Forums » Feline Medicine

Coughing Cat

    • 178 posts
    October 23, 2013 12:40 AM EDT

    A question / comment posed after the "Feline Procedures Every Clinician Should Know" event regarding the video of "Johnny" the coughing cat:


    "I did not understand how to tell the difference between hairball behaviour and lower airway disease in the coughing cat video."





    • 26 posts
    October 23, 2013 10:14 AM EDT

    Thanks for asking the question - it's an opportunity to point out the differences.


    Coughing is never about hairballs as this is a lower respiratory tract sign. Hairballs are in the stomach and are vomited up, not coughed up. What confuses owners is that cats with bronchitis or asthma often have increased mucus in the lower airways. When they cough, they expectorate mucus and then swallow it. So owners will say, "he tried to cough up a hairball but he swallowed it." In the video of Johnny, you can see him do exactly that but it's mucus he is swallowing, not hair.


    When a cat has hairballs, there should be physical evidence of the hairball vomited up on the floor.


    Since owners are confused about the difference between coughing and vomiting and they think hairballs are always normal, they usually won't mention it to us. So I ask owners during preventive care visits if their cat has hairballs. I've discovered patients with chronic bronchitis or asthma that way that I would never have known about because the owner thought the behaviour was normal.


    Here are two articles for more information on hairballs in cats:


    Cannon M. Hair balls in cats: A normal nuisance or a sign that something is wrong? Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2013; 15: 21-9.


    Diagnosing the cause of hairballs in cats, Margie Scherk, in Clinician's Brief (register for free):

    Hope this helps!


    • 1 posts
    October 23, 2013 11:04 AM EDT

    Thank You!