Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 6, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column!

Can you train a cat to not go into the street?

I have two cats i adopted recently (about 8 months ago and 2 months ago) who i am letting be outside during the day. I live in a residential area of a small city. The problem is they are starting to go in the street. I’m terrified of them getting hit by a car and so feel a lot of anxiety when they are outside now. There’s not a lot of traffic but i still think it’s dangerous. Being indoor-only is not an option as my house is about 350 sq-ft; and that was never the plan. Can they be trained to not go into the street? Otherwise I”m thinking of trying to find a home for them in a more rural area, although it would break my heart to give them up. (I know a lot of people feel very strongly about indoor-only, i know that argument very well, so please don’t repeat it. thank you.) – Almazul

Hi Almazul,

Thank you for taking the time to write in about your dilemma trying to keep your cats out of the street while still letting them enjoy the outdoors. I completely understand your conflicted feelings and sympathize with you. It is extremely important to keep your babies safe; that goes without saying. However, you do not need to go to the extreme of rehoming them to do so.

Not all cats should be housed exclusively indoors, and I believe there are many circumstances where they can safely enjoy the outdoors. In fact, I have just written a book on the subject (available for pre-order here) to help guardians, like you, navigate this complex, and controversial, subject.

Cars are a danger to cats, and I applaud you for feeling anxious about your kitties going into the street. I would be concerned too. Most cats are like 2–3-year-old children and should be supervised whenever they are outside playing. Is it possible for you to be out there with them to monitor where they go? Or do you have a backyard where they can play instead of the front yard? If so, can you put in a cat fence?

My cats respond very well to the sound of my voice and I can often distract them with a harsh “eh, eh, no” as soon as I see one wanting to jump up on the deck railing or venture away from me. They also come for treats when they hear me shake the jar and this is how I corral my kitties into following me inside when I want them to.

Human parents often face the same dilemma when allowing their children to ride bicycles or teenagers to drive. Both are dangerous activities but that does not stop them from permitting their kids to do so. Rather, responsible parents make sure their children are kept as safe as possible by insuring they are well equipped to engage in these risky activities. They provide them with proper instruction and the necessary equipment, like driver’s ed classes, bicycle helmets, or a car with airbags, to keep them from harm’s way. And parents typically assess their child’s maturity and ability to handle the privilege of riding their bikes in the neighborhood or driving a car by themselves before allowing them to do so.

Pet parents can do the same with their cats. While we cannot eliminate all the dangers lurking outside, we can make sure that our kitties are at least equipped with safety measures if we are going to allow them the opportunity to explore outdoors.

I hope you can find middle ground that allows you to keep your kitties happy and safe at home, with you! Good luck.

Cat with upper respiratory issues

Hello Dr. Bahr,

my (male) cat is probably 14 years old (I’ve had him since October 2019, was told he is 12 years). I loie alone, 2 bedroom condo, balcony). I’ve noticed respiratory problems months ago, but they were no more than an almost unnoticeable sound when he was purring. The vet of course couldn’t do anything, couldn’t hear it and said his lungs were fine. Now it has advanced to sneezing , breathing through his mouth and is rather obvious, sometimes includes a nose drip. Now the vet says, that his lungs are still clear, it is most likely a virus and the only thing I could possible do is, to put him a in steam filled bathroom for 10 minutes once or twice a day. Do you have anything else I could do? He also has FIC every 3 weeks and I try to keep any kind of stressful situation away from him. That’s why I have not done the steam-filled bathroom yet – it would be adding to his stress to be locked in my bathroom, even if I stay with him. Hope to hear from you and thank you in advance to have taken the time to read about my BoBo and his issues. – Ina Holthaus

Hi Ina,

Thank you for adopting an older cat and giving him such a good home. You are pawsome!

Any cat that breathes from his mouth because his nose is congested needs medical attention, and I would encourage you to have him seen by another veterinarian for a second opinion asap.

From what you have reported it does not appear that his lungs are at issue BUT more likely that his upper respiratory tract is being compromised. There are several conditions, like a foreign body, tumor, nasal polyp, fungal, bacterial, viral, etc., that could be causing the problem, and these should be investigated. Your boy needs help now!

If possible, look for a veterinarian that focuses on feline medicine and one who will help you with pre-visit pharmaceuticals to keep your boy calm and relaxed before his exam. This will go a long way in reducing his (and your) stress level.

Please let me know how this turns out for you.

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12 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Cat with Upper Respiratory Issues and More

  1. I have about 20 feral cats/kittens that i feed daily. They have matted eyes, sneezing & coughing. What can i put in their food to help? I cant catch them to treat with topical remedies. Any suggestions will be appreciated to help these felines. Thank you.

