My cat makes a choking noise, what to do?

One of the worst experiences a cat loving caregiver can have is seeing their furry dog ​​having trouble breathing. It’s really frustrating not knowing why this is happening to him, or what you can do to help him …

If my cat makes a choking noise, how can I get him back to being okay? I will talk about this in this article.

When a cat appears to be drowning, he may have breathing difficulties. It is important that if you are a cat owner, you know all this information, it is very important in case your cat ever seems to be drowning!

What are breathing difficulties?


Dyspnea is often known as respiratory distress. Your cat may have a hard time inhaling, exhaling, or both . You may also notice that your cat is panting loudly or holding its mouth open. Coughing is another symptom that often accompanies dyspnea.

Whatever the systemic cause of the labored breathing, your cat needs immediate medical evaluation as this condition cannot be treated at home and can be fatal . It is very disturbing to see your cat struggling to breathe.

Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying condition that could be caused by hundreds of diseases or medical conditions. For example, your cat may have a foreign object in its nose, or it may be experiencing allergy-induced asthma. Heart failure is another main reason cats show signs of breathing difficulties, and this condition requires immediate veterinary evaluation.

Symptoms of Breathing Difficulties in Cats

When a cat breathes rapidly with its mouth open, it is obvious that it is having trouble breathing. Other symptoms of respiratory distress are more subtle but obvious to the eye and ear. Since breathing difficulties in cats are dangerous and can quickly become life-threatening, you need to seek immediate veterinary attention if your cat shows any of these symptoms :

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panting
  • Exaggerated abdominal and chest movements
  • Squat close to the ground with your elbows out
  • Widened nostrils
  • Fast breathing
  • Breathing with your mouth open
  • Head low to the ground
  • Noisy and harsh breathing
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Lethargy
  • Shake

Causes of Breathing Difficulties in Cats

There are so many possible reasons why a cat shows respiratory distress, only a vet can make the proper diagnosis. Some of the many varied reasons for breathing difficulties are:

  • Asthma
  • Obstruction of the airway
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Shock
  • Heatstroke
  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease
  • Infections
  • Blood disorders
  • Pain
  • Ingestion of poison
  • Pneumonia
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism

Feline asthmatic syndrome

It is one of the most frequent reasons. Feline asthma is a disease that cats of any age and breed can suffer, and that usually manifests between one and a half and five years of age. It is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the upper respiratory tract, which in the specific case of cats is the bronchi .

This results in these symptoms:

  • Variable frequency coughing spells
  • Trouble breathing and choking
  • Sometimes also fever, anorexia, bacterial infection

Treatment will depend on how the cat is, but in general the use of cortisone medications is very common to control symptoms.

Upper respiratory tract infections

Although there are vaccines that prevent them, the truth is that if the cat coughs and also gives the sensation of drowning, it may be that it has an infectious disease such as calicivirus or herpesvirus . If it is the first, you will see that he has ulcers in his mouth and stomatitis, which will decrease his appetite; if it is the second, the ulcers will be on the cornea, which will make your eyes fill with blemishes. Also, fever, sneezing, and lethargy are frequent symptoms as well.

When you cough, you will open your mouth and stick your tongue out in an attempt to improve breathing. Of course, the visit to the vet is more than mandatory: it is urgent. Treatment consists of antibiotics and fluid therapy.


If we keep the cat internally dewormed, in principle there is nothing to worry about, especially if it never leaves the house, but we must bear in mind that there are some parasites, such as filaria , which can go to the heart causing many problems , among them coughing and choking sensation. The symptoms are very similar to feline asthma, so a pre-treatment study for parasites is important.

Hair balls

In the event that the cat leads a more or less normal life, only that from time to time it coughs and opens its mouth as if trying to vomit, it may be that what it has is a ball of hair lodged in its stomach . To help him expel it, you have to give him malt, but if he does not improve, take him to the vet.

Diagnosis of breathing difficulties in cats


Most likely the first thing your vet will do is ask him questions about when the respiratory problems started, what symptoms you saw, and what preceded the respiratory distress. If your cat is having serious breathing difficulties, your vet will administer oxygen before the test begins. Your vet may perform some or all of the following tests:

  • Physical exam. Your cat’s overall health will be determined by taking vital signs and examining its ears, eyes, nose, and gums. Your cat’s lungs and chest will be listened to with a stethoscope to determine if there is fluid in the lungs or an abnormal heartbeat. The vet can also feel the abdominal area.
  • Blood tests. Blood can be drawn to assess the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your cat’s blood and to detect heartworm disease. Other blood tests will show inflammation and / or infections present.
  • Urine sample. A urine test will help diagnose the cause of dyspnea.
  • X-rays and ultrasound. These diagnostic tests help the vet to virtually look inside your cat’s body for tumors, blockages, or fluid build-up.
  • Aspiration of fluids. A sample of thoracic, lung, and abdominal fluid can be removed for evaluation and testing.
  • ECG. An ECG (electrocardiogram) test may be required if your vet suspects a heart problem.
  • Endoscopically. If the breathing problem is caused by a blocked nasal cavity or airway, this test will help determine the next step in treatment and can help collect tissue samples for testing.

Treatment of breathing difficulties in cats

Depending on the reason for your cat’s dyspnea, treatment can be as simple as prescribing an antibiotic for more serious actions, such as surgery or hospitalization with oxygen and intravenous therapy.

  • Respiratory infection. Antibiotics are generally prescribed to fight infection and help you breathe.
  • Foreign object. If tests show that a foreign object is blocking the nasal passage, it can be removed in the office with surgical forceps.
  • Asma. Steroids and bronchodilators are two of the medications that can be prescribed to help your cat breathe easier.
  • Heat stroke. Your vet will lower your cat’s body temperature and, if necessary, provide oxygen.
  • Dehydration. Your cat will receive an IV injection to raise fluids to a normal level.
  • Fluid in lungs, chest or abdomen:. Fluid can be aspirated to ease your cat’s distress.
  • Tumors and cancer. Surgery to remove the growth may be required along with oral or injectable medications.

Recovering from breathing difficulties in cats


In many cases, medications and rest will help your cat recover from respiratory problems. If veterinary care is administered quickly, heat stroke and dehydration are usually easy to treat and recovery is usually quick. 

If stress and anxiety are causing your cat to have breathing difficulties, it is imperative that you find the cause of this distress and eliminate it if possible . If allergies are at the root of your cat’s dyspnea, your vet will make suggestions on the best diet or bedding, and those changes will help your cat recover.

If your cat has a serious diagnosis such as cancer, surgery may require a long hospital stay before it can be removed from care. Other medical treatments such as chemotherapy may be necessary for a long time. Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your vet to ensure a quick and full recovery and to avoid a recurrence of your cat’s medical emergency.



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