Heavy Breathing in Cats: 3 Types and What to Do

comments-icon 74 Comments on Heavy Breathing in Cats: 3 Types and What to Do
+ 1 more
small mallory photo
Medically reviewed by  JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
Avatar photo
Fact checked by  Dr. Lizzie Youens BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS
Share Email Pinterest Linkedin Twitter Facebook

Cute colorful kitten lying on the floor

Quick Overview: Heavy Breathing Cat

clock Urgency: High
jam-medical Requires Vet Visit: Yes
cat Seen in Cats: Frequently
link-chain May be Linked to: Infection of the upper or lower airways, inflammatory airway disease (asthma), heart failure causing fluid buildup in or around the lungs, tumors of the nose, oral cavity or lungs, foreign object trapped in the throat, trauma or bleeding.
pill Treatment Options: Depending on cause: antibiotics, antiinflammatories, diuretic and other heart medications. Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy for amenable tumors. Removing fluid from around the lungs if present, using a needle and syringe (thoracocentesis).

Breathing difficulties are both a symptom of and cause for distress in cats.

The respiratory system, composed of the nose, trachea, and lungs, is a life-giving system that affects a cat’s entire body. Air enters your cat’s body through their nose and moves into their lungs, transferring oxygen into your cat’s blood and nourishing the organs. As oxygen enters your cat’s body through the nostrils, carbon dioxide moves out and into the atmosphere.

The movement of breath is controlled by the respiratory center in your cat’s brain and a network of nerves in their chest. When their body is in balance, your cat’s breath is smooth and moderate without halting, wheezing, or excessive stomach movement. Changes in your cat’s breathing pattern have a world of root causes. They might involve direct trauma or disorder in the respiratory system or could develop as a way to restore homeostasis in the body.

What Is the Normal Respiration Rate for a Cat?

If you’ve ever tried to synchronize your breath with your cat’s and gotten lightheaded in the attempt, you know that cats naturally breathe more rapidly than do humans. While an adult human’s resting respiration rate ranges from 12-16 breaths per minute, a cat might take between 16-30 breaths every minute.

To measure your cat’s resting respiration rate, count the number of breaths your cat takes while sleeping or calm and resting. Each breath is defined as one inhalation and one exhalation. Count the breaths for 30 seconds, then multiply by two to get the number of breaths your cat takes each minute.

Some healthy cats take fewer than 20 breaths per minute while resting, but a number higher than 30 is reason for concern.

Heavy breathing isn’t always rapid, however. Heavy breathing manifests in several forms.

The Three Types of Heavy Breathing in Cats

Your cat’s heavy breathing can be broken down into three classifications: dyspnea, tachypnea, and panting. Let’s learn more about each type of cat breathing heavy.

1. Dyspnea: Labored Breathing

Dyspnea means “difficulty breathing”. Cats with dyspnea may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Increased effort – cat stomach contracting when breathing
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Noisy (wheezing, gasping) breaths
  • Nostrils may flare open with each breath
  • Restless, unable to settle or sleep
  • Extension of head and neck when trying to breath
  • Bluish tint to the gums and mucous membranes (cyanosis)
  • Distress

2. Tachypnea: Rapid and Shallow Breathing

Tachypnea is when a cat’s respiratory rate rises over the normal level (usually counted as over 40 breaths/minute). Tachypnea can go alongside dyspnea, or can be a sole symptom with the cat breathing fast but otherwise normal.

Rapid breathing can be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Bluish tint to the gums and mucous membranes (cyanosis)
  • Fatigue

3. Panting: Rapid Breathing With the Mouth Open

Cat panting is, essentially, tachypnea with the mouth open.

Panting can be a normal physiological response. However, as cats are usually obligate nasal breathers (always breathe through their nose), panting is a sign of considerable stress to the system—such as through stress, extreme heat or exertion. Panting may also point to serious underlying medical conditions, including heart and lung disease.

Possible Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats

cat breathing heavily

As respiration is such an essential function, stress to almost any bodily system can result in changes to breathing.

There are many potential causes of heavy breathing in cats, although many are related to the heart and respiratory system.

Causes of Dyspnea in Cats

  • Disorders of the trachea, including foreign objects stuck in the throat, tumors, or an elongated soft palate
  • Nasal disorders, including undersized nostrils, infections, tumors, or bleeding.
  • Diseases of the lungs and lower windpipe, such as infections, pneumothorax, fluid in the lungs, heartworms, or tumors.
  • Disorders in the chest wall, including physical trauma and paralysis caused by toxins.
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Disorders in the abdomen, such as an enlarged liver, bloating, or fluid buildup.

Causes of Tachypnea in Cats

  • Hypoxemia (low oxygen levels in the blood)
  • Anemia (decreased red blood cell count)
  • Lung cancer
  • Heart failure
  • Heartworms
  • Fever, which can cause tachypnea as your cat breathes rapidly in an attempt to cool down their body
  • Stress, such as from travel or vet visits or when coming across another animal outdoors

Causes of Panting in Cats

  • Heat: Just like dogs, cats use panting as a thermoregulation mechanism, although less commonly than their canine friends. This open-mouthed rapid breathing helps them to manage their body temperature in hot weather. Panting can be a sign of heatstroke.
  • Exertion: Cats can pant when exercising or playing. This may happen because your cat is overweight, or it could be a normal response to continued exertion, especially if the weather is warm.
  • Stress: This is a common source of panting. Cats often pant when they’re in the car or while at the veterinarian.
  • Heart problems: Complications such hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (abnormally thickened heart muscles) could cause panting.
  • Asthma: In addition to coughing, hacking, and wheezing, some asthmatic cats pant.

