What Should You Do If You Have a Heavy Breathing Cat?

cats with heavy breathing might have health issues

Many cats with respiratory issues go unnoticed thanks to the fact that their owners simply do not understand just how serious these issues can be. For example, did you know that a cat with abnormal breathing could actually be a very ill animal? Most people just assume that their cats are tired, have played a bit too much or are out of breath, and they ignore the signs and symptoms that so often mean something else.

Your cat’s breathing should be smooth, and it should be even. If it’s not, it could be an issue. Perhaps your cat has always had an issue breathing hard, and that leaves you wondering if there really is anything wrong or if your cat is just like that. We tend not to notice things that aren’t normal when they are ‘our’ normal.

For example, when my middle daughter was diagnosed with asthma when she was not even 2, we felt completely blindsided by her diagnosis. To us, her breathing was just fine. To the doctor, however, her breathing was labored and hollow, and it sounded strange. We never really noticed because she always sounded like that to us, and it seemed to be her normal since there was never anything else wrong with her.

If you have a heavy breathing cat, you might want to take note that it could be more than just a cat without any breathing manners or etiquette, and it could be something a lot more serious. Here are some of the different breathing sounds your cat might make and what they could mean – rest assured that not one of them is actually ‘normal’ and all of them require a trip to the vet for the sake of your cat’s good health. Many times the issue can be resolved with treatment or medication, but sometimes abnormal breathing is an indicator that your cat is not going to make it much longer and it might be a good idea to get him to the vet for some comfort in his last moments. According to Pet WebMD, these six very specific types of breathing require your immediate attention.


If your cat pants regularly, it could be a big issue. When our newly adopted dog attacked our cat two days before Christmas last year, we knew right away that something was wrong because the cat was panting. Even though there was not a drop of blood or anything broken after the dog picked the cat up and shook him around like a toy, we knew based on Twitter’s heavy panting something was wrong.

His lungs were collapsed and his kidney’s failing. He was in shock and having a difficult time breathing because of his internal injuries. If your cat is just finished playing hard or exercising, panting for a few moments is normal. If your cat is outside in the heat and panting without stopping, chances are good that heat stroke might be at fault.

Slow breathing

When a cat is breathing slowly, most people fail to take notice. However, this is one of the only signs that point to narcotic poisoning, a blood clot or even encephalitis, which is found in many things like mosquitoes that bite cats and spread the disease. Get this cat to the vet immediately.

A cat that has a difficult time breathing at the correct pace might be suffering from some sort of advanced illness that requires immediate treatment. If this sudden breathing starts with your cat, don’t hesitate getting him or her to the vet. You will find that in most instances the sooner your cat is checked out, the better.

Rapid breathing

Sometimes your cat might breathe heavy for a moment because of shock or pain, and it will go away. This is not usually something worth worrying about. However, when the cat is in pain, the rapid breathing will not stop .This could happen because of shock, because of stress, fever, heat stroke, lung disease and a host of other internal issues. If you notice that your cat sounds like this and does not stop, it’s time to get him to the vet for a checkup right away.


It’s not always easy to hear this kind of abnormal breathing in a cat, and that’s why it’s important to pay attention to his or her behavior at the same time. A cat that’s wheezing might have some issues with air escaping its bronchial tubes. It could indicate asthma, it could indicate cancer and it could indicate any host of other issues that could affect your cat.

Noisy breathing

It is very important to note that there are some breeds that breathe like this regularly, no matter what you do. For example, the Persian breed is known for making some noise when breathing thanks to the size of its nose and other factors associated with this breed. However, if you notice that your normally quiet cat is breathing noisily all of a sudden with no warning, it could mean something else entirely. It’s time to get this cat to the vet so that he or she can see what is causing this cat’s throat to swell and noise to escape when he or she breathes.

Shallow breathing

This is a definite sign of respiratory distress in almost every single feline. Have you ever suffered from a broken rib or two? If you have, you know that the pain is unbearable and that the pain is also very distinct. It means you will spend a great deal of time wincing and working very hard not to breathe too deeply or take any deep breaths because the pain is too much to bear. This is because of an injury to the ribs that hurts so badly.

Cats can suffer the same issues. It could be something else, sometimes something that’s related directly to the overall health of your cat, but it usually means that regular breaths are too much for your cat and he or she is working hard to ensure breathing stops hurting.

Photo by Getty Images

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