Wheezing In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

May 15, 2023

Wheezing In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

Taking care of a cat goes beyond feeding it healthy and nutritious food. You must be aware of certain symptoms that may warn you about various health concerns in your cat.

A vet must address serious health concerns, while some other issues can be treated at home. Cat wheezing is common among domestic cats and may be caused due to a variety of reasons..

Here are some of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options if you have a wheezing cat.

What Is Cat Wheezing Or Asthma?

Cats can get wheezing or asthma due to many reasons. It affects between 1% and 5% of cats. Wheezing in cats can be a mild case or something more severe. It’s vital to identify the symptoms to understand the severity of the condition and opt for treatment.

Wheezing in cats is a chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Similar to humans, wheezing is often triggered by allergens of stress.

The narrowing of the airways makes it hard for oxygen to reach the lungs, making it very difficult for cats with wheezing to breathe.

What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Wheezing Cat?

There is no adequate cure for asthma in cats, so it’s a lifelong condition. However, proper treatment can manage asthma, so cats with this condition can lead normal and active lives.

Wheezing typically develops in cats between the ages of two and eight years.

Causes For Wheezing In Cats

Cat asthma in itself doesn’t have a particular cause. All types of cats from every breed and gender are susceptible to this condition. However, Himalayan and Siamese breeds have higher rates of wheezing.

Several triggers could be causing wheezing attacks in cats, including the following:

  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pollen
  • Grass
  • Perfume
  • Household chemicals
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Any existing health issues or diseases

Cats typically start showing wheezing symptoms within a few minutes of being exposed to the trigger.

What’s Normal?

Any amount of wheezing shouldn’t be ignored and should not be considered normal. You should contact the vet when you realize your cat is wheezing.

The cause may be a throat irritant or a more serious issue. A vet can diagnose the problem and propose an appropriate treatment plan.

Symptoms Shown By Cats With Asthma Or Wheezing

Your cat may display one or more of the following symptoms if it has wheezing.

Lethargy/ Fatigue

Your cat may be lethargic after playing. It may even breathe heavier than normal after playing or engaging in physical activity.

Lethargy could be a sign of low oxygen in the blood, resulting from swollen or constricted air passages.

Rapid Breathing

Cats typically breathe at a rate of 25 to 30 breaths per minute at rest. If you identify your cat breathing at a higher rate than this, you should be concerned about it.

Your cat shouldn’t be breathing more than 40 breaths per minute when it is not excited or playing. If not, it could be an indication of wheezing.

Breathing Through The Mouth

If your cat is breathing through its mouth or panting, it could indicate asthma.

You could identify the following symptoms in your cat in the event of an asthma attack.

Squatting Position With Neck Extended

Your cat will extend its neck upwards and direct its body low to the ground to get as much air as possible when wheezing.

Blue Lips And Gums

When oxygen can’t reach the lungs, red blood cells cannot transport enough oxygen to the other areas of the body. It is why your cat’s lips and gums start to turn blue.


Coughing is one of the most obvious things you notice in a wheezing cat. Coughing in cats sounds very different to people coughing.

Coughing will sound more like your cat is trying to pass a hairball.

How To Diagnose Wheezing In Cats?

Below are a few of the ways which vets use to determine if asthma is what is causing the above symptoms in your cat.

  • Scanning chest x-rays
  • Listening to breaths with a stethoscope
  • Collecting samples

Several other conditions cause similar symptoms, including the following:

  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Feline heartworm
  • Lungworm
  • Foreign bodies

The vet will conduct special tests to differentiate these issues from wheezing and asthmatic conditions in your cat. It also helps to record a video of your cat coughing to help the vet determine the cause of it.

Treatment Options

Different treatment options are there to treat wheezing in cats. The vet will determine which treatment method is best for your cat.

Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation in the airways and are available in oral, injectable, and inhaled forms.

Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators expand the airways that have become constricted. They are used as rescue medication in emergencies and are available in inhaled forms.

How To Provide Support At Home For A Wheezing Cat?

Environmental allergens are the main cause of wheezing, as it is for human beings. Low-dust litters and air purifiers can greatly help wheeze cats with particular respiratory problems.

It’s best to completely avoid or, at the least, limit the use of scented sprays and candles that can lead to wheezing symptoms. Avoid smoking around your cat, and ensure it stays in well-ventilated surroundings.

 Ensure your cat doesn’t roam too far away from home and comes into contact with allergens that could lead to wheezing.

An invisible fence enabled with GPS location will notify you when your cat crosses the boundary and show you exactly where it is at a given moment.

IPet Guides provides reviews of the best invisible fences you can use to prevent your cat from going too far from home.

When To Take Your Cat To A Vet?

If your cat has a severe cough, it’s best to take it to a vet to identify the cause before it worsens. Here’s how you have to respond to a feline wheezing or asthma attack.

  • Remain calm; if not, your cat will start to panic
  • Move your cat to a cool, well-ventilated area
  • Take it to the vet

Final Thoughts

A wheezing cat needs to be treated to help it have a normal life. A vet can determine the appropriate treatment for a cat with asthma or wheezing conditions.

As a cat owner, you need to know what symptoms cats show if they have asthma. It will help owners take their cats to the vet for treatment.

Try to keep your cat away from things like perfumes, cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, mold, and grass. It will help prevent triggering of wheezing symptoms in your cat.

The vet may be able to suggest an appropriate treatment for wheezing in your cat. Common medications used for this condition in cats are  corticosteroids and bronchodilators.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Cats Start Wheezing?

The most common causes of wheezing in cats include dust, mold, cigarette smoke, pollen, grass, perfume, and household chemicals.

How Do You Treat Wheezing In Cats?

The most common medications vets prescribe for wheezing in cats are corticosteroids and bronchodilators.

Is Wheezing A Symptom Of Cat Allergy?

Wheezing could be a symptom of cat allergy. Other symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, chest tightness, facial pain, and shortness of breath.





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