Diagnosis: Feline Asthma

Mon, May 24, 2010

Health & Nutrition


My little Simba was recently diagnosed with feline asthma, so I wanted to share my experience with you, just in case you ever notice similar symptoms in your cat. A couple of months ago, she started having coughing spells, like she was trying to cough up a big hairball that just wouldn’t dislodge itself. I tried giving her hairball medicine, but the spells got worse and increased in frequency so I took her to the vet for a check-up. Of course, she wouldn’t make the noise for the doctor, but a chest x-ray did show some dark patches around her lungs, which is an indication of asthma. While we waited a few days for the blood work to come back to rule out any other problems, the doctor recommended that I look for some videos online of asthmatic cats to see if that is what Simba was doing. That was such a great suggestion, because I found the following video (if you can’t see the video below in your email, click here to watch it on the site):

I am truly grateful to Dave’s owner for posting this video because it helped me understand exactly what Simba was doing. Just so you know, Dave had already received her medicine when her owner shot this video. They were waiting for the medicine to kick in and he thought that the video might be helpful to others, and he was right!

My vet prescribed a number of medicines, some to get the asthma under control initially, others for maintenance, and still others for emergency attacks. It was a bit overwhelming. I was also nervous about giving Simba the inhaler, which is the most important part of the treatment. The inhaler is administered with a special device called the Aerokat, but I didn’t completely understand how to use it from the directions, so YouTube came to the rescue again! I found the following video of a woman demonstrating how to use the Aerokat and it really gave me the confidence I needed:

It has been about two weeks since Simba started her asthma treatment and I’m pleased to report that the attacks lessened over the first few days, and now I haven’t seen one in about a week. I’m not sure, but Simba seems to know that the inhaler is helping her, so she takes her dose twice a day with relative ease, although she is nowhere near as nice as the kitty in the video.

Feline asthma can be life threatening for cats. If you would like more information, please read this excellent overview article from Renee L. Austin, just posted this week over at The Conscious Cat, and also visit FelineAsthma.org.

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69 Responses to “Diagnosis: Feline Asthma”

  1. 1

    This is a crazy coincidence, one of my cats just got diagnosed with feline asthma today! Thank you so much for the information and I’m glad your Simba is doing better.

  2. 2

    Oh my god that’s eXACTLY what my cat does. Since I moved it has gotten better; I lived in an old house before and now live in a new condo. My vets all said they don’t know what it is, we even did cell counts and everything!! I’m going to book an appointment to talk about this now. I even showed my vet a video of what he does too and it’s exactly that… wow. Thanks A LOT.

  3. 3

    This is a really, really useful post, and I like it way better than the cutesy cat art posts! Did you ever notice anything about Simba’s breathing prior to the hairballish coughs? My cat has a bit of a grunt sometimes, and I worry that it is asthma-related.

  4. 4

    My cat, Dori also was diagnosed with asthma. It’s been almost a year. The symptoms are sometimes coming back, but still manageable.. Glad to hear that Simba got stable.

  5. 5

    My Sesame was diagnosed with feline asthma about two years ago. We were managing it with monthly shots at first, but we’ve since switched to daily pills, which isn’t going well. We’ve been considering doing the Aerokat, but weren’t sure where to get the actual inhaler medicine from. Did your vet prescribe it to you and fill it the prescription, or did you have to purchase it from a pharmacy?

  6. 6

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My 6 year old cat has had these ‘attacks’ a handful of times in her lifetime & like you I thought maybe it was a lodged hairball. I will definitely keep a closer eye out now to be sure they don’t become frequent occurrences.

  7. 7

    Hi Janell. My cat has it too. His isn’t as bad to where he has to have the inhalers but he gets a shot every few months. It’s funny you posted this because I have to make his appointment for his next one. Good luck!

  8. 8

    Jocelyn – yes, Simba was making a strange grunting noise when she was having an attack, like the cat in the video. That was the big change that I noticed as it started to get worse.

