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Cats can cough for many reasons, and they tend to cough a bit differently than dogs. It often looks like they are trying to hack up a hairball, with their little necks stretched out in front of them. While they may ultimately need some veterinary testing performed, there are a few things cat parents can do at home to help a cat’s cough.
Cats are very sensitive to strong smells, odors, and dust. If a cat parent notices their cat coughing a lot, try to reduce any incense, smoke, or strong detergent odors in the home. Thoroughly clean and vacuum carpets, hardwood floors, blinds, curtains, and couches. Regularly wash the bedding where the cat or kitten sleeps, too, even if that means the human's own bed. Tried that and still hear the little buddy coughing? An air filter may help reduce the dust and pollen in the air.
Cat allergies could be the possible trigger if a cat coughing a lot. When a thorough cleaning of the home isn’t enough, antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or cetirizine can help alleviate coughing symptoms. If a cat is still coughing intermittently, it would be a good idea to consult a veterinarian for diagnostic testing or feline prescription medications.
Chest x-rays can be very helpful in figuring out why a cat is coughing. It can determine if the cat has bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, heart disease, or neoplasia. A fecal or heartworm test may also help show whether a parasite is causing or contributing to the cough. The appropriate long term treatment will depend on the root cause.
If a cat is just occasionally coughing without distress, try cleaning or using antihistamines at home. But if the cat seems distressed, has pale gums, or is open-mouth breathing, they should be seen by a veterinarian right away. Chronic cat coughing could mean they’re having a severe asthma attack or they may have heart issues that need to be treated as soon as possible. When in doubt, have the cat checked out! Chat with a Fuzzy veterinarian immediately if concerned about any of these possible causes so a licensed technician or veterinary professional can provide recommendations.