Congestion in cats can be caused by an upper respiratory infection, allergies, a virus or even a tumor. When your kitty's breathing is wheezing and loud, it may or may not be a serious health issue, but difficulty with breathing is a justifiable reason for a trip to the vet. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your cat to obtain a professional diagnosis and proper treatment.
Upper Respiratory Infections
An infection in a cat's upper respiratory tract is a common cause of nasal congestion. According to Web MD, if your cat has an upper respiratory tract infection, symptoms she might display in addition to a stuffy nose include:
- Clear or colored nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Gagging or drooling
Cats in multiple-cat homes or ones who live in shelters are most susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections. Breeds with flat faces, such as Persians, are also prone to this type of infection. Your vet may prescribe medications such as antibiotics or steroids, but also will recommend rest and possibly a prescription diet to ensure proper nutrition to help your kitty combat the infection.
Your Asthmatic, Allergic Cat
It's not surprising for a cat's dander to cause an asthmatic reaction in humans, but pet parents are often surprised to learn that their kitty has asthma. The symptoms listed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are similar to the signs of an upper respiratory tract infection, though blue lips and gums, overall weakness and heavy breathing after physical activity are additional signs of asthma. Airborne allergens are a common cause of asthma in cats, as they tend to stimulate the immune system resulting in swollen and irritated airways. Steroids and antihistamines commonly are used to treat asthma and allergies in cats, as are bronchodilators. Typically those airway-relaxing drugs are prescribed in pill or syrup form, but are sometimes administered as a rescue drug via a shot or from an inhaler puffed into a mask held over the cat's nose and mouth.
Feline Herpes Virus
The signs of the feline herpes virus are more widespread than a cold sore or two. Though your kitty may develop open sores around her eyes, the virus also will cause:
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Sneezing and nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
Humans and dogs can't contract feline herpes, but other cats can, so isolating a kitty with the virus is a wise move to keep it from spreading in multiple-cat homes. The ASPCA advises that it's difficult to cure a cat of feline herpes, so it's typically the symptoms that are treated. Your vet may not feel a prescription is necessary if your cat only displays one symptom, such as sneezing. However, if your cat shows multiple signs, he will prescribe antibiotics and anti-viral medications to clear them up and help your cat breathe easier. Keeping the environment calm and unchanged and supplying her with plenty of water and high-quality food will help, too.
Tumors in the Nose
If all other diagnoses fail, your vet may X-ray your cat's sinuses to see if a tumor is present. It's an uncommon cause but a possible reason for nasal congestion in cats. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine says that nasal tumors in cats are impossible to remove and difficult to treat. They typically don't respond to the usual drugs used to treat cancer though sometimes radiation therapy will slow the growth of the tumors.
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Nasal Discharge and Sneezing
- WebMD: Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Herpes
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Asthma
- University of Florida: Medications Used for Asthma in Cats