    Bethany – My vet wrote a prescription for the inhaler, which I then filled at the regular pharmacy. It’s actually the same asthma inhaler that people use. I purchased the Aerokat from my vet.

  9. 9

    I am so glad you are sharing this! We have two sibling kittens both diagnosed with asthma a year ago. One was open mouth breathing and the other coughing and now they both get the Aerokat twice a day. From everything I have read, the Aerokat is absolutely the best long-term treatment for feline asthma. I didn’t think there was any way I’d be able to do it but there are some great message boards out there full of supportive people and great advice if it’s okay to share them:

    Most cats can live a long normal life with this issue but it is so important to recognize the symptoms and most people are not aware of it, so thanks for writing about it.

  10. 10

    Thank you so much for posting this! Magellan has been coughing a bit like this, though not as much since we moved. It never occurred to me that it could be asthma.

  11. 11

    We had a cat years ago with asthma -way back when they’d just started making the Aerocat. The yahoo group that Tamara mentioned was THE MOST IMPORTANT thing I ever read about asthma. And the moderators are super helpful. We trained our cat to use the inhaler (easier than you might think) and he lived a long, normal life. We now have a 2nd cat with asthma, although his only flares up at certain times of the year.

    I also have a video and still shots of my cats using the inhaler that I’ve shared with others. Thank you very much for writing about this!

  12. 12

    Another great site for asthma treatment is http://www.fritzthebrave.com. There is also a feline asthma inhaled meds group on Yahoo that has links to discount pharmacies (mainly in Canada) where you can get a better price on the inhalers.

    I’m so glad your vet started you with the Aerokat rather than the steroid pills–that shows they’re up to date on their treatment of asthmatic cats! Since I know that we’re both in Phoenix, would you mind sharing the name of your clinic with me? (via email would be fine) I’m always looking for good vet clinics to refer friends to.

  13. 13
    Mary Kay

    People with asthma can alter their diet to decrease asthmatic episodes… do you suppose that may help kitties???

  14. 14

    thanks! my cat pearl has feline asthma too and we’ve got the aerokat. she’s also got herpes and it flairs up often in form of eye infections and she’s very prone to upper respiratory infections which i treat with antibiotic shots. the vet gave me a lysine paste which we put in her food and it really helps her immunity.

    the BIG THING i wanted to add here is make sure you’re using a natural, low dust litter if your cat is asthmatic. i use nature’s miracle and its been great – and made a very big difference in how often she was having attacks. i also switched to natural, grain free food and she’s been healthier overall ever since.

  15. 15

    A coincidense of impeccable timing!!! My Bruce (looks a lot like Simba!) JUST had an attack 5 minutes ago! I was talking to him and holding asking what was wrong and how can I help. He doesn’t speak English that well yet, so it was hard to understand, but I think he said “check your computer” …. Strangely enough, I did and the very next email was from moderncat explaining EVERYTHING… SO THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  16. 16

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy to hear that your Simba was so quickly diagnosed and that she seems to be responding well to the therapy!

    I was largely ignorant of feline asthma until just a couple of months ago when my Bella was diagnosed – incorrectly, it turned out. Her regular vet did NOT do an x-ray, which would have made all the difference in the world. Instead she treated with steroids, which ultimately made Bella’s issues worse.

    After a trip to the local emergency vet on 5/8/10, we learned that it was not asthma but a mass formed from an apparently chronic condition that had not been diagnosed. At that point, my poor little girl could hardly breathe on her own and was struggling even in the oxygen chamber. We had to make the most difficult decision that any pet lover ever has to make. She is in our hearts and we miss her dearly.

    The moral of my sad story (I guess it’s a cautionary tale)… if your vet thinks your pet may have asthma, be sure to get that x-ray and a definitive clinical diagnosis, even if all the symptoms “seem” to fit to a tee. Otherwise, treatment could actually make things worse.

    Again, so glad that Simba is doing so well!!!

  17. 17

    thanks for posting this, it is good information to have. for those of you with cats that have asthma, do they ever sneeze? one of our cats will randomly have sneezing attacks of like 20 sneezes in a row. maybe he’s allergic to himself? :) he’s never had the breathing thing… i’d love any feedback you have (aside from taking him to the vet, i spoke to my vet and she said not to worry about it…) thanks!

