my cat is congested

Nobody enjoys having a stuffy nose because it makes it difficult to smell their food, difficult to fall asleep, and just generally miserable! Rhinitis, the medical term for a stuffy nose, is fairly typical in cats, who can experience both acute and persistent (chronic) rhinitis. Cats who have rhinitis frequently sneeze, have nasal discharge, and/or have loud, “congested” breathing. In this article we’ll go over causes and treatment to the common concern “my cat is congested”.

Some affected cats may paw at their faces, have a deformed nose, or be limited to mouth breathing. Discharge from the nose can come from either one side or both sides. Nasal discharge can be either clear, mucus-clouded, pus-like, or bloody in appearance. Your veterinarian can use all of these observations to identify the source of the issue and help your cat feel better.

It’s important to remember that some cat breeds, like Himalayan and Persians, have “pushed in” face structures that frequently make them sound a little more “snuffly” than other breeds. Even though this is typically nothing to worry about, if you have any questions you should consult your veterinarian. Here is a quick list of the top 10 factors that, in my opinion, contribute to feline rhinitis:

1. Viral Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

The extremely contagious herpes and caliciviruses (upper respiratory infections) account for 90% of congestion in cats. Young cats, cats living in boarding and shelter conditions, and recently adopted cats are also susceptible to these diseases. The discharge is typically in both nasal passages, clear or cloudy, and frequently comes with fever and eye discharge. Although the initial viral infection will typically go away within seven to ten days, cats may develop a chronic virus infection and are more likely to experience recurrent symptoms in the future.

2. Bacterial Infections

The majority of nasal bacterial infections result from another disease process. The most frequent causes of primary bacterial infection in cats are the bacterial species Bordetella, Mycoplasma, and Chlamydophila. Discharge in both nostrils that looks like pus is what you can expect.

3. Fungal infections

Both indoor and outdoor cats can become infected by environmental fungi, with Cryptococcus infection being the most common. The swelling of the face and nose can be asymmetrical due to fungal infections, and the discharge is typically in one nostril, pus-like, or bloody in nature.

4. Parasites

Cats rarely develop nasal parasites. When outdoor cats poke their heads inside or prowl around small animal burrows, they may become infected with botfly eggs (known as Cuterebra). Cats frequently paw violently at their faces when botfly eggs hatch into larvae inside their noses. This can result in significant one-sided discharge that looks like pus or is bloody.

5. Foreign body

Cats frequently have grass blades, seeds, or even grass awns lodged in their noses. A nasal foreign body could be the cause of a one-sided nostril discharge that is frequently accompanied by facial pawing and severe sneezing.

6. Oral disease

An oronasal fistula—a gap between the mouth and the nose—is occasionally caused by the increasing infection of severe periodontal disease. Cleft palates, which allow a similar abnormality to form, can also harm young kittens. Mouth debris can get stuck in the nasal passages and cause serious irritation and subsequent infection. The associated discharge of an oronasal fistula is one-sided, frequently pus-like, bloody, and may even contain food or plant particles. It might be bilateral if it results from a cleft palate. When a kitten is nursing, milk may come out of its nose. A quick veterinary examination is advised.

7. Inflammatory polyps

Polyps are soft, benign growths that are frequently found in the nasal cavity and can occasionally extend into the middle ear. Young cats are frequently affected by inflammatory nasopharyngeal or nasal polyps, which can cause persistent unilateral nasal discharge, congestion, and sneezing, though the exact cause is unknown.

8. Nasal cancer

Older cats with unilateral discharge that is frequently bloody in nature are typically the ones with nasal cancer. Lymphoma and adenocarcinoma are the two most prevalent malignancies of the nose.

9. Allergies

Environmental allergens like mildew, dust mites, grasses, and tree pollen can cause cats to develop clear bilateral discharge and sneezing.

10. Idiopathic

Idiopathic refers to intermittent, repeated episodes of sneezing and nasal discharge in cats that have no known cause. It is believed that certain cats may be predisposed to the development of persistent nasal alterations leading to chronic continuing inflammation as a result of acute bacterial or viral URIs. A cat’s medical history and the results of a physical examination are used to make the diagnosis of rhinitis. As mentioned above, some rhinitis causes are more prevalent in outdoor cats, kittens, or cats who have unilateral or bloody discharge.

