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why is my cat coughing and sneezing

Why Is My Cat Coughing and Sneezing? Is It a Cold?

As flu and cold viruses circulate, it’s pretty typical to hear a sniffle, sneeze, or cough here or there. But what happens when those sounds are coming from your cat?!

It may leave you wondering: Why is my cat coughing so much? Why are they sneezing? Can cats get colds?

Can Cats Get Colds?

The short answer is YES! Cats can catch colds which are more commonly referred to as feline upper respiratory infections. In fact, the symptoms are very similar to the common cold that affects humans. Sneezing and watery eyes are usually the first signs that your cat has a cold. But look out for these other symptoms too.

Cat Colds: Signs & Symptoms

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Sniffles
  • Watery eyes
  • Squinting or holding their eyes closed
  • Runny nose
  • Mild fever (see your veterinarian for anything over 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Reduced appetite
  • Occasional coughing
  • Congestion leading to open-mouth breathing

Feline upper respiratory infections can be caused by bacteria and viruses, just like colds in people.

How Do Cats Catch Colds?

‘Cat colds’, or upper respiratory infections, are easily transmissible between felines through coughing and sneezing. Cats who live outdoors with other cats or have been boarded with other cats are particularly susceptible to catching colds.

Think about how much cats love to groom one another, and it’s not hard to understand how easily infections can be passed along. 

Kittens and senior cats are more likely to catch colds. And cats with compromised immune systems are at particularly high risk of getting sick. 

But what if your cat’s sneezing and coughing are not due to a cold, what could be causing these symptoms?

Why Is My Cat Coughing?

The most common cause of cat coughing is hairballs. Even so, although cats do cough, it’s usually not as much as other animals. So if you’ve ruled out the possibility of your cat having a cold or hairballs, and their cough persists, it’s time to look at other causes.

There are several reasons why your cat is coughing, some of which are very serious. A few examples include asthma, other types of infections, certain parasites, and allergies.

Asthma & Bronchitis

Feline asthma is an acute or chronic inflammation of the airways. Feline bronchitis refers to coughing or wheezing that comes from inflammation in the lower airways. 

Cats have sensitive noses. A host of things can set off your cat’s asthma: pollen, cigarette smoke, perfume, dust from clay cat litter, essential oils, and even mold/mildew. When triggered, your kitty’s airways will spasm, making it difficult for them to breathe. 

Cats who are between two and eight years old, are overweight, or have dental diseases tend to be at a higher risk for developing feline asthma and bronchitis. 

Parasitic Worms

Parasitic worms, like heartworms, can cause your cat to cough. Feline heartworm disease can actually be life-threatening. The parasites are transferred through mosquito bites and can bring on a slew of other symptoms, besides coughing. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

If your cat has a persistent cough and displays any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian right away.

In general, it’s normal for cats to cough. If your kitty is otherwise healthy, there’s little need for concern. But if your cat’s coughing is severe, persistent, productive, or recurring, take your kitty to the vet.

It’s important to have your cat evaluated in order to pinpoint what’s really causing your cat to cough so much. 

Why Is My Cat Sneezing So Much?

Let’s admit it, your cat’s tiny little sneezes are pretty adorable. But is there ever a time when you should worry about why your cat is sneezing so much?

Thankfully, most causes of sneezing are easily treatable and nothing to worry about. Aside from the common cold, your cat may be sneezing due to: 

Nasal and Sinus Issues

This can be a common complication of your cat’s cold. In addition to their cold symptoms, you may notice yellow or green nasal discharge. And your kitty may even begin pawing at their face. 

Your veterinarian may recommend a nasal flush, antibiotics, or steroids to open up their nasal cavities.


Allergy season can induce sneezing fits in people, but that’s not always the case in cats. Usually, allergy problems show up as skin irritation. However, occasionally, pollen or indoor allergens can cause your kitty to sneeze.

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Can Cats Get Colds FAQs

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough?

Although it’s much less common, it is possible for cats to catch kennel cough. The bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica causes kennel cough in both cats and dogs. It causes an infection in the throat and upper respiratory tract.

The bacteria spreads through coughing, sneezing, shared water bowls, and toys. It can even be passed between pet parents and other fur family members!

Cats can get kennel cough from infected dogs, and humans can accidentally spread the bacteria from one infected pet to another.

Fortunately, kennel cough tends to be mild in cats. But if your kitty’s symptoms worsen, or they are immunocompromised, visit your veterinarian right away.

When Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

If your cat catches a cold, their symptoms should resolve within a week or two. But keep a watchful eye on them in case their symptoms don’t improve. An unresolved cold could turn into something more serious like pneumonia.

This is especially important if your cat falls into a high-risk category because they are unvaccinated, nursing, elderly, a kitten, or has a compromised immune system. In cases like these, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
And if your kitty’s condition worsens, they have difficulty breathing or stop eating, take them to the vet right away.

How Can I Treat My Cat at Home?

When your kitty is under the weather, you’ll want to keep them as comfortable as possible. Add warm, cozy blankets to their favorite napping spots.

Try warming up their food to make it easier to swallow and to encourage their appetite. If the air in your home is dry, you can try using a humidifier to help their breathing. 

If your kitty has a lot of gunky discharge around their eyes, use a cotton ball soaked in warm water to clean the area as needed. You can also try a product like this one from Vetericyn. Use code PETLIVING at checkout and save 20%.

At Pet Living, we love this ex-purrt tip for when your kitty is congested: place them in their carrier and place a bowl of hot water in front of the cage. Then cover both with a blanket for approximately 15 minutes. This small breathing treatment should give your cat’s stuffy nose a bit of relief.

Note: Never give human cold medication (or any medication without the advice of your vet) to your cat. 

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Getting A Cold?

Although there’s no cure for your cat’s cold, there is a vaccine. It’s quite effective at reducing the frequency and severity of infection in cats.

Keeping your cat indoors will also help cut down their risk of catching a cold. Of course, preventative measures like regular visits to the veterinarian and at-home wellness checks can also reduce their risks.

check your cat's health with this free checklist

The Tail End

It’s true, cats can get colds! With some extra TLC, your kitty’s symptoms should pass in no time. 

On the other paw (pun intended), if your cat is constantly coughing or sneezing, there may be another explanation. Visit your veterinarian to rule out more serious illnesses.

In the meantime, keep them comfy and give them lots of love while they’re on the road to recovery.

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

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