Cat Wheezing | What To Do, Why It Happens, How To Help Them

Cats make tons of different types of crazy sounds.

From the typical meowing all the way to a bird-like chirping – felines can produce some truly unbelievable sounds. It all depends on how vocal your pet is and what’s going on in its mind at a given moment. Of course, some breeds like the Oriental Shorthair are more vocal than others by default. And many cats won’t meow at all.

Today, however, we’ll talk about one particular type of sound which feline furballs can produce – one that isn’t directly linked to the cat’s thoughts or its tendencies towards being vocal. This sound is the sound of your cat’s wheezing. Yes, similar to dogs, humans and other mammals, cats can indeed wheeze.

What Is Wheezing In Cats And Kittens?

You’ve probably heard your feline friend doing it right before it coughed up a hairball or puked some of its food.

Wheezing sounds strange and rather painful, especially because of the motions your cat will make when it’s wheezing. It’s often accompanied by hunching of the shoulders and back-and-forth extensions of the neck. During the wheezing it may look as though your pet is trying to cough up something or is if it’s trying to extend its neck and bring more airflow to its windpipe.

The wheezing sounds indicate shortness of breath and are a clear sign that there’s something wrong with your kitty.

Cat wheezing is similar to the wheezing sounds a human being would produce. It can happen to cats of all breeds and ages. The wheezing can be caused by a number of factors, some of which can be fatal.

Why Is My Cat Wheezing?


Cats can experience a variety of emotions just like us, humans. They can easily get upset, startled and stressed out by their surroundings. Noisy kids, new furniture objects, unfamiliar guests, sounds, odors and sights – all of these and many other factors can indeed stress them out.

Wheezing can be triggered by these negative emotions. Similar to stress panting, the reason for your cat’s wheezing sounds can originate on a mental level and it doesn’t have to be linked to a physical health-based issue. In such cases it’s crucial to calm down your pet and help it normalize its breathing.


As mentioned above, wheezing-like sounds can occur right before your cat coughs up a hairball. The wheezing itself can indeed be caused by hairball built-ups.

Long-haired breeds like the Persian and the Maine Coon usually suffer the most from hairball built-ups. When they become too large and lodged too far down inside the cat’s body, the kitty won’t be able to cough them up. As a result, it will only be producing wheezing sounds and arching its body painfully. Needless to say, such severe built-ups need to be surgically removed otherwise they may have a lethal outcome for your beloved furball.

Foreign Objects

Just like hairballs, other foreign objects stuck inside your pet’s respiratory tract can cause wheezing. If it’s swallowed parts of a toy, a huge chunk of cat food or something else, it might start wheezing. It will look as though the cat’s body is overtaken by spasms and it may or may not cough up the foreign object.

You can try opening your cat’s mouth in order to inspect the palate and the visible parts of its throat. However, this can be tricky as the cat probably won’t want you to touch it. What’s more, you might not be able to see the foreign body if it’s latched too far down in the respiratory tract.


Cats can indeed suffer from allergies just like humans and other mammals. The most common types of allergies resulting in wheezing are from mold, pollen, dust, cigarette smoke and chemical fumes. Try cleaning up the room and allowing your pet to breathe in some fresh air. If the wheezing doesn’t stop shortly, it might be caused by something else.


Many felines suffer from asthma. It’s possible for your own furball to have an undiagnosed asthma and to be experiencing an asthma attack. Fortunately, there are ways to manage with this disease as treatments, medications and inhalers are available for cats worldwide.

Polyps, Cancer And Other Growths

The wheezing can also be caused by growths in the sinus, throat and respiratory system. Polyps, cancers and tumors are the most common culprits in such cases. If the cause of the wheezing is indeed a growth, your pet will need emergency vet care.


Some parasites like heartworms and lungworms can also make your cat wheeze. These things can be lethal if you don’t take measures on time and neglect the wheezing sounds.


Although it’s uncommon, some felines can indeed get pneumonia. Two of the most common symptoms of pneumonia are coughing and wheezing.

Heart Failure And Other Diseases

Diseases like heart failure can also make your pet cough and wheeze. If your pet’s litter box, eating and playing habits have changed, chances are the wheezing is an indicator of an undiagnosed physical health-based disease.

Treatment: What To Do If Your Cat Is Wheezing?

Wheezing is a clear sign that there’s something wrong with your pet, which you shouldn’t neglect. It can happen to felines all over the world, regardless of their age. It sounds and looks painful because it really is a painful experience for your pet.

The wheezing sounds aren’t always a reason to panic over your furball’s health. However, if your kitty’s wheezing hasn’t stopped in about a minute or so and it hasn’t coughed up anything, you should alarm your vet and take the cat for a check-up as soon as possible.

X-rays and other tests can determine what’s bothering your precious feline friend. In some severe cases it’s possible for the cat to be hospitalized.

Depending on your cat’s case, your vet will come up with a treatment and recovery plan. If it’s a respiratory virus or asthma, your pet will need antibiotics, anti-viral medications or an inhaler. Steroids, surgical procedures and long-term treatment plans are also available if your pet has a more serious health problem.

Regardless of what the issue is, once your pet has started wheezing, it’s of extreme importance to monitor it. Shortness of breath shouldn’t be taken lightly, even if it’s caused by something as simple as hairballs or bigger chunks of food.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!