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           Asthma and asthma/bronchitis complex are extremely common problems in my feline patient population. The symptoms are often confusing to the cat’s person. A frequent symptom is coughing, but most people mistake a cat’s cough for retching or gagging. When a cat coughs it stretchs its chin out and sown and the abdomen will contract. There isn’t usually a loud coughing sound, but more a wheeze or a rattle which is muted. A persons first instinct will be to grab the cat and move it off best rug, because they believe the cat is about to vomit. Often the situation is further confused by the fact that the cat may drool – making it look like wretching or regurgitation.

           Often people consider this to “a hairball cough”. I don’t really believe in hairball coughs. Hairball obstruction, hairball constipation and hairball vomiting I do believe in, but not the cough. Cats with asthma, may wheeze but this isn’t tremendously frequent. If you carefully observe a cat’s breathing you could detect differences in the character of the respirations in a cat with pulmonary or cardiac problems.

           Cats with asthma/bronchitis complex will often breathe more then 25 times per minute (in and out being one respiration) while asleep. Also, there is a light catch in the respiration often seen as a lift in the abdomen that seems mildly asynchronous to the movement of the ribs and chest wall. Very careful observation may indicate that this “abdominal lift” is associated with expiration not inspiration.

           With other problems like pneumonia or fluid in the lungs from cardiac problems, the cat has more difficulty breathing in so their effect is more inspiratory. These differences are very subtle and can be confusing even to experienced Veterinarians. Most breathing problems or coughing should be assayed via a set of chest X-rays. Your Veterinarian will prescribe specific medications for your cat’s particular problem. These drugs might be cortisone type drugs, antibiotics and or bronchodialactors. Below are some helpful hints in order to deal with your cat if he or she is diagnosed with ashma/bronchitis complex. Also, avoid known allergic foods particularly any containing fish.

Home Care for Asthmatics

1. Count sleeping respiration’s/observe coughing and report these regularly to veterinarian especially if either is increasing
A. “Sleeping” = deeply enough to not awaken if a hand/shadow is passed overhead.

B. Count respirations for a whole minute or a fraction thereof and multiply by appropriate Factor (ex. 15 sec. X 4). Breathing in and out = 1 respiration.

C. Normal rate = 18 to 22 respirations per minute; we’re looking for a general pattern of increase/decrease over time, especially as medication takes effect or dosage changes.

D. Keep written record or notes on a calendar of above; also note any coughing episodes. Some asthmatics need constant low levels of medication; others have intermittent or seasonal needs.

1. Eliminate irritants in the environment.

A. Use non-dusty litter; we recommend the 90% dust free clay types or cedar-shavings type (Katgo brand) or pellet type (Letter Green brand) and recycled newspaper pellets like Litter-luv or Yesterdays News.

B. Avoid aerosol sprays around the cat, and “86” friends who smoke excessively.

C. Consult our “Basic Care Sheet” for recommended brands and flavors of canned food; avoid fish and semi-moist types (allergens).

2. “Stress-venting” activity on a regular basis

A. Pick a pleasurable activity on (a type of play, stroking session, brushing) and try to repeat it at the same time each day; your cat will become geared to this regular activity (which need only take a couple of minutes) and will vent internalized stress.


The Cat Practice is located at 145 W 24th Street on the 3rd floor. Phone: 212-677-1401 Fax: 212-677-2088