Breathing diseases

Pneumonia in Cats

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
Pneumonia in Cats

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Cats are sensitive to changes in their environment, so it is necessary to be aware of any change in their behavior and any unusual symptoms that may be evidence of stress, an ailment or disease. Even if cats are said to have nine lives, they can be affected by diseases that can also attack humans besides those conditions exclusive to their species.

In this AnimalWised article we will discuss pneumonia in cats, its symptoms, causes and treatment. Read on!


  1. What is pneumonia?
  2. What are the causes of pneumonia in cats?
  3. Types of pneumonia in cats
  4. What are the symptoms of pneumonia in cats?
  5. How is pneumonia diagnosed in cats?
  6. Treatment and care at home

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a disease that attacks the lungs. There is an inflammation of the pulmonary alveoli, which can cause pain due to the swelling of these vital organs and become fatal if not treated in time. Your cat can contract pneumonia when it goes through other respiratory diseases, and it is highly contagious to those around it.

Like in humans, pneumonia can be lethal for cats. It severely damages the lungs, and it is also common for sick cats to refuse to eat food and drink water, which easily makes them develop severe dehydration.

Although it can affect any cat, pneumonia is more common in very young animals because their immune system is not yet strengthened, in older animals because they are weaker, and in street cats because are exposed to all kinds of bacteria and infectious agents.

Pneumonia in Cats - What is pneumonia?

What are the causes of pneumonia in cats?

There are many reasons why your cat may have contracted this disease, the most common of which is a bacterial or viral condition mostly likely caused by feline calicivirus. It is a respiratory virus, which if not treated in time can lead to the development of pneumonia.

However, the disease can also occur due to other factors such as the presence of a foreign body that the cat has breathed in and has stayed in its respiratory tract. Your cat will also be more likely to contract the disease if you offer it a poor diet without the necessary nutrients for a healthy development.

Furthermore, the presence of other diseases such as viral leukemia makes your cat more likely to develop pneumonia at some point in its life. Sudden changes in temperature, cold and drafts also have an influence, as well as situations that cause stress such as the arrival of another animal at home, moving or changing objects' locations around the house, because the stress of these events makes it more vulnerable to disease.

That is why you should be aware of any symptoms or unusual behavior to immediately consult your veterinarian.

Pneumonia in Cats - What are the causes of pneumonia in cats?

Types of pneumonia in cats

There are two types of feline pneumonia, and they are classified according to causes:

  • Pneumonia by inhalation: a foreign object is embedded in the cat's respiratory tract, either due to vomiting or breathing of a gastric acid. This makes your cat's lungs swell, and it needs medical attention. Treatment involves supplying oxygen to help it breathe and an antibiotic.
  • Bacterial pneumonia: there is an accumulation of fluid in the alveoli and lungs, resulting from infection by bacteria or fungi. If it is not treated in time it be complicated by the accumulation of pus in the blood due to the development of other bacteria and the vulnerability of the immune system.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia in cats?

You must be very attentive to any of these symptoms:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Fever
  • Noisy breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite and anorexia
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bluish skin
  • Fast breathing

If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, take it to the vet immediately so it can be checked and treated.

How is pneumonia diagnosed in cats?

The vet is responsible for conducting several tests on your cat, including an X-ray of its chest area and lungs, as this will allow them to determine the severity of the infection and the state of the organs.

They will also take samples of the content of the lungs to analyse whether it is a case of pneumonia caused by bacteria and, if so, to detect which one it is. If pneumonia through inhalation is suspected, the vet will carry out a urine test and an analysis of the esophagus using an endoscope.

Pneumonia in Cats - How is pneumonia diagnosed in cats?

Treatment and care at home

If your cat is indeed suffering from pneumonia, it will be probably hospitalized for a few days. If it has difficulty breathing, oxygen will be applied. The treatment will include antibiotics, mainly penicillin or amoxicillin. Your cat might also be given a diuretic to remove accumulated fluid in the airways.

At home, you must keep your cat hydrated at all times, helping it if unable to drink by itself. You might have to crush your cat's food and supply it with a syringe if necessary, as cats' organisms are harmed quickly when they stop eating. To make this easier, you can give it canned wet food or another food that really loves and try to encourage it to eat alone. If it does not, return to the aforementioned assisted feeding.

Similarly, it is important to keep the sick cat warm and isolated from other pets to avoid it being disturbed and to prevent infecting other animals. The treatment recommended by the veterinary must be followed to the letter.

Anyone who lives with a cat knows how difficult it can be to supply some medication, but you must be smart to contribute to its speedy recovery. If it is a syrup, try giving it slowly with a syringe, introducing the liquid to the side of the mouth. If it is a pill or tablet, hiding it in food is a good option if the cat is able to eat alone; if not, you will have to place it gently in its throat and distract it so it swallows. No matter what you try, it is important that your cat take its medicine, but remember to be sensitive not to scare or hurt it.

Chest massages are recommended in cases of respiratory conditions: consult your doctor about how to perform them. Let your cat rest and sleep so that it can recover its strength faster. Stay attentive for any changes or deterioration.

Always remember to check everything with your vet, and never medicate your pet yourself.

Pneumonia in Cats - Treatment and care at home

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Pneumonia in Cats, we recommend you visit our Breathing diseases category.

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1 comment
Vic File
What type of penicillin, thank you.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Vic,

While certain types of pneumonia will require an antibiotic (not necessarily penicillin), this will depend on the underlying cause. This is why it is vital you take your cat to the veterinarian to achieve a proper diagnosis. Only they can prescribe the right kind of treatment. Treating pneumonia at home is dangerous and can put the life of the cat in jeopardy.
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Pneumonia in Cats