Is your cat coughing or sneezing?
Do you regularly find hairball piles around your house?
Are you unsure what you should do about it?
The following blog will guide you to remedy your kitty’s ailment with the help of your veterinarian.
How to Help Your Coughing Cat
There are plenty of reasons for cat cough, but that does not diminish the importance of seeking out medical attention when necessary.
Cat coughing isn’t an everyday thing and usually indicates an illness of some sort. Although the reasons for coughing in cats range from mild to severe, all require at least a little extra time and awareness.
You may have heard that cats don’t complain much. Well, it’s true.
Cats hide their pain, apparently due to evolutionary instinct. Therefore, it can be tough to tell if a cat is feeling under the weather unless they have physical symptoms.
So if you hear your cat coughing and sneezing, pay attention. Every detail you notice can aid in a veterinarian’s diagnosis.
Is Your Cat Coughing and Sneezing?
Occasional sneezing is entirely normal and a sign that the body is working the way it should. After all, our bodies sneeze to dispel whatever irritant is aggravating our noses. However, consistent sneezing indicates that a deeper investigation is necessary.
Note that some cat breeds, like Persians, are more prone to sneezing due to constricted nasal passages. Keeping your home as dust-free as possible is the best way to keep these flat-faced kitties from sneezing so much.
However, continual coughing and sneezing spell more trouble, as excess sneezing can leave your kitty with tender, sensitive nasal and airway passages, making them more vulnerable to upper respiratory infection in cats.
The top causes of cat coughing are as follows:
- Feline asthma
- Respiratory infections
Feline asthma is a progressive disease affecting about 1% of cats. Asthma can be treated symptomatically but can never be completely cured.
Feline asthma is also known as:
- Bronchial asthma
- Chronic bronchitis
- Allergic bronchitis
With feline asthma, irritation causes mucus, inflamed and even ulcerated airways, causing muscle spasms to constrict the airways.
Airway constriction impairs the cat’s ability to draw a full breath causing symptoms like:
- Laboured breathing
- Exercise intolerance
- Panting or open-mouth breathing
Asthma attacks are easily prompted by irritants around the house and seasonal outdoor allergens.
Asthma is often a reaction to things like:
- Tobacco smoke
- Dust mites
- Household cleaning products
- Cat litter dust
You might be wondering – what’s the big deal with cat litter?
Here are three things to know:
- You’ve seen the billowing dust as you refill the litter pan with clumping litter, right? Well, when your cat scratches the litter pan, that dust rises again and is inhaled by your cat, eventually coating their lungs.
- One of the main ingredients in clumping litter is sodium bentonite that acts as an expanding cement. It can do the same thing inside your cat’s digestive system when cats clean themselves after using the litter pan.
- Crystalline silica dust is the other main ingredient in clumping and clay litter that can be very dangerous.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has deemed crystalline silica a carcinogen, possibly causing the following diseases in humans.
- Lung disease
- Kidney disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Silicosis – an incurable lung disease
Symptoms of asthma are seen in many diseases, so a veterinarian is needed to make a correct diagnosis.
If you have a dog, you may already know all there is to know about heartworms. However, heartworm disease in cats is a much different disease than in dogs.
Dogs are the natural host for heartworm.
In dogs, the problem comes from the large physical size of the worms, which block blood flow in the heart.
In cats, the problem comes from the inflammatory reaction of the worms. Very few larvae make it to adulthood in cats because they aren’t the natural host, but problems can still arise.
The average heartworm infection in dogs involves 25-50 worms at an adult length of 14 inches. These gross spaghetti worms can live up to 5 years in your dog. Yuck!
Cats infected with heartworm typically have less than six worms, and they can grow from 5-8 inches and live 2-3 years. Since cats’ heart muscles are so much smaller than dogs, even a few heartworms can have detrimental effects.
Common symptoms of heartworm:
- Difficulty breathing
In severe cases causing:
- Weight loss
- Rapid heart rate
- Sudden death
The drugs to kill tapeworms in dogs are toxic to cats, so if your cat has heartworms you must explore other avenues.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that asymptomatic cats wait out the heartworm life span of 2-3 years in cats, monitoring with chest x-rays during that time.
How can I keep my kitty safe from heartworms?
There are preventatives for kitty heartworms like this one. However, it’s worth mentioning that an indoor kitty is less likely to get heartworms.
Remember, dogs are the natural host for heartworms, but about 15% of cats will still get a heartworm infection during their lifetime.
