We are told that one in ten adults in Australia have asthma. If we use the definition that asthma is a disease resulting from airways that narrow too much or too easily in response to a stimulus, then cats certainly exhibit it.. The frequency in the cat population is much lower than in people.
Feline asthma is characterised by recurring episodes of coughing, wheezing and difficult breathing. It responds to corticoids and bronchodilators. It is a result of inappropriate activity of the immune system but the triggers that cause it in the cat have not as yet been been researched. Things such as cold air, dust and smoke are known but they could be as diverse as they are in humans.
Coughing is the main symptom seen in cats and as such has usually been treated as an infectious or parasitic (lungworm) bronchitis. The second main sign is wheezing.
Management of the problem involves the use of similar drugs to those used for people, but the delivery is different. Cats will rarely inhale puffers (though a protocol for such has been developed), so oral medications tend to be used.
Further information is available in Proceedings 323, Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science, University of Sydney.