When to Call the Vet

vet checking cat

Heavy breathing can indicate a serious medical concern in cats, and should warrant a veterinary trip.

Most cases of heavy breathing in cats require urgent veterinary attention. Cats breathing with their mouth open, with noisy breaths, or with significant effort to take in breaths should be taken to a veterinarian as an emergency.

A cat breathing heavily while resting, cool and calm, should be taken for veterinary attention. A resting respiration rate of over 30 is considered unusual and anything over 40 breaths/minute should be treated as urgent.

If your cat is breathing rapidly while hot, stressed or having been exercising, this may be a temporary response. Bring them into a cool, calm environment, and encourage them to have water and rest. If their breathing doesn’t quickly return to normal, contact a DVM veterinarian as they may have an underlying issue such as heatstroke.

Treatment of Heavy Breathing in Cats

If your cat is in respiratory distress, they should be seen urgently by a vet. They will likely need immediate stabilization with oxygen therapy as an emergency measure, along with other treatments such as a mild sedative and fluid assessment.

Your vet will look for the underlying problem causing the changes to breathing. This may include bloodwork, x-rays or ultrasound scans and assessing for any fluid in the chest or abdomen.

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Many cats will require oxygen supplementation, alongside medications to help open up the airways and reduce any fluid build-up.

Prevention of Cat Breathing Heavily

Maine Coon Panting

If a cat is panting due to heat, move them into a cool, shaded or indoor area and encourage them to drink.

Many causes of respiratory difficulties cannot be prevented, as they often involve underlying health issues such as heart of lung disease. It is recommended for cats to have regular veterinary check-ups.

There are some measures to take to prevent physiological causes of rapid or open mouthed breathing.

  • Ensure cats have a cool place to rest in hot weather, and plenty of cool, fresh water to avoid heatstroke.
  • Avoid sources of stress where possible.
  • When playing or exercising your cat, provide plenty of opportunity to rest.

Ask a Vet

vet If your cat is exhibiting labored, rapid, or noisy breathing, you’ll need an expert to help you identify what’s going on and how to fix it. If you can’t bring your cat to a veterinarian right now you may want to contact a vet on JustAnswer. For between $10 and $100, this service allows you to connect one-on-one with a real veterinarian in real time. It’s one of the best ways to get personalized expert advice at a fraction of the cost of a vet visit.

Ask A Question

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my cat breathing heavy when resting?

It isn’t normal for cats to breathe rapidly (over 30 breaths/minute) or heavily when cool, calm and at rest. This may indicate an underlying health concern such as heart or lung disease.

When should I worry about my cat breathing?

Cats should have a resting respiratory rate of 16-30 breaths per minute. If your cat is breathing rapidly, heavily, with increased effort or noise or with their mouth open (when cool, calm and not exercising) then it is recommended to see a vet.

Help us do better! Was this article helpful and relevant?
What can you say about this article?
I am completely satisfied, I found useful information and tips in this article
Article was somewhat helpful, but could be improved
Want to share more?
Thank You for the feedback! We work to make the world a better place for cats, and we're getting better for you.
small mallory photo

About Mallory Crusta

Mallory is the Head of Content at Cats.com and an NAVC-certified Pet Nutrition Coach. Having produced and managed multimedia content across several pet-related domains, Mallory is dedicated to ensuring that the information on Cats.com is accurate, clear, and engaging. When she’s not reviewing pet products or editing content, Mallory enjoys skiing, hiking, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She has two cats, Wessie and Forest.

74 thoughts on “Heavy Breathing in Cats: 3 Types and What to Do”

+ Add Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. chandan

    mam my cat had stomatatis and had been taken to vet they gave him some injections and syrups after 3 to 4 days its been noticed that it had loose motion for one week and had not been eating any food for the past 2 days so we decided to take her to the vet again he gave her some injections and syrup after visiting the vet loose stool stopped but its not been eating anything and has been observed that his abdomen move moderately while breathing (moderate fast breathing) so we decided to force feed the cat with curd with small amount of rice morning and evening from past 2 days and giving coconut water to prevent dehydration but its still breathing moderately fast when I called the vet and asked he told to go to cuppa and make diagnosis of the cat but we can’t afford that much cost so does it necessary to get test please help.

    1. Mallory Crusta


      I’m sorry you and your cat are going through this. It sounds like your cat’s refusal to eat may be connected to his stomatitis, but the heavy breathing and loose stool don’t seem to fit that diagnosis. You didn’t specify the types of injections and syrups your cat was given. They may have contributed to your cat’s new issues, but that’s impossible to confirm that through the web and without the appropriate knowledge and training. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what’s wrong or give you a solution.

