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Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.

Common Illness in Cats: Respiratory Issues

10/03/2011 by Colleen Williams
October 3rd, 2011 by Colleen Williams

cats respiratory issuesThere are several fairly common illnesses in cats that affect the respiratory system. They can cause difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, and a painful, persistent cough. Use this guide to help you demystify your cat’s symptoms and determine if they may be suffering from one of these illnesses.

Upper Respiratory Infection (Chylamydiosis)

This highly contagious, bacteria-caused disease will present as cold-like symptoms in your cat. Kittens, with their underdeveloped immune systems, are particularly susceptible to this illness. Symptoms consist of:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes with discharge
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite

Upper respiratory infections can also lead to feline pneumonia, if left untreated. (See below!)

Your vet will test a sample of your cat’s eye discharge to diagnosis the infection, and may also do an x-ray if they suspect pneumonia-related fluid in the lungs. A round of antibiotics given either orally or as eye drops will be prescribed, sometimes taking as long as six weeks to fully cure your pet.

A vaccine is available as a preventative measure. Quarantining infected pets is highly advised, as this illness is extremely contagious.


Just as in humans, this disease can be present either as a chronic (long-lasting) or acute (sudden) condition. The exact cause of asthma is unknown, but environmental allergens and parasitic lung infections can trigger asthmatic episodes. Cats with both chronic and acute asthma will show the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing, especially through the nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Blue discoloration of skin

A detailed physical examination and medical history are required for diagnosis, along with several diagnostic tests to determine any triggers. If your cat has a life-threatening asthma attack, emergency treatment is required; oxygen therapy and medications will help to reopen the animal’s airway. A treatment plan will be devised, depending on the type of asthma. Oftentimes removing the trigger will cure your cat.

Remove all air fresheners, cat litter with fine particles, and chemical air sprays – these can initiate asthma attacks. Refrain from smoking indoors as well. Some ingredients in cat food may also trigger episodes; talk to your vet about any potential allergens.

Respiratory conditions can be very dangerous to your pet, and can come with hefty vet bills. If your cat displays any unusual symptoms, seek veterinary care.