  18. 18
    Gail Cook

    My cat Clyde has been on the inhaler for over a year and has been doing great!
    This is the toll free number for where you can call get the AeroKat inhaler kit. You do not need a prescription.


  19. 19

    My cat Briony also has Feline Asthma and we’ve been treating it for a few years now. Briony gets a Flovent inhaler twice a day and she has really gotten used to this routine. If you are having problems giving Simba the inhaler, I suggest kneeling on the floor with her sitting in front of you. This is much more comfortable for the cat and allows you shake the canister more easily and pat your cats head while the inhaler is administered.

    I also want to second the yahoo groups, they are full of great advice. Also if you continue the inhalers, I order from Express Medicine online. They offer a small discount for yahoo group members, and a 6 month supply is equal to the cost of a single inhaler in the US.

  20. 20

    I’m sorry your kitty has been diagnosed with asthma. It can be very stressful watching them go through the attacks. 2 of my kitties also have asthma, and we’ve been using inhaled meds for about 3 years now. It’s worked remarkably well. In addition to the Yahoo groups listed above, I’ve also found the following site to be very helpful.


    Also, the inhaled maintenance med (fluticasone or flixotide) is really expensive in the US and there are many online Canadian pharmacies that sell for much cheaper. The Yahoo groups have more information on that, including the reputable pharmacies.

    Good luck!

  21. 21
    Babs (formerly Kush's Human)

    I’ve long wondered if KushKush has asthma. Now I’m confident that he does. I’m hoping that some of these sites give a sense on how much it costs to treat.

  22. 22

    Thanks for all the great comments! I will definitley check out the Yahoo group.

    If you’re in central Phoenix and looking for an outstanding cat only vet, please visit Dr. Heather Oyan at Dreamy Draw Cat Hospital, located at 16th Street and Bethany Home next to Starbucks.

  23. 23

    And Fritz the Brave looks great, too!

  24. 24

    My kitty has allergies, but he as asthma-like attacks when he doesn’t get his antihistamines (it doesn’t help that he spits them out sometimes). We just adopted two teenaged kittens (6 and 7 months old), and one of them is showing signs of having asthma or allergies. We’re monitoring him, hoping that it’s nothing serious. Poor kitties. :( I’m glad your kitty was diagnosed and is being managed. It took us forever to find out that our kitty had allergies instead of asthma, and the asthma medication wasn’t helping him at all.

  25. 25
    Zippy, Sadie and Speedy

    Oh yes, go Canadian to save a few, often more than a few, dollars. Sadie gets monthly alergy injections (done by me) and we get her prescription and hubby’s diabetic meds from the same Canadian pharmacy. Saves us big time money. Now I know why my vet kept saying “it’s not asthma” when Sadie had her sneezy/coughing fits. She was sneezing, but because of all the mucus she sounded a little like a duck! What did we do before the internet? How glorious that we have all this information at our fingertips!

  26. 26

    Oh Simba is a darling! Simply beautiful. I read moderncat every day. As a designer – it’s just THE BEST!! I, too, have a cat with asthma. Klaatu is his name. I am one of the owners of a support group for Feline Asthma and Klaatu as one of the poster cats. We’d love to have you share Simba’s story with us and if we can help you in any way we can. I know how confusing it is to start. Been there done that! Please join us at


    Hope to see you there!


    Tammey & Klaatu in New York

  27. 27

    Everyone needs to check and find what allergens in your home are affecting your cats. Do you use carpet cleaners in a powder form? Are they allergic to the cat food you are feeding them? When a cat has asthma, you have to clean up their environment.

