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Welcome, medical contents search May 9, 2013
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Commonly Asked Questions / Doctor’s Answers
Feline Behavior / Cough


My cat was neutered about 3 years ago. I found him when he was about 5-7 months old (according to my vet). For the past month, I noticed him "humping" a blanket. When I try to stop him by picking him up, he squeals as if he is in pain. He also has a really bad breath and seems to be coughing. I thought it could have been due to hairball. But it sounds like a dry heaving cough. I don’t have a lot of money and I really can’t afford to visit my vet if this isn’t a serious problem. I’ d really appreciate any help.

eCureMe’s Advice 1

As socially unacceptable as it might seem, it is not unusual for a neutered male to "hump" something in the house. Our male cat has this nasty habit as well. His favorite blanket sits on the living room couch for all to see. It is more of a boredom thing than sexual. Ití»s nothing to worry about. Of course, the cough may be something of more interest. It certainly may be something as simple as hairballs, but more serious disease may look the same. Feline asthma is common, and may appear as a dry cough or shallow breathing. This is usually rather easily controlled with steroids, but an x-ray is required to diagnose it. Also, feline heartworm disease is common in some areas of the country. My advice; if you can’t go to the vet yet, try some hairball remedy. If the cough continues or worsens, I would highly recommend a checkup and x-rays.

eCureMe’s Advice 2

It is not unusual for neutered cats to "hump" objects or other pets in the household. This is a natural instinct with which they were born. I also had a neutered male cat that after five years started to like my other, female, cat. He did this for a few weeks and it never happened again. Your cat probably likes the feel or smell of that blanket. I would suggest putting it away for a few weeks to see if this solves the problem. If not, you should not worry about him having a problem, its just nature rearing its head.

eCureMe’s Advice 3

Cats can be peculiar creatures sometimes. The ’humping’ behavior you’re describing is likely just that. Unfortunately the behavior has likely been a learned trait. This is especially likely if he was actually neutered at a later age than originally estimated. The squealing is likely out of frustration rather than pain, provided he does not seem painful otherwise. I would not be too concerned about this issue provided he continues to eat, drink, urinate, and defecate normally.

The cough, however, may be something more serious. A dry, hacking, non-productive cough can be anything from a hairball, feline asthma, primary or secondary cardiac disease, feline heartworm disease, to lungworm disease. Try and note the frequency and severity of the cough. Does your cat seem to be exercise intolerant? Do the coughing bouts seem to be associated with stress or visits to the litter box?

The bad breath can be anything from dental disease (especially if he eats canned food), stomatitis (an inflammatory condition of the mouth that is often caused by an immune-mediated inflammatory process to the periodontal ligaments of the teeth), to underlying kidney disease.

Depending on the significance of the cough and bad breath, it sounds like you do need to see your primary care veterinarian at least for a physical examination and consultation. An oral exam may be all that’s needed to identify the cause of bad breath. Your vet can auscult (listen to with a stethoscope) your cat’s heart and lungs to determine whether thoracic radiographs are necessary as a diagnostic test to work-up the cough. Blood and urine work-up may be necessary to rule out kidney disease as a cause of the bad breath if the oral exam is normal.

As for the ’humping’, try squirting your cat with a squirt gun whenever he displays this behavior. They will often associate the behavior with an ill desired stimuli (the squirt gun) and potentially deter the behavior in the future.

Good luck and remember a thorough physical examination by your vet is priceless due to our patient’s inability to speak.

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