Over the years, I have become accustomed to the sound of my cat snoring while she sleeps.
However, I can never get used to the snoring sounds she makes while she’s awake, even though her breathing is normal.
My wife and I have always felt alarmed by how our cat Cleo breathes through her nose, sometimes as if she is snoring, other times like she’s having a difficult time breathing.
This noisy breathing is something that caused us to take her to the vet twice, but our vet said that there wasn’t anything wrong with her.
I was happy to hear this, of course, but I still wanted to know what would cause cats to make these snoring-like sounds when they breathe.
Here’s what I learned about why they do this:
1. Upper Respiratory Infection
Just as with humans, cats can contract upper respiratory infections that cause nasal discharge, sneezing, and noisy breathing.
An upper respiratory infection is a viral or bacterial infection that affects your cat’s nose, throat, or sinuses and can cause sniffling, sneezing, and nasal discharge.
If your cat’s breathing sounds like snoring and they exhibit any of these other symptoms, it’s best to take them to the vet, who can prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication to help your cat recover.
2. Sinus Infection
Infections inside the sinus cavity can lead to a snoring-like noise when your cat breathes.
Dental disease and nasal foreign bodies in the nasal cavity can cause sinus infections, which can lead to congestion and breathing difficulties.
It’s important to keep an eye out for changes in your cat’s behavior if you suspect a sinus infection and let your vet know what you have observed.
If left untreated, it could lead to more severe health issues or even permanent damage.
If your cat is carrying too much weight, the excessive fat tissue can put pressure on their airways, resulting in labored breathing.
If you think your cat is overweight, it’s time to help them make some slow, steady and consistent lifestyle changes.
You can help your cat maintain a healthy weight by increasing their daily exercise routine and adjusting their feeding habits.
A pet nutritionist or veterinarian can help you by recommending specific diet plans for cats.
4. Blocked Nasal Passages
Just like humans, cats can get congested due to allergies, infections, or other debris. This can lead to heavy breathing, wheezing, and, yes, snoring-like sounds.
Cats have narrow nasal passages, and when they become congested with mucus or other debris, it can create a snoring-like sound.
This kind of blockage can be caused by allergies, infections, or other irritants.
If you find your cat’s breathing sounds congested, you can try to alleviate the symptoms by using a humidifier or saline solution for pets and other things your vet can recommend.
5. Shorter than Average Nasal Passages
Felines have shorter nasal passages than other animals, making them vulnerable to louder breathing noises.
Some cat breeds are bred with shorter nasal passages, which can lead to this kind of sound production, and because genetics often determine the length of a cat’s nasal passages, a cat with shorter nasal passages may create snoring-like sounds as they breathe.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they have a medical condition; it’s just how they are built.
However, keep an eye out for other signs of distress, such as coughing or shortness of breath, as they could signal a more severe issue.
6. Airway Blockage
Stertor, as it is called, is usually a low-pitched sound that is heard during inhalation and can sound like snoring.
This is often caused by blockages in the throat, such as inflammation or excess tissue.
When cats breathe, the air travels from their nose and throat to their lungs.
Airway blockages occur when something obstructs the flow of air through the throat, leading to snoring-like sounds during inhalation.
Obesity, tumors, or foreign objects in the airway can cause an airway blockage.
If this is the case, it’s critical to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible, as this type of blockage can be life-threatening.
7. Nasopharyngeal Stenosis
In some cases, noisy breathing in cats can be caused by a narrowing of the back of their throat.
This condition is called nasopharyngeal stenosis. The narrowing of the throat can make it difficult for your cat to breathe correctly, resulting in a snoring-like sound.
This condition can typically be treated with medication or surgery, but it’s important to get your cat evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the best course of action.
8. Respiratory Inflammation/Illnesses
Just like us, cats are also susceptible to breathing difficulties caused by respiratory inflammation and illnesses.
Asthma, fungal infections, and bacterial infections can all lead to wheezing and snoring-like breathing in cats.
If your cat is experiencing noisy breathing accompanied by coughing or nasal discharge, take your cat to a veterinarian immediately.
They will be able to assess whether your cat requires medication or other treatment to help slow and stop their symptoms.
9. Tumor in the Nose
Just like humans, cats can develop tumors that can cause them pain and discomfort.
When it comes to snoring-like breathing, a tumor in the cat’s nose can obstruct their air passage, leading to wheezing sounds.
If you notice your cat is experiencing noisy breathing for an extended period, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible to get the proper treatment.
Here is a video of a cat who’s making snoring sounds while awake:
What is normal cat breathing behavior?
Normal breathing behavior in a cat typically involves taking between 15 to 30 breaths every minute.
Each breath travels to the lungs, oxygenating the blood, which then circulates through your cat’s body, allowing their vital organs to function properly.
Healthy cats usually breathe quietly and effortlessly, but breathing patterns can vary slightly based on your cat’s activity level.
For example, a cat may breathe more quickly or heavily after play or exercise, but this should return to normal once they have calmed down.
Abnormal breathing in cats could include obvious difficulty in breathing in and out, rapid rate of breathing, noisy panting with an open mouth, and frequent coughing.
Resting/sleeping breathing rates that are consistently greater than 30 breaths per minute are considered abnormal.
It’s important to monitor your cat’s breathing and seek veterinary care if you notice changes or if your cat appears to be struggling to breathe.