  28. 28

    Thank you for publishing this and finding such a great video. As you stated, asthma can look so much like hairballs in cats, so sometimes it is hard to catch. I second jcb28 on the importance of a low-dust litter for asthmatic kitties. Once the attacks are under control, owners might want to talk to their vet and do some research on diet changes. For some cats, certain foods exacerbate the asthma. Corns and other grains, mostly. Also think about all the things we do for human asthmatics, they’ll work for cats too. Removing the cat from the room while vacuuming and dusting, using a static duster, washing bedding more often, etc. Since a cat is so low down, so close to the carpet and the floors, and they looove to sleep on soft things, they can inhale more irritants.

  29. 29

    My Nugget has this kind of intermittent cough. I changed his food to avoid grains and he has these attacks far far less often.

  30. 30

    Good timing with this post. Thanks. I have a cat with asthma and she’s been getting a shot every 2-3 months for several years. Up until now, the shot has stopped the attacks for at least two months but she just had a shot two weeks ago and has had a couple attacks since then.

    I was about to call the vet to discuss this, even though I figured it would be pointless because I’ve already asked about alternative or additional treatment and and got nowhere, but this will give me somewhere to start. I will follow the links and read up on this before I tackle the vet again.

    Terry in #17, my cat sometimes has violent sneezing fits like that. I figured this was simply another symptom of the asthma as, like the wheezing and coughing, it disappears after she’s had a shot.

  31. 31
    Missy K

    My beloved Morticia had asthma.She died in 2004,at the age of 24.
    She had asthma her entire life. It actually,remarkably,stopped completely when my mom quit smoking in 2002 however,but the damage had been ongoing for 22 years already.

    So if anyone smokes around their animals,,you *are* killing them.

    Morticias kidneys failed in the end,but all my years as a NYC paramedic taught me,,endless inhalers and steroids,slowly destroy your adrenals and kidneys.
    But what can you do if they get sick ?

    In 2002,I adopted a badly badly abused cat (Asta) ,that has had bouts of status asthmaticus ,that lasted up to 2 weeks.
    Some asthma has emotional components of course .So stress could trigger him,as could even inscence .

    He cannot stand dust,smoke ,and feline pine litter threw him into a 2 week attack.It has pinesol like additives that cat set off asthma.So if you use feline pine and your cat has asthma,you could be unknowingly exacerbating it.

    We were treating it once a month with all of the above.Also given his history,the shots were as if he were still being abused.
    It was torturous for him.

    Once Morticias kidneys began to fail,I said.I cannot do this to this other cat.We need a SOLUTION.
    I had looked into the Aerocat,and I’ve seen videos of cats literally addicted to it,which is sad to me.

    I was advised by a friend to try a homeopathic vet.She recommended Dr Michelle Yasson .
    I took both Morticia and Asta.
    She gave me 6 more good months with Tish,but it was too late to reverse the damage. I can only wonder how long she would have lived if she hadn’t had asthma.

    Asta however,was only 2 yrs old at the time.I had to try to fix the problem,for good.

    He scratched and pooped on the good doc,but she tended to him and prescribed herbs.
    She said the condition could get worse initially,as this is how homeopathy works.

    Asta was having an attack a month at this point.
    He had one course of herbs in April of 2004,and he had one attack in May 2004,second course of herbs in May….
    He went from an attack a month,to asthma FREE,since 2004. *crosses heart*

    She saved his kidneys,and his life ,I am sure.
    Granted,homeopathy doesn’t work for everyone,but it cured him,and I never had to buy the aerocat,which I know he would have abhorred.

    Dr Yasson does phone consults,and will send you the herbs in the mail.
    Her initial visit is $,but its only 80 for anything else thereafter.
    I highly recommend her to anyone that has an animal with a long standing medical condition.
    Homeopathy cures,not subdues symptoms, until it gets worse ,again.


  32. 32

    I’m glad to hear that Simba has gotten better after being on medication for a few weeks. Thank you for sharing this information! My cat just recently had a few of these coughing spells and you listed some good resources to learn more about this.

