Skip to Content

Why is my cat coughing while purring?

Most believe cat purring expresses happiness, joy, and contentment with its current living situation.

Most believe this is an expression of love and a desire to keep things going as they are. Some cat parents believe that a purring, lap-sitting cat signifies its love for them. Sometimes cat parents are correct in making this assumption.

Purring does not seem to be the problem. The problem seems to be if your cat is purring and coughing.

I have had cats purr while snoring, wheezing, coughing, or making odd noises between the purring. I found out early as a cat parent that all cats have tiny nasal passages. These small passages create unique sounds that are purr-fectly normal.

These noises were new to me and raised my senses that something was wrong when there was nothing to be concerned about. Never once did I think that I had a multi-talented cat.  

Why Is My Cat Coughing While Purring? 

When your cat has a health issue, compare yourself with your cat. I don’t mean to say that you purr all the time, but we humans can be doing other things like singing, humming the day away, eating, or drinking, when, out of nowhere, we start to cough, and we suddenly sound like “Typhoid Mary.” There is nothing wrong other than we,

  • Swallowed a bit of spit the wrong way
  • Got a nagging tickle in the back of the throat
  • Took in too much air
  • A tidbit of food hit the back of the throat
  • Swallowed water wrong

You unexpectedly caused a minor, insignificant irritation to your throat, causing you to cough. This is hardly enough to send you to the emergency room unless other significant symptoms exist.

Coughing does not simply happen for no reason. Coughing happens when the throat has been irritated. Coughing happens when you want to clear your throat. This irritation comes in many forms for humans, as it does for your fur baby.

This irritation in your cat can be over in the blink of an eye, or the core of irritation could need your vet’s attention. Irritation is not going to keep a cat from purring.

Cat (and human) chronic coughing is an inflammatory issue targeted at the lower respiratory tract.

Sometimes this inflammation is due to a virus. Sometimes this inflammation is due to an infection that warrants an antibiotic. These issues for a cat can sometimes be the same issues for you. Look for other symptoms in your cat before running to the vet.

  • Cat asthma?
  • Bronchitis?
  • Pneumonia?
  • Hairballs?
  • Pharyngitis?
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis?
  • Feline Bordetella?
  • Heartworm?
  • Parasites?

Your vet must diagnose and treat.

What To Do If My Cat Is Coughing While Purring? 

If your cat is healthy, expect occasional coughing. I guess it is nothing to worry about as you do not want to run to the vet if there are no other signs or symptoms.

You can best monitor your cat for a few days and take note of their eating, drinking, litter pan use, and activity. If these things had not changed and the cough was only random, I would continue to monitor it if it were my cat. You could request a wellness exam if it is that time of year.

Q. Don’t you cough occasionally? 

There are undoubtedly more signs and symptoms that something is amiss. Coughs can be wet or dry in cats or humans.

You would see your doctor for a cough for the same reasons you would decide to take your cat to the vet. Couple the cat’s coughing with a few of these other issues.

  • When the cough is chronic or severe
  • When the cough sounds unique, such as a harsh rubbing sound
  • A fever is present
  • Labored breathing
  • Cannot swallow well
  • Wheezing, whistling, honking sounds when breathing, dry and hacking
  • Lethargic
  • Cannot eat or drink normally
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Increased drooling
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent vomiting, sometimes with blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Gagging
  • Decreased water and food intake

Sometimes, cats purr if they are ill. It is difficult to determine if your cat is ill or simply content, as cats are masters at hiding illnesses. You have to see if your cat has any of the above symptoms.

Cats do many things while purring, such as some cats may drool and purr, which is purr-fectly normal.

Every time a cat coughs, you may instantly think they have a hairball they are trying to cough up, which is not always the reason.

If your cat has hairball issues, like some of mine, I always try hairball food or a bit of cat lax for a few days.

You need to monitor the cough, such as frequency and type of cough and other odd symptoms. If your cat is wheezing, asthma could be the reason. However, it takes your vet’s expertise to determine the reason and treat accordingly.

While heartworm is more prevalent among dogs, cats can get heartworm, which causes coughing.

When a cat ventures outside, they are born hunters and may eat dead prey. This puts them at risk for heartworms. It is best to monitor your cat outside or don’t let it out.

Coughing I Will Never Forget!

Our Lil’ Luke was about eight months old when he found our house steps in the dead of winter, on a Saturday at -20 degrees, in a blizzard, and starving. It was March 2018.

I took Luke to the vet for a Monday check-up and scheduled neutering with vaccinations. A few days later, as Luke lay on a warm blanket in the living room and purring contently, he started to cough. This cough was rough, scratchy, low, and very harsh with a scary rubbing sound. He sounded like he had croup.

Nurses describe this type of cough as a “Strider Cough,” As a nurse, I felt he had developed pharyngitis and needed an antibiotic.

A strider-type cough requires attention. I got him back to the vet, and they wanted to do an ultrasound of the esophagitis because they swore he had swallowed a foreign object. I said I did not agree because,

“He was breathing well.”

“He was eating and drinking water like a horse.”

“He was peeing and pooping, OK.”

“He was not throwing up.”

“And he had a fever.”

I told my vet, “I am no doctor, but I say he has pharyngitis, and he needs a steroid shot to help take some of his throat’s swelling away, causing the strider sound. I said I thought he needed a long-acting antibiotic injection.”

My vet insisted that Luke swallowed something, although the ultrasound showed nothing. But, to satisfy me, the vet did as I requested. In two days, the cough disappeared, and Luke showed a lot of improvement and has never displayed this cough again.

Once you get an infection like this, you will likely get it again in the future. Cats (not humans) are susceptible to cat viruses like Rhinotracheitis or Bordetella.

It is every cat’s parent’s responsibility to talk with their vet. If you disagree with the vet’s diagnosis, let the vet know. I must say that my vet is an excellent doctor, but no doctor is perfect every time in their diagnosis. I believe I was correct this time, and the vet was way off base for whatever reason. It is your right to agree or disagree with your vet as you are your fur baby’s best advocate.