Call them what you will. Respiratory infections, a cold, the flu. Whatever it’s called, it’s not fun for a kitty or their doting parent; however, we all get a cold once in a while.
The cat flu is very similar to the flu in humans. Two viruses cause the flu in cats, Calicivirus and Herpesvirus.
The two causes of cat flu are very similar to kennel cough in dogs in many ways, such as:
- Higher transmission in shelters and congested, unventilated areas.
- Spread through indirect and direct contact in the air through droplets from sneezes and kisses.
- Spread from sharing food and water bowls.
Many cats will feel better after about a week or two. However, some can take weeks to feel back to 100%.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica is the bacteria responsible for “kennel cough”, but can cats get kennel cough?
The short answer is yes, they can, particularly in a shelter setting.
Like Calicivirus, kennel cough affects cats of all ages, but kittens are the most vulnerable.
Symptoms of respiratory infections in cats include:
- Runny nose
- Low fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Snotty mucus and nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Ulcers on the tongue
Parasites like tapeworms can cause coughing by irritating the bloodstream once they colonise near the lungs.
Gastrointestinal parasites in cats are transmitted from cat to cat in two ways:
- Licking and swallowing fleas carrying tapeworm eggs.
- Worms present in the environment from another cat in the litter box.
Can I see worms in my cat’s poop?
It is possible to see worms in your kitty’s litter box, but how will you know what you’re seeing?
Here’s a little guide to decipher different gastrointestinal worms.
|Roundworms||Long pieces of spaghetti||5-7 inches|
|Tapeworms||Shorter like grains of rice stuck around the butthole||Segments in ¼ inch|
|Whipworm||One-half is thicker than the other, as the handle of a whip||2-3 inches|
|Hookworm||Looks like a “u”||⅛ inch|
Signs of parasites in cats include:
- Loose stool
- Weight loss
- Less healthy coat
Tapeworms are the most common of all parasitic worms and can affect cats of any age.
Table: Remedies and Treatments for Cat Coughing Causes
What if your Cat is Gagging?
My cat is gagging. How long should I wait to take them to the vet?
First off, cat gagging is not a typical occurrence for most felines. Sure they may seem to gag with the occasional hairball, but if a cat is gagging consistently for a day or more, please consult your veterinarian.
What does cat gagging indicate?
There are several possible causes of gagging in cats, many of which will require medical attention.
Common causes of cat gagging
These are the most common causes of your cat gaggingL
- Foreign body swallowed
- Dental disease
- Nerve problems
What should I do next?
Persistent gagging is a definite sign that the cat is uncomfortable, and no pet parent wants that. A vet consultation and prompt treatment are necessary.
Causes of persistent gagging tend to get worse and more challenging to manage the longer they are left untreated.
Remedies for cat gagging
When it comes to remedies for cat gagging, one of the best things you can do is to reduce irritants in your cat’s environment.
That said, while there are many ways you can help your kitty in the home, you might not like them!
Cat Gagging Do’s and Don’ts
|Keep cat at a healthy weight||Smoke!!!|
|Encourage an anti-inflammatory diet – avoid grains altogether||Use bleach to clean your cat’s litter pan (use vinegar and warm water instead)|
|Keep the environment stress free; cats are extra sensitive to change||Use your fireplace (often)|
|Switch to organic cleaners.||Use aerosol sprays|
|Invest in an ionic air purifier||Use anything that emits a strong aroma (scented candles, incense, perfumes, etc)|
My Cat is Getting Hairballs!
Cat’s like to be clean, and they have tiny spines all over their tongues to aid in their self-care called papillae. While these are great for combing and grooming oneself, they also cause cats to ingest their fur.
The body will expel much of the hair through the cat’s faeces, but that isn’t always the case, as many cat owners know. Occasionally and inevitably, a cat will cough up a hairball.
What does a cat with a hairball sound like?
Kennel cough sound can be surprisingly similar to the sound of a hairball hack; however, hairballs are much more prevalent and typically harmless.
Like when a dog keeps trying to cough something up, a cat will emit a dry, breathy hack, leading to the gagging that ultimately releases the ball of fur out of the intestinal tract.
Common causes of hairballs
Of course, long-haired kitties will get hairballs more frequently than short-haired cats, but a cat with fur is a cat with hairballs.
Sometimes, hairballs can get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to severe complications that require medical attention.