  33. 33

    Best, best wishes and prayers for your sweet Simba! Back awhile, my beloved Sunny was diagnosed with feline asthma (it later turned into another diagnosis, but that’s not a story for here). We didn’t have the Aerokat as a choice, but I am SO GLAD to see it here and the videos are very helpful in identifying the possible problem and using the inhaler. (I wish Tracy Cat’s person had given a treat to her other cat, though — it’s obvy (s)he felt left out!) )

  34. 34
    Ingrid King

    You’re the second among my friends in less than a week who has a cat who was diagnosed with asthma – and this was after I had already planned to run Renee’s article. What an odd, and unfortunate, coincidence. I know it’s overwhelming, but I know you can do what needs to be done for Simba. Love the videos – excellent resources!

  35. 35

    Just a comment for those whose cats are sneezing or showing other respiratory signs. My vet often finds that the underlying cause of sneezing–especially when diarrhea may also develop–is giardia, a common parasite. He also finds that underlying many other maladies is a systemic yeast infection, something that undermines the immune system and opens the door for other things to take root. I’m not suggesting these are the causes for your cat(s), but if you have trouble finding the root cause, you may wish to investigate these possibilities.

  36. 36

    my cat belle has HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy- enlarged heart) as well as asthma. HCM diagnosed in sept 2004 and asthma in march 2006. i have always used the inhaled medicines for her asthma (flovent daily and albuterol as a rescue inhaler). feline asthma is tricky because it often is seen as an hairball (belle is hairless so i knew that didnt fit). there are sometimes halos or marks on lung xrays but not always (belle has none just mild flattening of her diaphram and of course the asthma attacks as seen in the video shown). i would caution people against injectible or oral medications as they are steroids. steroids lower the bodies natural response to stimuli which although is good for allergens not so good for infection, also they higher the risk for diabetes, cause a cat especially those with heart issues to go into CHF (heart failure). inhaled medication is expensive but what you save on vet bills and quality of life it is worth it i feel. belles asthma is very well controlled now and her attacks are few. i also keep my house clean and use mostly vinegar to clean, i dont use anything with perfumes. no smoke, candles, harsh cleaners. i was all her bedding weekly in hot water with fragrance free detergent and no fabric softener, vaccuum several times a week and have a HEPA (NOT ionic) air cleaner running.

  37. 37

    This is a great resource for some, but my kitty that had this kind of cough and I took him to the vet and he had Tracheitis. All he needed was an antibiotic and another med to stop the coughing.

  38. 38

    First questions, then comments (important stuff first!). :)

    My cat Osiris (will be 2 years old July 2nd) coughs like this sometimes. Then he throws up though. But I have never seen a cat cough like that, to that extent. It scares the you know what out of me. Since he always ends up throwing up (sometimes food, sometimes just bile/water) I have had him to the vet thinking it might be a stomach issue. I never thought it could be asthma. I assumed asthma was wheezing, not coughing. Anyway, do any of your cats with asthma throw up? Does the coughing cause them to throw up? How often are their attacks? He only does this 1-4 times a month I would say. Will an x-ray always show something, even if it is just a mild case and they have not had an attack for awhile? Or would it be better to wait till after the next time I see him doing this to take him for an x-ray? After finding no stomach problems we assumed it must be hairballs. I will go check out those sites for more info also. Thank you so much for posting this!

    Now, the comments. First, I am sorry Simba has asthma. If that is her in the picture (orange kitty) she is SO beautiful! I am very glad you figured out what she has, and that she is already doing so much better! As for the cat in the second video…LOL…my cats would NEVER be that well behaved. That kitty should win an award! I was wondering though, and you said later in the post, if the cats learn that it makes them feel better.

  39. 39
    Daniela Caride

    Kate, my ginger cat Crosby scared the hell out of me when he had his first asthma attack. We had to run to the hospital during a snow storm at 3 a.m. I describe it here: http://www.thedailytail.com/nonfiction/asthma/

    We have to be really careful choosing our vets because sometimes they are too afraid to be bold and end up risking your cat’s life, and our own. After this incident, I changed vets.

  40. 40

    My Spoonie cat has bouts of asthma triggered by seasonal allergies. His attacks coincide with my itchy eyes and sneezing when the pollen count gets high.

