If a cat has chronic asthma, she may wheeze a lot and have a dry, hacking cough, sort of like she was gagging. As she tries to take in enough air, you may see her sitting with her head extended as she struggles with her breathing. In an acute case of asthma, as the cat fights for oxygen, she may go into respiratory distress.
A cats asthma symptoms can be triggered by exposure to pollen, dust, litter dust, grass, flea sprays, perfume cigarette smoke, hair sprays, deodorizers, cleaning sprays, and carpet/air fresheners.
A cat having an asthma attack needs immediate veterinary treatment. She may need oxygen therapy administered along with a bronchodilator. The same as it is for humans, an acute asthma attack for a cat is very scary and her stress level will be elevated. As you transport your cat to the vet use minimal restraint. Stress during an asthma attack can be deadly.
For a cat who has chronic asthma, she may be prescribed maintenance medication. If the irritant is known, avoidance of it is crucial. Many times it can be difficult to pinpoint the specific irritant that triggers the attacks. To help reduce the chances of your cat having an attack, try using dust-free litters, and avoid hair sprays, carpet cleaners, household sprays, and other commonly known allergens.