Why Is Your Cat Breathing Heavy and What Can You Do About It?  

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Why Is Your Cat Breathing Heavy and What Can You Do About It?   1

Compared to our canine companions, we don’t usually see our cats pant or experience heavy breathing. However, that doesn’t mean that cats don’t pant. Sadly, a cat breathing heavy most often suggests the presence of an underlying health condition.

So, as a cat owner, it is important that you know how to identify normal panting and abnormal labored breathing that warrants prompt veterinary care.

Panting or Heavy Breathing in Cats

If your cat is panting or breathing heavily, it could signify that he is having dyspnea. Technically, it is not a disorder. Instead, it is a symptom of several health problems that are related to breathing.

Cats occasionally pant as a typical behavior. Consider for a moment what your cat was doing or going through just before you heard him panting.

Like dogs, cats may pant when they are nervous, overheated, or after engaging in strenuous exercise. Once the cat has had a chance to relax, cool off, or rest, the panting caused by these triggers should stop.

It's crucial to remember that compared to dogs, our feline buddies rarely exhibit this type of panting. Therefore, it is worthwhile to see your veterinarian if you're unsure of the cause of your cat's panting.

However, if your cat drools, coughs, or appears scared by the change in breathing, or if he is having trouble breathing, you should be concerned. Let's examine more closely what it looks like for cats to have abnormal breathing.

Also read: Why Do Cats Pant?

How Does Heavy Breathing in Cats Look Like?

Typically, you are not supposed to notice your cat breathing or be bothered by it. As mentioned earlier, seeing your cat breathing heavily may be a sign of stress, anxiety, or overheating. In cats, labored breathing resembles more like panting in dogs.

While panting like a dog is acceptable in cats, this activity needs to be uncommon and free of other unsettling signs like flaring nostrils. For instance, it's typically not a cause for concern if you observe your cat panting after playing on a warm summer day for a few minutes.

On the other hand, there are a number of indications that your cat is experiencing respiratory distress. Some of the most common signs include:

  1. Standing or squatting while holding the arms outspread and extending the head and neck out from the body
  2. Rapid breathing of up to 40 breaths per minute (tachypnea)
  3. Breaths that are shallow, loud, brief, or especially harsh or rattling
  4. Presence of purple or bluish gums (which could mean your cat isn't getting enough oxygen)
  5. Accompanying changes in behavior, such as hiding, a lack of appetite, or sluggishness

If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, make sure to get in touch with a vet right away for a complete examination.

Cat Breathing Heavy

Why Is Your Cat Breathing Heavily?

If your cat isn't overheated, anxious, or exhausted from exercise, but he is breathing heavily, it could be an indication of a medical problem.

A trip to the emergency veterinary facility may be necessary if you suspect that your pet is afflicted with any of the conditions listed below.

1. Asthma

Cats' panting, wheezing, and coughing are all symptoms of asthma, which can also quicken their breathing rate.  Cats with asthma can be treated, and bronchodilators or corticosteroids are frequently used.

2. Respiratory Infections

Your cat may have heavy breathing or pant as a result of a respiratory infection that makes it difficult for him to breathe normally. These infections typically begin as viral infections in cats before turning into secondary bacterial infections.

For the infection to be treated and your cat to breathe more easily, antibiotics might be required. As your cat's condition improves, humidifiers and steam may help clear mucus and make nasal breathing easier.

3. Heartworm

Breathing problems are a potential side effect of heartworm in cats. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. In severe instances, oxygen therapy may be required. You must continue giving your cat monthly heartworm preventatives since heartworm disease can be fatal for cats.

4. Hydrothorax and Congestive Heart Failure

Hydrothorax is caused by the buildup of fluid in and around the lungs, which can lead to fast, heavy breathing, coughing, and panting. In addition to drugs to dilate blood vessels, eliminate extra fluid, and increase the heart's contractility, the condition may be treated by draining the fluid.

5. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Cat coronaviruses are the cause of the viral illness known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Appetite loss, weight loss, sadness, and fever are symptoms of FIP. This condition has a quick progression, which can lead to fluid buildup in the abdomen and cause difficulty of breathing. 

6. Other Conditions

Cats may also pant or breathe heavily in response to trauma, anemia, neurological conditions, pain, bleeding, tumors, and allergic reactions.

Why Is Your Cat Breathing Heavy and What Can You Do About It?   2

How to Treat and Prevent Heavy Breathing in Cats?

As with any health issue, treating heavy breathing in cats start with identifying the cause. For instance, FIP can lead to fluid buildup in the chest, which can make breathing difficult. In the same way, discovering a tumor in your cat's chest or a foreign body in its trachea will call for entirely different treatment strategies.

The prevention of heavy breathing is a completely different matter, and it depends on managing your cat's health thoroughly. Remember that a regular cat breathes between 15 and 30 times per minute when they are relaxing or sleeping.

Simply counting breaths a few times to make sure the findings are reliable will allow you to assess your cat's respiratory rate on your own. If you observe that your cat is breathing more than 30 cycles per minute together with other unsettling indications including lethargy, blue gums, or hiding, you should get in touch with a veterinarian right away.

Keep the heartworm, flea, and tick medicines up to date and be sure to get your cat examined by a vet at least once every year. The first step in figuring out whether something is out of whack is understanding your cat's typical behavior. Keep in mind that you are always your cat's first line of defense.

Also read: Best Cat Food Brands for Indoor Kitties


If after reading this article, you are still concerned about your cat's breathing difficulties, then, it's crucial to get veterinarian attention. As always, it's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to your cat's health.

Additionally, it's critical to keep in mind that early diagnosis, before a condition progresses to a more serious health issue, is essential for effective treatment. In addition to potentially protecting your cat's health, early treatment could ultimately save you money.

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