Can cats get asthma?

2c0d2fbf-1b65-46b5-b654-800a43872165

Did you know? Cats can suffer from asthma too. We speak to one cat owner about how to deal with feline asthma.

Donna Stead, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has first-hand experience of caring for a cat with feline asthma, as her gorgeous tabby, Heidi, lives with the condition. Here, Donna tells us about what it’s like to have a cat with asthma, and shares her experiences, advice, and top tips.

How do you know if your cat has asthma?

Q) How did you discover Heidi had asthma, and how did you feel when she was diagnosed?

Heidi had developed a cough which appeared as if she was trying to retch up a hairball but nothing was ever produced. The cough started to become more and more frequent so I did a bit of online research and the general consensus was if your cat has a cough you must seek a vet’s advice. So, I immediately made an appointment with our vet. After several examinations, an X-ray, and the luck of me having been able to video Heidi having a coughing attack and showing that to the vet, she was diagnosed with feline asthma. The cough was actually an asthma attack!

I was shocked when she was diagnosed with asthma as I’d never heard of a cat with asthma before, you think of it as a human disease, and then I thought how on Earth do we treat this? Heidi was just a little over two years old when she developed the cough and was diagnosed with feline asthma a few months after.

What does a cat asthma attack look like?

Heidi will squat down on all fours; her shoulders will be hunched and her neck will be extended forward. Then she will give a few raspy breaths that builds up to a cough which does look and sound like she will vomit, but she doesn’t. Afterwards, she will lick her lips a few times along with increased swallowing and then continue as if nothing has happened.

Does asthma affect a cat's everyday life?

Q) Does asthma affect Heidi's everyday life? If so, how?

With Heidi, luckily her asthma does not affect her in any way, she is a perfectly normal and happy kitty, she is very playful, cheeky, and loving. Asthma attacks can appear out of the blue and last approximately one to two minutes. After an attack she continues with whatever she was doing before it started.

What is the treatment for a cat with asthma?

Q) Is Heidi OK with her treatment?

Heidi was initially treated with steroid tablets just to see how she got on and if it helped with the attacks. At first, they really helped her and we saw a decrease in her coughing but over time they became more frequent, so our vet asked if I had ever seen cats using an inhaler. Well, I’d done plenty of research on feline asthma once she was diagnosed, so yes, I had actually come across them. The vet advised that was the next step as keeping Heidi on steroid tablets would not be good for her health long term.

I searched the internet for hints and tips on how to train a cat to use an inhaler. Together with what I’d read and my own theory on how to train Heidi, I developed a way that proved to be very successful and now she accepts the inhaler once a day, every day and it’s just a normal part of her daily routine. The great thing about inhaler treatment is the medication targets the airways directly.

Top feline asthma tips

Q) Do you have any tips for owners who have cats with asthma?

So, if your cat has a cough please seek your vet’s advice, that’s the most important thing. It may not be asthma but it’s always best to get these things checked out.

With feline asthma there are many changes you can make that will help your cat have less frequent asthma attacks...

  • Invest in good quality dust-free litter.
  • Do not use scented candles or plug ins around the home.
  • Avoid using deodorants and hairsprays near your cat.
  • Keep your home clean and dust free.
  • Invest in a humidifier that will help put moisture into the air.
  • Do not smoke near your cat.
  • Keep your cat’s weight down and make sure they get plenty of exercise.

Q) Have you got any advice a professional has given you?

Asthma cannot be cured but it can be managed with the right care and medication. Monitor your cat and if you see any changes, seek your vet’s help immediately. Stay calm when your kitty is having an asthma attack as stress can make things worse for your feline companion.

Facts about feline asthma...

  • It is an immunity-related condition and can be triggered by an allergy or stress.
  • It causes chronic inflammation of the small passageways in the lungs.
  • Feline asthma is more common that what we think.
  • It usually develops between the ages of two and eight years.
  • It can appear in any sex or breed of cat.
  • Cats can be treated using an inhaler that is attached to a face mask and chamber.
  • They can also be treated in tablet or injection form.

Meet Heidi

Check out @heidi.kat on Instagram to see and hear more about how Heidi lives with feline asthma.

Her account shows examples of what an asthma attack looks like, and useful pictures and videos on how to train your cat to use an inhaler.

Plus, plenty of cute photos of Heidi's everyday life.