Symptoms of Cat Congestion

When a cat has congestion, the symptoms can vary depending on the cause. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Increased coughing and sneezing
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

If your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing Cat Congestion

When diagnosing cat congestion, your vet will likely take a complete history, perform a physical exam, and may also order lab tests or imaging tests. The purpose of these tests is to determine the cause of the congestion and to rule out any other possible diseases or conditions.

Treatments for Cat Congestion

The treatment for cat congestion will depend on the underlying cause. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis to ensure your cat receives the proper treatment. Some of the more common treatments for cat congestion include:


If the underlying cause of your cat’s congestion is an infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to help clear it up. It’s important to give your cat the full course of antibiotics as prescribed to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.

Allergy Medication

If your cat’s congestion is due to allergies, your vet may prescribe antihistamines or other medications to help reduce the symptoms.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove any blockages in your cat’s nasal passages. This type of surgery is typically reserved for more serious cases.


Humidifiers can help to keep the air moist and reduce the symptoms of congestion.

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays can help to reduce the inflammation and open up the nasal passages.

At-Home Care

In addition to any medications or treatments prescribed by your vet, there are also some at-home care measures you can take to help reduce your cat’s congestion. These include:

  • Keeping your cat in a clean, dust-free environment
  • Keeping your cat away from strong odors or chemicals
  • Making sure your cat has plenty of fresh, clean water
  • Using a humidifier in your home
  • Adding extra humidity to your cat’s environment
  • Giving your cat a steam bath

It’s also important to monitor your cat for any changes in their symptoms and to contact your vet if the symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment.

FAQs: My Cat is Congested

What does it mean if your cat sounds congested?

One symptom of a respiratory illness in cats is congestion. If your cat is congested, you may notice that they sound different when they breathe. They may sound raspy or even wheezy, and there may be a rattling noise as air passes through their nose or throat. This is a sign that your cat is having difficulty getting enough air, and it can be a symptom of a more serious condition.
Other signs of respiratory illness in cats include coughing, sneezing, and breathing with an open mouth. If your cat is exhibiting any of these signs in addition to sounding congested, they should be seen by a vet immediately. Your vet will be able to diagnose the cause of the congestion and provide the necessary treatment.
In some cases, the cause of your cat’s congestion may be something as simple as an allergy or a cold. In these cases, your vet may be able to provide medications or other treatments to help your cat recover. However, if the cause is more serious, such as pneumonia or another respiratory infection, your vet may need to provide more aggressive treatments.

Will my cat’s congestion go away on its own?

If your cat is dealing with allergies, then the congestion should go away once the allergen has been avoided. If your cat is dealing with a cold or an infection, then the congestion may go away on its own, but it may require some extra care to help your cat feel better.
If your cat’s congestion is accompanied by other symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose, then it is best to take your cat to the vet for a checkup. Your vet can diagnose the cause of the congestion and provide the best possible treatment for your cat. Depending on the cause of the congestion, your vet may prescribe antibiotics, steroids, or other medications to help your cat get better.
If your cat’s congestion persists for more than a few days, it is best to take them to the vet. Congestion can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as asthma, heart disease, or even cancer. The sooner you get your cat to the vet, the sooner they can receive the proper treatment.

Can I give my cat anything for congestion?

First, it is important to visit the vet to make sure your cat is properly diagnosed. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the infection causing the congestion. In addition, they can make sure that your cat is not suffering from any other health problems.
Once the vet has given you the go-ahead, you can start looking into home remedies that may help your cat’s congestion. A few options to consider include using a humidifier in your cat’s room, giving them steam treatments, or using a saline solution to clean out their eyes, nose, and ears.
Herbal remedies are also an option. A few herbs that are said to help with congestion in cats include eucalyptus, elderberry, chamomile, and peppermint. You can add these herbs to your cat’s food or give them as a tea. Always consult your vet before giving your cat any herbal remedies.
Finally, make sure your cat is staying hydrated. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water and try to get them to drink it. You can also feed them wet food which has a higher water content.

What home remedy can I give my cat for congestion?

One of the most effective remedies for congestion is steam. You can create a steamy environment for your cat by running a hot shower and leaving the bathroom door open. This will fill the room with steam and help to clear your cat’s airways. Alternatively, you can put your cat in a large, sturdy container and place it over a bowl of steaming hot water. Just make sure to keep a close eye on your cat to make sure that the steam does not become too hot.
Another home remedy for congestion is a warm compress. Place a warm, damp cloth on your cat’s chest and stomach area. This will help to loosen mucus and clear your cat’s airways. You can also try using a humidifier in your home to help moisturize the air and make breathing easier.