Reasons for a Cat to Wheeze

The flat-faced Persian is more susceptible to wheezing than most cats are.
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The good news: Your kitty's wheezing isn't caused by her smoking cigarettes behind your back. The bad news: The wheezing probably means something's medically wrong with her, and the list of suspects includes serious conditions. Back to positive news: Your vet can probably cure whatever problem plagues her.


The lovely coughing up of wet, undigested hair is commonplace for most cats. Although daily brushing can reduce the occurrence of hairballs, your kitty will often cough one up occasionally. When she's ready to spit out the long trail of hair, she'll bend her head down and begin wheezing and coughing. The wheezing is especially noticeable, but it will stop once she's either successful or unsuccessful in getting the hairball out.

Flat Face

Flat-faced kitties are often plagued with a decreased airflow, thanks to their short noses. This condition is known as brachycephalic syndrome. It can make breathing a chore sometimes, especially if your cat just finished running around the house like a madwoman.

Her airways will often sound obstructed. This noise might mimic wheezing, or your kitty could actually be wheezing. Flat-faced breeds often have runny or wet noses, which also can clog up the airways and cause a sound like wheezing.

Respiratory Problems

Any illness that messes with your kitty's respiratory system can cause wheezing. That includes asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections and chlamydia.

With bronchitis and asthma, the wheezing sounds your kitty makes are probably actual wheezing. For sinus infections, chlamydia and similar conditions, the sound probably results from a stuffy or runny nose.

Infections such as pneumonia, or constant inflammation as with bronchitis, are likely to cause unrelenting wheezing in your feline. In contrast, a condition such as asthma, which comes and goes, causes wheezing only when it's triggered.

Worms and Blood Clots

Parasitic worms aren't just freeloading bums that use your kitty for meals, they're also extremely dangerous if they nestle into her lungs. Both lungworms and heartworms can live in your cat's lungs, causing a host of symptoms that include wheezing, coughing, lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness and vomiting.

A lot of these symptoms are associated with a ton of other conditions, especially respiratory problems. That's a big reason the parasites can go undetected for a long time.

Heartworms also can cause pulmonary thromboembolism, which happens when a blood clot inhibits blood flow in your kitty's lungs. This causes labored breathing, which can lead to wheezing and coughing. The condition, which also can be caused by other illnesses, can be fatal if your feline doesn't get help.


Even if you believe your kitty's wheezing might be caused by her flat face or a stuffy nose, take her to your vet as soon as possible. It's better to rule out serious conditions that could pose a threat to her life rather than to make an assumption.

Respiratory illnesses, worms and blood clots can be diagnosed with blood tests, ultrasounds and X-rays. Medication can take care of most conditions, and surgery can help with severe brachycephalic syndrome.

If at any time your kitty collapses, coughs or vomits blood, pants, or appears disoriented, get her to your vet immediately.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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