    He had had a couple of random coughing spells in the past which, like a lot of people, I attributed to trying to cough up a hairball. I never thought anything of it until he had multiple coughing spells in a week. That’s when I started to do some research and found the extremely helpful youtube videos and Fritz the Brave’s website.

    I made an appointment with the vet. Luckily I was able to record a bit of video of one of his coughing spells right before we went in and was able to show the doctor. His chest xray came out almost completely clear, he had only the slightest bit of congestion. Because this appeared to be an acute attack instead of an ongoing problem, she prescribed a small round of steroids that was tapered down over a week and a half. After the first dose he never had another attack.

    Since then he has a few short coughing spells, maybe every six months or so. He coughs five or six times and then he’s fine. Using natural low dust litter, running an air cleaner with a HEPA filter and vacuuming often seems to help cut down on allergy symptoms in both of us.

  41. 41
    Andrea RePass

    Thanks for posting this, moderncat folks! We have four cats and always looking for insight on health & behavior (luckily all four are generally healthy and well-behaved). However one of our cats has intermittent congestion problems; he doesn’t cough, but can’t seem to breathe well with sinus/lung congestion. After numerous vet visits and tests, they diagnosed him with a bacterial infection. We have used up all the medicine they gave us recently for the infection, but he doesn’t seem to be much better. Anyone else have this issue?

  42. 42
    Jennifer Simpson

    Sorry to hear Simba has feline asthma. Thank you for sharing this info and posting the videos, incredibly helpful information. My kitty started doing something similar to this, will be looking into it.

  43. 43

    thanks for the info, my Eliot has had attacks like that before, not often, but I will definitely keep an eye on it now! I hope Simba’s treatment goes well!

  44. 44

    Thanks for posting this! My kitty, Onyx, used to have coughing fits just like in the video. I always thought it was a hairball or something. Especially since Onyx not only has to groom herself and her sister. Now I know it’s asthma. Since the husband and I recently moved to house with little carpeting, I’ve noticed that Onyx has had very few coughing fits.

  45. 45

    As a human who suffers from asthma and allergies, I can say that asthma attacks can be triggered by strong odors, especially flowery type odors. So, I would say that if your kitty has any breathing problems, use a NON-FRAGRANCED cat litter, as well as low dust litter, don’t use aerosol sprays except in well-ventilated areas well away from your kitty, dust regularly, wash bedding in HOT (over 120 degrees) water with a white vinegar rinse to kill dust mites, keep the humidity in the home around 50 – 55 percent, use as few fragranced cleaners/laundry soaps, etc as possible. All of the things you would do for a human with asthma are surely important for a kitty with asthma.

    Asthma attacks are very unpleasant, are harmful (the inflammation in the lungs causes long-term damage) and can be deadly, so please get a diagnosis and treatment for your kitties as soon as possible!

  46. 46

    One of my cats also has asthma. They are controled by giving her a depo injection every few months. She’s doing great, hope your cat stays great too.

  47. 47

    You may also want to think about changing brands of cat litter. One of our cats is asthmatic (So am I). We’ve found that clay is the worst, although unscented clay is better, and the best is yesterdays news, I think because it has pretty much no dust and the particle size is very large.

  48. 48
    Our Nifty Notebook

    I’m so sorry to hear about Simba having asthma, but thank goodness he’s doing better with the medicine.

    That cat in the second video is a saint! I had a cat with asthma and she wouldn’t let us come near her face at all. We did the inhaler once and after that, she ran every time we got it out.

    Great post!

  49. 49
    Our Nifty Notebook

    I just read the post above mine and wanted to add that we stopped burning candles as well, when our kitty was diagnosed with asthma. She seemed to get more flare-ups whenever we used candles.

  50. 50

    Our cat was diagnosed with asthma. We took a pretty extreme route and pulled out our carpet (replaced it with laminate) and bought a dehumidifier. Our area is REALLY humid and mold is always a problem. Since the cat is so low to the carpet our vet thought it might help if we were willing. It did. Our cat is now asthma free!

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