The sudden onset of forceful coughing, pawing at the mouth, and respiratory distress
in a healthy cat suggests a foreign object
caught in the larynx. Foreign bodies caught in the larynx are not common. Most
food particles are of little consequence because the resulting cough expels
If your cat is choking with gagging, retching, and respiratory distress,
assume there is a foreign body caught in the cat’s throat and seek emergency
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Treatment: This is an emergency. If the cat is conscious and able to
breathe, go at once to the nearest veterinary clinic.
If the cat collapses and is unable to breathe, lay the cat on her side with
her head lower than her body. Open her mouth, pull out her tongue, and look for
the foreign body. When you see it, take hold of the cat’s neck behind the
lodged object and apply enough compression to keep the object from passing
down. With your fingers in the cat’s mouth, work the object loose as quickly as
possible. If unsuccessful, proceed to the Heimlich maneuver.
The Heimlich Maneuver
Place one hand along the cat’s back and the other just below the sternum or
With both hands in position, give four forceful thrusts by pressing in and
Next, check the mouth for the foreign body with a finger sweep.
Then give two breaths, mouth to nose.
Repeat cycles of compression and artificial respiration until the object is
Foreign Bodies in the Throat (Choking and Gagging)
Some cats, especially kittens, may try to eat or swallow string, tinsel,
cloth, fishhooks, and other small objects or toys. Depending on how far down
the throat an object is lodged, the cat will exhibit gagging, neck extension on
swallowing, and choking on swallowing.
If the signs are forceful coughing and the cat is having difficulty taking
in air, the foreign body has passed into the larynx.
Treatment: Cats are extremely difficult to restrain when they are panicked.
Struggling with them may cause a foreign body to work deeper into the throat.
Do not try to open the cat’s mouth. You may attempt a mini Heimlich
maneuver but if this does not work immediately, do not delay. Calm the
cat as best you can and proceed directly to the nearest veterinary