Occasional sneezing or wheezing may not indicate a serious health problem for your cat, but if they occur on a regular basis you should consult a veterinarian. If your cat does wheeze, watch for secondary symptoms of poor health. General signs such as a rough or poor coat, vomiting, lethargy or litter box issues mean that you should take your cat to a veterinarian without delay.
Coughing or wheezing may indicate that a cat suffers from feline asthma, which PedEducation.com claims is among the most common respiratory diseases for cats. Asthma occurs when a cat breathes in an allergen that causes sudden contractions of airway muscles. Different cats respond to different allergens. Common culprits include smoke, pollen, cat litter dust and flea sprays. Feline asthma has no cure, though corticosteroids, bronchodilators and inhalers can help treat the disease. Reducing the cat's contact with allergens will also help.
The Merck Veterinary Manual warns that while primary lung tumours occur rarely in cats, the number of reported cases is rising -- and more than 80 per cent are malignant. In addition to wheezing, a cat with lung tumours may lose weight, cough, become listless or lethargic, vomit or cough. The most common treatment is surgical removal of tumours. In cases where the tumours can't be removed, chemotherapy is an option.
Some parasites, such as worms, maggots or mites, can invade the blood vessels or passages of a cat's upper or lower respiratory passages. PetMD lists unsanitary living conditions, multiple pet households and contact with other infected animals' faeces as risk factors. Cats that go outdoors can become infected by eating infected rodents or coming into contact with other infected animals. Aside from wheezing, infected cats may sneeze, develop a bloody or runny nose or experience sudden changes in behaviour. Infected cats are typically dewormed and given anti-inflammatory medications.
Pulmonary oedema occurs when fluid builds up in a cat's lungs, causing the tissue to swell. This typically occurs as a complication of pneumonia, exposure to toxins, blocked airways, severe anaemia or heart problems. Cats with a build-up of fluid in their lungs may make wheezing sounds, cough, breathe with their mouths open, have difficulty breathing or breathe abnormally fast. Treatment includes rest and the administration of oxygen and fluids. PetMD warns that there is no way to prevent oedema from occurring, and cats that develop it once are prone to do so again.