How to build a nebulizer: helping a kitty with an upper respiratory condition to breathe

Watching a beloved cat agonizing from an upper respiratory condition; a kitty who is deeply congested and struggling to take a breath has to be one of the most frightening and frustrating moments for any feline guardian.

Feline nebulizer
Photo credit: Jo Singer: Dr. Hush Puppy enjoying a treatment in his nebulizer
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The reason I am writing about this extremely upsetting issue is to share our experience finding ways to better take care of Dr. Hush Puppy; our 15-year-old lilac point Oriental Shorthair. He had been suffering from a chronic rhinitis condition for which he was being treated regularly by our veterinarian. Initially his condition was fairly stable through treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications at home along with acupuncture and regular on-going nebulizing sessions at her clinic.

But last week his condition took a major turn for the worse. He became seriously ill. His nasal passages were blocked with thick, viscous mucus making it very hard for him to breathe. And while he was very hungry, he refused to eat because he couldn’t smell his food.

Since a cat has to eat, we rushed him back to our veterinarian. One of the first things she did to help ease his breathing was to nebulize him. It greatly relieved his congestion and he started eating again, so we took him back home later that day. Unfortunately, since the underlying cause had not yet been identified, we were waiting on pins and needles for the culture results. But within 24 hours he was wheezing again and feeling miserable. So it was back to the vet again for another nebulizing treatment.

Making daily trips to the vet’s clinic is not only costly; it is also very stressful for both the cat and guardian. Our veterinarian suggested that we purchase a nebulizer so that we could give him daily treatments at home. I searched the Internet for an outlet from which I could purchase a nebulizer, however they were very costly.

Fortunately, during my searches, quite by accident I came across an article on how to build a nebulizer for an asthmatic cat. While Dr. Hush Puppy wasn’t asthmatic, since both are breathing problems, I sent the information to my vet who agreed that it was a perfect solution; and at a minimal cost.

I can’t stress the importance of having one of these devices handy to help alleviate the distress that cats experience when they cannot catch their breath. It can be a life-saver as a first line strategy until professional veterinary treatment is available. I now consider a home-built nebulizer as part of our first-aid kit. We were easily able to build it and Dr. Hush Puppy actually enjoys the 10 minutes that he is in the “box”.

I cannot thank Tom Karpowitz sufficiently for sharing his nebulizer design and posting these very easy step-by-step instructions. He provides all the information needed and estimates the cost of the nebulizer at approximately $60.00. His device works like a charm.

We are now nebulizing Dr. Hush Puppy for about 10 minutes every day or twice a day if necessary. Instead of using a prescription medication we are just using saline in the nebulizer which gives off a fine spray of droplets that he can breathe in which greatly relieves his stuffiness and makes it easy to clear his nostrils. I use a preemie aspirator following it up with wiping his nostrils clean with a very soft baby washcloth.

Here is the link to the instructions. See also cat sauna.

Would you consider building a nebulizer for your cat? Tell us what you think in a comment.

8 thoughts on “How to build a nebulizer: helping a kitty with an upper respiratory condition to breathe”

  1. Thank you for sharing this invaluable information, Jo. I am sure that it will help many caring people and their beloved cats.

    Note: this was posted on behalf of jmuhj as she had used the wrong form. No problems.

  2. Hi Serbella,

    He is starting to eat from my fingers now. I imagine you would understand how important that is. He knows approximately when feeding time arrives and if he is in his cage napping, he crawls out and sits by the sink where we prepare his food for the feeding tube and get all his medications ready.

    So for two days now (as long as he can breathe ok) he is taking the food right out of the can off my fingers. He still has a little problem eating because of his left-side paralysis on his face due to the middle ear infection-causing this- but he sure is trying.

    Gonna try giving him some baby food on Monday and see if he will like that- I can’t wait until he will eat the whole 1/4 of a can by himself from a plate. Ten days after that is happening we can consider removing the tube- of course my vet will be doing that: LOL Thanks for well wishes.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Jo. Yes, I’d definitely consider having a nebulizer on hand for Samirah. I hope the good Dr. Puppy is doing better nowadays.

  4. The creator of this is a genius. It’s simple to construct, it works, and it’s cost effective. A caretaker couldn’t ask for more. This could save thousands of dollars in vet bills.
    Great find, Jo.

      • I lost my oldest baby Wednesday morning. . . she crossed the bridge peacefully in her sleep. . . it was quite a shock as she hadn’t been ill in any way. . . my vet and I figured maybe a stroke — we will never know. . .she was 15-1/2. . . my son Tyler really took it hard as he was really close to her. . . I picked up her cremains Thursday to be with us forever. . . ♥♥♥

        • Very sorry to hear this. At least it was short and peaceful. Your poor son. It is hard. Fifteen and a half years of age is not bad though.


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