Always reach out to your veterinarian if you have concerns about your cat’s health.
Why does my cat sound congested when breathing?
If your cat sounds congested when breathing, it could be due to a number of reasons. Here are some potential causes:
- Rhinitis (Stuffy Nose): Cats can suffer from a stuffy nose, which can make them uncomfortable and cause difficulties with sleep, smell, and playtime.
- Upper Respiratory Infection: Bacterial and viral infections can cause upper respiratory issues in cats, leading to congestion.
- Inhalation of Foreign Objects: If a cat inhales something that gets caught in its throat, it may partially obstruct the airway and cause a congested-sounding breath.
- Fear or Anxiety: Sometimes, cats can start breathing heavily and sound congested when they’re scared or anxious.
- Asthma or Heart Disease: These conditions can also lead to congestion in cats.
It’s important to note that these are just possible causes.
If your cat sounds congested but has no nasal discharge, a foreign body obstructing their airways could be the reason.
Noisy breathing with a high-pitched sound (stridor) is usually caused by a blockage or issue in the larynx or windpipe.
If your cat is showing signs of respiratory distress, contact your vet ASAP to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.
Why does my cat’s breathing sound raspy and snoring like they’re having trouble breathing?
If your cat’s breathing sounds raspy or like snoring, it could be due to several reasons:
- Upper Respiratory Infection: An infection in the upper respiratory tract can cause noisy breathing in cats.
- Feline Asthma: This condition can lead to wheezing and labored breathing, making your cat’s breath sound unusual.
- Nasopharyngeal Polyps: These benign growths can occur in the throat or ear canals of cats, causing abnormal and noisy breathing.
- Airway Blockage: Just like snoring in humans, a blocked airway in your cat’s throat can cause a low-pitched sound.
- Lung Disease: Conditions like pneumonia can result in heavy, noisy breathing.
- Respiratory Inflammation: Asthma or other causes of respiratory inflammation can result in wheezing sounds.
- Heart Disease: Some heart conditions can cause irregular or labored breathing in cats.
- Anemia: Low red blood cell count can also cause difficulty in breathing.
- Feline Dyspnea: This term denotes that a cat is having significant problems inhaling and exhaling, which can result in unusual breathing sounds.
Assisting Your Cat’s Breathing and Preventing Snoring
To help your cat breathe better and prevent snoring sounds when they’re breathing, you can follow these tips:
Regular physical activity can help improve your cat’s overall health, including their respiratory health.
I make sure Cleo gets enough exercise by keeping her busy with active playtime throughout the day.
It could be something as simple as playing with her string feather wand toy, a ball of yarn, or batting her mouse around.
This not only keeps her physically active but also mentally stimulated and helps prevent weight gain, which can put extra pressure on her respiratory system.
2. Provide High Places For Them to Climb
Cats love to climb and perch on high places. Providing these spaces can help keep them active and healthy.
Climbing and jumping can also help improve their respiratory health by expanding their lung capacity.
If you have limited space, you can create vertical space with shelves or cat trees.
Providing a spacious and stimulating environment can help prevent respiratory issues in the long term.
3. Food Puzzles
I have also found that food puzzles can stimulate a cat mentally and physically, which can indirectly contribute to better respiratory health.
These puzzles keep Cleo engaged because it creates a reward-seeking behavior that will make her work for her food.
It also encourages movement, which can help increase lung capacity and keep her respiratory system in top shape.
Alternatively, you can try feeding your cat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day instead of one large meal.
This can help reduce pressure on their respiratory system while digesting food.
4. Use a Humidifier
Dry air can make it harder for your cat to breathe and may increase their snoring. Using a humidifier near where your cat sleeps can help alleviate this.
A humidifier can help regulate the air quality in your home, which is important if you live in a dry climate.
Just make sure to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria.
I have used a humidifier in Cleo’s room, and I have noticed that she breathes better and her snoring has decreased significantly.
5. Keep Your Home Clean
Allergens like dust, mold, pollen, and tobacco smoke can irritate your cat’s respiratory system, leading to snoring and breathing problems.
Regularly clean your home, especially areas where your cat spends most of their time. Vacuum rugs and carpets and dust tabletops, shelves, and cabinets.
Use an air filter system to remove airborne allergens and pollutants. If someone smokes indoors, avoid exposing your kitty to secondhand smoke.
6. Provide Proper Nutrition
A balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients is crucial for your cat’s health. Feed your cat high-quality cat food that is appropriate for their age, weight, and breed.
Avoid giving them table scraps, as human food can contain ingredients that may trigger allergies, upset your kitty’s digestion, and cause respiratory issues.
Consult with your veterinarian to determine if your cat needs any dietary supplements to support their respiratory health.
7. Annual Veterinary Visits
Regular check-ups with a vet can help detect potential respiratory issues early, allowing for timely treatment and fixing issues before they get worse.
It’s important to make sure your cat is up-to-date with their vaccinations and that they receive regular physical exams.
Your vet can also check your cat’s airways for blockages and give you advice on how to keep your cat’s health and respiratory issues at bay.
Regular visits can help your cat live a longer, healthier life, which is what we all want.
If your cat’s breathing sounds are accompanied by other symptoms like loss of appetite, lethargy, or blue gums, seek immediate veterinary attention.