Cat hairball treatment
Here are some ways to help a cat with a hairball:
- Petroleum jelly
- Coconut oil
- Hairball lubricants
A little petroleum jelly softens the hair, and encourages the ridding of the hairball.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to food daily to help eliminate hairballs. If a cat is gagging like they are coughing up a hairball for more than a day or two, consult a veterinarian.
Coconut oil is just one of the magically organic antibiotics that nature has to offer, and it also has many benefits that can help your hacking pet.
Coconut oil is a natural antimicrobial and antibiotic that can benefit cats in many ways, including:
- Help with allergies
- Dry skin
- Overall coat health
- Support immune system
- Help with hairballs
- Reduce arthritis inflammation
- Improve bad breath
- Maintain a healthy gut
Coconut oil should be introduced slowly. The recommended dose for cats is 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon once a day as needed. However, an overweight cat may want to explore other options not to gain unnecessary weight.
Many hairball lubricants are available at pet stores and online like this one. Do your research, check reviews, look closely at the ingredient list, and follow directions.
There is no pumpkin spice, but plain old canned pumpkin is very beneficial to cats and dogs suffering from digestive issues, including hairballs.
Pumpkin contains a large fibre that helps eliminate hairballs in the intestinal tract. Pumpkin also supports the mucus membranes of the digestive tract, smoothing the process of hairball elimination.
100% canned pumpkin is the best option for kitties. Be sure there are no fillers, preservatives, spices, or sugar.
What’s with the Cat Coughing Meme?
If you’re on literally any social networking platform, you are familiar with this meme of a cat coughing.
In November of 2018, an Instagram account, @idascreatures, posted a photoshopped picture of a coughing cat.
Later, a Twitter user @aliahgeyes paired the picture with, “This is how little kids cough”, and it was all over. After over 200,000 retweets and 630,000 likes, this cat is everywhere.
So, how much truth is there to this poor coughing cat?
Well, in the photoshopped version, the cat’s eyes have somehow reversed to face out. Phew! Rest assured that coughing has never made a cat’s eyes cross any more than they were initially.
The tongue! If you catch a kitty coughing up a hairball, you’ll see its eyes get big, and its little pink tongue sticking out, sometimes further than you’d imagine!
So, there is (some) truth to the cat coughing meme, but who wants that kind of publicity?!
Hopefully, a pet owner never has to see a choking cat, but just in case, it is imperative to be prepared.
Choking can occur due to a hairball that the cat cannot expel, a piece of food, a toy, a twist tie, or a hair tie that gets caught in the windpipe. In the case of a choking cat, there are a few steps to take.
- Stay as calm as possible
- Determine whether they are completely blocked or not
- Take immediate action if there is a full blockage
In the event that you need to remove an obstacle from a cat’s windpipe, there are two courses of action that you can take:
- Mouth sweep
- Cat Heimlich maneuver
Here are the steps to take to conduct a mouth sweep:
- Gently open your cat’s jaws
- See if you can spot the obstruction
- If you can, sweep the mouth with your index finger, but be careful NOT to jam the object further down the throat
- If you can’t remove the foreign body without pushing it down further, DON’T do anything – take your cat directly to the emergency room
- If you cannot see anything in the cat’s mouth, then move to Heimlich maneuver
Here’s how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your cat:
- Hold your kitty with its back against your chest with the feet hanging
- Use hands to gently but firmly push on the belly with quick, upward thrusts
- Do this 5x
- If the first round doesn’t dislodge the object, then:
- Hold the kitty by the back hips carefully and try to sweep the mouth again
- Tap its back firmly and check its mouth again
- If these steps don’t work, immediately take the kitty to the vet!
Cat hiccups are atypical and occur more in kittens than in adult cats. However, cats of any age can experience cat hiccups.
So, what causes hiccups?
Hiccups are typical responses when the diaphragm contracts involuntarily as the glottis (the centre of the larynx containing the vocal cords) closes.
As with humans, hiccups can be caused by eating too fast, not chewing food well enough, or overeating. Hairballs can also cause a cat to hiccup.
If a cat is hiccuping for more than a day, it could mean something more serious is going on, like:
- Heart disease
- Foreign body ingestion
- Food allergies
As a pet owner who only wants what’s best for your animals, doing your research and due diligence to stay aware and informed about your cat’s health is the best thing you can do.
With you in its corner, your cat will enjoy a long, healthy life filled with love, fun, and fuzzy cuddles.
And, hopefully, a few less hairballs (or at least easy ones).