Respiratory Issues in Cats

If your cat has ever suffered from respiratory infections, then you know how serious a health issue it can be. The good news is that many respiratory diseases are treatable when diagnosed early and managed properly.

Upper respiratory infections are most often caused by viruses and bacteria. They’re highly contagious, spreading through aerosol transmission between cats or direct contact with objects contaminated with infectious secretions – such as food/water bowls, litter boxes, toys, bedding, and cages.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs) in cats are quite common and usually caused by viruses or bacteria. While these infections may seem similar to colds in humans, they can be far more serious and cause more permanent damage to the lungs.

Vaccination is vital in preventing these infections and should be strongly encouraged for all young kittens, elderly cats, and those with chronic illnesses. Without the correct vaccination schedule, these cats could develop an upper respiratory infection.

Cats are especially susceptible to feline herpesvirus (feline viral rhinotracheitis or FVR) and feline calicivirus. Both viruses are highly contagious and can be spread via direct contact between infected cats via nose, eyes, or saliva.

Other viruses that can cause an upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats include Bordetella bronchiseptica and chlamydophila felis. These bacteria may also be spread via nasal secretions from an affected cat.

Infections with these organisms usually begin in the nose, throat, and sinuses but can spread to the lungs. If symptoms are severe, chest and skull x-rays, blood tests, and culture/sensitivity testing of discharge from eyes and nose may be necessary.

Symptoms typically resolve on their own within a few days or weeks, though some cats with older and unvaccinated populations may continue to experience sneezing, coughing, and congestion for months or even years.

If your cat has an upper respiratory infection, it’s best to keep them quiet and comfortable until the symptoms subside. They may benefit from using a humidifier that helps loosen any secretions in their nose.

Your veterinarian can diagnose the type of virus or bacteria causing an upper respiratory infection and recommend treatments. In many cases, taking antibiotics will effectively cure the infection while relieving symptoms.

Vets may suggest probiotics or amino acid supplements support a cat’s immune system while it fights off viral infection. Steam therapy is another treatment option that helps relieve congestion and sneezing caused by these conditions.

Lower Respiratory Infections

Many felines experience respiratory issues at some point during their lives, most of which are not serious. However, some of these issues can be life-threatening and should be addressed by your veterinarian promptly.

Respiratory infections can affect the nose, sinuses, mouth, and throat of the upper respiratory tract (upper respiratory tract), airways, or lungs in the lower respiratory tract (lower respiratory tract). These illnesses are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.

Viral upper respiratory infections typically resolve on their own without medical intervention, as the immune system works to fight off and eliminate disease-causing organisms. Antibiotics may be necessary in cases of bacterial upper respiratory infections in cats that are unvaccinated or have underlying conditions like leukemia which weaken their immunity.

Feline respiratory infections are typically spread through direct or indirect contact with infected cats’ nasal, oral, or ocular secretions as well as through indirect contact with contaminated sources like people’s hands, dishes, or objects. They may also spread from one cat to another during their incubation period, which lasts 2-10 days after exposure to an infectious agent.

Caterina’s common respiratory infection (URI) will typically present with symptoms such as sneezing, itching of the nose and eyes, discharge from either nose or eyes, and/or coughing. Depending on what virus or bacteria caused the infection, these signs can range from mild to severe.

Most URIs will resolve on their own within a week, though the incubation period can differ between cats. These infections are most prevalent among unvaccinated cats, young cats, and those with chronic medical conditions.

If the vet suspects your cat’s infection is due to a virus, they may prescribe supportive care to boost its immunity. This could include probiotics or amino acid supplements, which build natural defenses against viruses and bacteria; additionally, decongestant nose drops can help reduce nasal swelling.

Severe respiratory infections can be treated with oxygen therapy, nebulization treatments, and injectable antibiotics. Although these methods are effective at relieving symptoms, they may lead to other issues like pneumonia in those with swollen or infected airways.


Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects one to five percent of cats and can be life-threatening if left untreated. When your cat inhales allergens such as cigarette smoke, dust, pollen, or pet-related chemicals through their nose, their immune system responds by producing an inflammatory response which causes their narrow airways to constrict. This may result in difficulty breathing, coughing or wheezing, or even mucus buildup.

Mild, moderate, and severe asthma attacks can strike at any time of day or night, with symptoms ranging from intermittent wheezing to rapid breathing, open-mouthed coughing or hacking, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

If your cat is having a particularly bad attack, you may observe them crouching low to the ground and extending their neck in an effort to expel something such as a hairball or drool. They will likely also be struggling hard to breathe, which is bound to cause them immense stress.

These are all symptoms of a severe asthma attack in cats, and if your cat is experiencing them, it should see the vet immediately for treatment. Not only will they need immediate relief from their symptoms, but also medication to provide long-term control over their condition.

Asthma can often be linked to bronchitis in cats, a respiratory illness that causes coughing and/or wheezing. Although these conditions can be frightening for your feline friend, both can be effectively managed with the proper medications.

Anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilator medications can be used to help reduce the inflammation caused by a cat’s asthma, while your vet can provide the most suitable type of medication tailored specifically for your pet’s individual needs.

Feline asthma and bronchitis can be effectively managed with anti-inflammatory medications, a bronchodilator, and an antihistamine. These should be given at the first sign of an attack of asthma and then monitored regularly to make sure the medication remains effective.

Heart Failure

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a common respiratory problem among cats. In this condition, the heart cannot effectively pump blood away from its chambers, leading to fluid buildup around the lungs (pulmonary edema) and chest cavity (pleural effusion).

Many cats with these conditions appear healthy at first and do not show any symptoms. However, as the disease progresses and exercise tolerance declines, cats may become inactive or display signs of hiding or lethargy.

When your cat becomes severely ill with heart disease, it could likely succumb if not given proper diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize the early warning signs of heart failure in your pet and take them immediately to a veterinarian for evaluation and further treatment options.

In order to diagnose heart disease, your veterinarian must perform several tests. These include auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), electrocardiograms, and heart ultrasounds. These can be conducted at your veterinarian’s office or by an experienced veterinary cardiologist.

Once your veterinarian has ruled out other potential causes for the symptoms your cat is experiencing; they will conduct a full physical examination of them. They’ll check breathing, heart rate, temperature, and weight to rule out any health issues.

Your cat’s blood pressure should also be checked regularly. Low blood pressure can result in decreased oxygen levels within the blood, leading to difficulty breathing.

If your vet suspects your cat has heart failure, they will provide medication to help manage symptoms and enhance the quality of life for your furry friend. Some drugs work by increasing oxygen in the bloodstream, while others reduce high blood pressure or irregular heartbeats.

Other drugs used to treat heart failure include diuretics and vasodilators, which help the blood vessels open up so more blood can flow through them. Positive inotropes (drugs that make the heart beat faster and increase oxygen flow to muscles) may also be prescribed.

Surgery may be required to drain fluid from your cat’s heart, chest, or lungs. While this procedure is often expensive and only performed by a veterinary cardiologist, if your feline friend is diagnosed with congestive heart failure at an early stage, it could significantly improve their quality of life.