Home Remedies for Cats With a Cough

By: Shanna Freeman & Jesslyn Shields  | 
cat cough
Is it just a tickle in his throat, or is your cat's cough something more serious? Kadres/Pixabay

Does your cat have a kitty cold? It’s a common enough ailment in felines, with symptoms ranging from runny nose to sneezing and coughing, eye mucus, wheezing — the works. But just like in humans, arguably one of the worst symptoms of a cold for a kitty is cough.

Cats cough just like we do, and for many of the same reasons. Coughing is a reflex; when something irritates the back of the throat, breathing passages or lungs, the body responds, expelling whatever is causing the irritation. It's an important mechanism for protecting the lungs and air passages from foreign objects and expelling infectious matter from the body.


Just like us, cats have different kinds of coughs: a dry, hacking cough; a phlegmy-sounding cough; a single, gagging cough; a wheezing cough and that half-cough, half clearing the throat thing.

The type of cough can tell you a lot about what's causing it. It's also important to note whether the cough is productive (accompanied by fluid or other matter) or nonproductive. A cough can just be a simple throat irritation, but it can also be a symptom of a much bigger problem. If it gets to the point where you need to talk to your vet about your cat's cough, being able to describe how it sounds and whether it's productive can help him or her figure out what's causing it.

A persistent cough could be a sign of an upper respiratory infection, especially if also accompanied by sneezing, a runny nose, watery eyes or a fever. A visit to the veterinarian may be in order. Persistent coughs due to feline colds or flu can sometimes be helped with medication, but it's important not to give your cat anything without consulting your veterinarian first.

However, hairballs are a common reason for coughs in cats, and typically, those are easily treated with an over-the-counter hairball medication. You should be able to tell pretty easily if your cat's cough is caused by a hairball, because he will eventually expel a tubelike "ball" of hair.

Hairballs and upper respiratory infections are minor compared to what could actually be going on if your cat has a chronic cough. In the next section, we'll look at some of the other potential causes of coughs in cats.


Treating Coughs in Cats

There are lots of reasons why your cat might have a persistent cough, depending on when and how they cough. We'll look at just a few of the potential causes here, but ultimately your veterinarian is the person to make a definitive diagnosis.

If your cat coughs only when exercising, it may be acute bronchitis, a lung inflammation. Cats with chronic bronchitis are more likely to cough up mucus. Cats may also develop feline asthma, a chronic lung inflammation that can make breathing difficult. One symptom is a persistent cough, but it's usually accompanied by other symptoms such as wheezing, bluish gums, open-mouthed breathing and gasping for breath.


More serious diseases than asthma can start out with a simple cough. Congestive heart failure, for example, may begin with a mild, moist cough at night that becomes productive over time. Coughs may also be due to pneumonia, a fungal infection, lymphoma, heartworms and a host of other illnesses — many of which can be successfully treated if caught early. That's why any cough that lasts for more than a day or two, or is accompanied by other symptoms, should be checked out by the vet just to be on the safe side.

If your cat is coughing and also pawing at his mouth or shaking his head, there may be something stuck in his throat or mouth. Open your cat's mouth — taking care that you avoid being bitten — and look inside. If you find a foreign body and can remove it easily, do so. Keep a close eye on your cat for the next few days to make sure that he doesn't develop an infection. If the object is stuck in the roof of the mouth, between the teeth or you can't locate it at all, see your vet right away.

A collar can sometimes cause a cat to cough, especially if it's too tight. A tight collar may cause a honking cough. If your cat wears a collar, check the size. You should be able to slip the tip of your finger between the collar and the cat's neck easily. Since cats like to squeeze into tight places, collars can pose a choking hazard. Many experts recommend you only use cat collars with elastic or breakaway features so that if the cat snags the collar on something, it'll come off easily.


Coughing Cat FAQ

What should I do if my cat is coughing?
Infrequent coughing is nothing to be worried about, but if your cat is coughing constantly, call your veterinarian to make an appointment to have the issue professionally diagnosed.
Why does my cat keep gagging, but not throwing up?
If your cat keeps having episodes of gagging, but isn’t expelling anything, it could be a number of issues including a hairball that’s stuck in the intestines or bowels. There could also be something stuck in your cat's throat or he could have another throat, tonsil or esophagus issue.
Is it an emergency if my cat is coughing?
As long as it’s not persistent, coughing is completely normal and your cat is likely healthy. However, if your cat is coughing up blood or mucus, you should call your veterinarian and ask their advice. They may advise you to come in for an emergency appointment.
How long does a cat cough last?
If a cough lasts longer than two weeks, your cat may have an infection, neoplasia, asthma or another more serious condition. Get medical assistance if your cat has been coughing for more than two weeks.
Why does my cat dry cough?
Dry coughing can be a symptom of feline asthma, lungworm, heartworm diseases or a reaction to foreign bodies. These diseases can be fatal for your cat, so you should seek veterinarian assistance.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Long, Christie. "What You Need to Know About Feline Asthma." PetCoach. (June 10, 2022). https://www.petcoach.co/article/what-you-need-to-know-about-feline-asthma/
  • Parker, Hilary. "What to Do About Hairballs in Cats." July 25, 2020. (June 10, 2022) https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/what-to-do-about-hairballs-in-cats
  • Paws. "Feline Upper Respiratory Infection." (June 10, 2022). https://www.paws.org/resources/feline-upper-respiratory-infection/
  • PetMD. "Foreign Objects Stuck in the Throat in Cats." (June 10, 2022) https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_esophageal_obstruction
  • Swiniarski, Emily, DVM. "Coughing Cat: 11 Common Causes (and How to Help)." Great Pet Care. Oct. 29, 2021. (June 10, 2022). https://www.greatpetcare.com/cat-health/coughing-cat-11-common-causes-and-how-to-help/
  • Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster and Smith. "Coughing in Dogs and Cats: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment." Pet Education. 2011. (June 10, 2022) https://www.petcoach.co/article/coughing-in-dogs-and-cats-causes-diagnosis-and-treatment/
  • Wade, Marcia. "Why Does My Cat Cough So Much?" WebMD. 2011. Nov. 7, 2021. (June 10, 2022) http://pets.webmd.com/cats/coughing-cats-causes-feline-coughing