    • Hi Terri,

      Although admirable, feeding feral cats/kittens while kind is not a great option in the long run. They will keep reproducing and spreading disease. My recommendation would be for you to get in touch with animal services and let them handle the animals. We can not recommend medications without checking the animals first.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hello and thanks in advance….We have two seemingly healthy, small sibling cats, 11 mo. old. Roxie/female weighs 6 lbs. and Rowdy/male weighs 7. They are vet checked and found to have no ailments. The issue is that Rowdy throws up digested food several times a week, sometimes daily, a teaspoon full to half of the eaten meal. They have good appetites in general and get quality wet food with a little, again quality, dry food, a freeze dried raw treat and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast on top. The toppings are to get Rowdy, the picky eater to eat the wet food. Together they are fed a total of 15 ounces of food a day, spread out into four meals about 5 hours apart. (plus toppings) The protein in all is chicken. Both are active, happy, loving cats. Suggestions?
    Thanks again,

  3. I left a message on the vet’s page. Have just had a message from you saying something is wrong. The email you have is not mine I do not have gmail, my email is [email protected]. Can you help?

    • Your question and comment show up with your correct email address, so I’m not sure why you got an error message. You’re all set, Dr. Bahr will answer your question next month.

  4. I have a rescue cat aged 4 years and have had her only 3 months. She loves to be petted at her convenience but so far she keeps herself to herself and doesn’t like being disturbed. She was very difficult to settle the first few weeks; and at the moment she has to be an indoor cat, which I don’t like but seems necessary.
    She has developed a watering eye, and wheezes in her sleep. The first three weeks of her arrival she managed to get into my bathroom wall which is hollow and filled with fibre glass, I left food out for her at night but there she stayed for the full three weeks until I got the RSPCA to bring the cat trap and was successful. Could the fibre glass have affected her lungs. I cannot get her to a vet because I cannot get her into the carry basket, more than my life is worth. Hope you can help, thank you Karen.

    • This happened to my cat Coco too…dripping nose and watering eyes and it has lasted more than 2 weeks…he does seem feel better this week. I thought he probably had a cold or something. Didn’t think it could be lung problem at all :-((

  5. We dealt with respiratory issues with Pono (since he was a baby) and a vet that we found recommended breathing treatments (steam), but we used an aquarium and made a lid for it with two holes, one for the nebulizer tube to go in and the other an exhaust hole. We used an ice bag to help keep it cooler inside. It worked wonders with Pono when he was congested. Of course he also got antibiotic and sinus medication from the vet. He lived 15 years with this routine.

  6. Hi Dr. Bahr,
    I’m glad you brought up upper respiratory issues. My 11 year old male hauspanther, Adam, has always had a drippy nose, wheezing and sneezing since we adopted him at age 2. I’ve asked our vet numerous times about his wheezing since it seems to be an asthma attack that lasts for about 30 seconds or more but the vet doesn’t seem to say much about it. Lately, when he has an attack he ends up throwing up what little might be in his digestive tract. We haven’t seen the vet personally in over a year because of the pandemic; just drop off the cat and consult by phone.
    Adam had bad gums and lost all his teeth except for the tiny ones between the fangs. He had chronic eye infections that finally responded to probiotics, which surprised me. Obviously his immune system is compromised. This is a vet who does large and small animals, even going one day a week out to his horse patients. Recently, his office staff offered a choice of antibiotic or homeopathic for an eye flare-up. I hesitated, not being trusting of homeopathic while at the same time not wanting to over-use antibiotics. The following day the eye was clear so we never did treat it. But his asthma worries me. It occurs a few times a week now, along with constant upper-respiratory symptoms. I don’t have a feline specialist in the area.

  7. Hallo, Dr. Bahr
    I was the one who asked about the skin problem a few weeks ago and we took your advice and brought my cat to a new vet. After two blood tests…one test found out that my cat coco (13years old, we adopted him from a shelter in another European country) has some kind of autoimmunity problem and the other test (according to the vet, that some foreign country diseases needed to be ruled out first) turned out just fine. The vet. doesn’t really know what exactly the problem is, but coco still scratched himself like mad…a couple of visits followed, the vet decided to give coco an injection of cortisol which should have worked in a couple of hours, again, it didn’t work. The vet also said that this kind of injection is not ideal because it would hurt his liver in a long term. So he prescribed another one (Atopica-Ciclosporin, 10 times more expensive than the injection :-(( ) for coco…and this solution does work. And he needs this for the rest of his life…now I worry about the side effect…is this medicine safe for long term use?
    Thank YOU in advance!

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