heartworm infections can also cause coughing because, at one life stage, the heartworms crawl into the lungs. Other symptoms of heartworm in cats include lethargy, weight loss, and depression. Since heartworm can be deadly, it's really important to have your cat seen by the vet if they are coughing. The vet can prescribe antiparasitics to kill the worms, and the earlier this is done, the better. 

The moral of the story is: if your cat is coughing, call the vet. Any condition that causes coughing requires treatment.

For more information, contact an animal clinic like Clovis Veterinary Hospital P A.