      You said that you can’t afford to have your cat tested, but that appears to be your best option. Blood testing will help the vet to evaluate your cat’s organ function and possibly identify what’s wrong. Have you looked into local organizations that may be able to provide financial aid or vets who will provide services at a reduced cost?

      If you can’t find anyone locally, you might look into veterinarians who offer consultations online. They can’t perform tests, but they may be able to give you valuable advice at an affordable price. PetCoach.co is one platform you might want to try.

      For now, you might want to consider puréed meat or meat-based baby food along with or as a replacement for the curd and rice. Encouraging him to eat meat will help him to maintain his strength.

      Wishing you and your cat all the best,


    2. Abby

      My cat has gotten injured then re healed but then recently she got injured again and her breathing is fast no signs of panting and seems like she only breathes in the back . I’m worried for my cats please someone help

      1. Mallory Crusta

        Hello Abby,

        I wish we could do more to help! The best thing you can do is to bring your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible. A vet can evaluate your cat’s injury and determine what’s wrong.

        Wishing you and your cat all the best,


      2. Jane

        Never beg for help on a website if you think your pet is in distress. Be a responsible pet owner and seek professional help.

        1. Kellie Vlyde

          Sometimes people need help, and if the only thing can do is “beg” for help, then they are being responsible pet owners to
          seeking out help. There are so many unwanted, abused, neglected strays out there that go through horrendous conditions and your going to put someone down for trying to get help for their pet?? Wow. Veterinarians won’t help your pet unless you can pay, its very expensive. Not all of us can take our pets to emergency Veterinarians but we give them loving warm homes with food and shelter. Shame on you for putting someone down. Who are you to judge?? Rich I assume.

          1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

            This article is here to help people get information, and the comment section serves as a place for people to vent, share, and discuss their experiences. While you are welcome to educate yourself through the veterinary information here, nothing here is a substitute for veterinary advice. We recommend that anyone noticing symptoms of illness contacts a veterinarian, either through a telehealth system or locally.

          2. Marty

            I agree. You shouldn’t put someone down for asking for help. I just recently spent $4,600 to try and save my Oreo who I love so very much. I noticed she wasn’t eating and believe me this cat Loves to eat and never ever misses a meal. This cat was roaming the streets 10 years ago, this cute little kitten without a home. I took her in and gave her a home for the past 11 years. Now she is just lying downstairs in her favorite spot waiting to die. I took her to an emergency animal hospital and $4600 later they told me she is having heart failure. I asked the vet several times is she suffering? No he said but she is dying. I told him I dont want her to suffer should I put her down to go to cat heaven. He said he drained the fluids from her lung and she can last another year or so. I said all i want to know is if she is suffering because I don’t want her suffering. You talk about money. Covid has destroyed my business and things are really bad financially but there is no way i was not going to try and save her. I am now driving a cab at night to recoup the money but I don’t care. Be nice. Have some compassion

        2. Jim K

          Please never be so preachy on a website! Realize there may be a reason someone can not visit a vet, like perhaps being broke, for one, among many others! Try to develop empathy and not be so judgmental, perhaps begging for help is as responsible as someone can be at that moment!

        3. Melody

          That’s incredibly rude. Some vets will tell you your animal is ok and then they really aren’t and I have had to do several emergency appointments for multiple cats and I have had very difficult times with him literally not answering his phone no matter how many times I called and left messages. Most vet’s where I live don’t want to treat your pet if it isn’t your regular vet emergency or not. Just this afternoon til now I’ve been trying to get my cat in even though she was in on Thursday afternoon so please, be respectful of those that may beg for help. I’m not above that.

  2. Brooke

    My cat is pregnant and breaths heavy through her nose sometimes. I’ve never noticed it before and I also don’t notice it all the time but it does seem to happen more often the bigger she gets. Is this from the pregnancy and normal or should I been concerned?

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Brooke,

      Hope your kitty is doing well! Cats sometimes breathe heavily when they’re going into labor, but otherwise, heavy breathing is not a typical occurrence during pregnancy. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to schedule a talk with a veterinarian.

      – Mallory

    2. Elishia

      My cat has been throwing up for the past month now. My parents refused to take her to the vet reassuring us it was only a cold. This morning I went to my room and my cat was laying on the floor shaking and wheezing forcing herself to breath. My parents are still CONTINUING to ignore the signs something is seriously wrong and are refusing to take action. This breaks my heart that their excuse is that they “Don’t want to spend 300 dollars on a cat that’s going to die in 3-5 years anyways (She’s 10) If you weren’t going to take care of this cat then why did they get her in the first place! Me and my sister are furious and disgusted with our parents! What can I do to save my sweet cat before she passes?

      1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

        Hi Elishia, how is your cat doing now? I apologize for taking a couple of days to approve this comment and get back to you. Unfortunately, there isn’t very much that you can do at home to help a cat who is shaking and wheezing like this. It’s hard to say what, exactly, is wrong, but a situation like this may require treatment of the underlying cause as well as immediate oxygen therapy. It sounds like you’re pretty young, but do you have any money you could use to go to the vet and a way of transporting her there? Vets are generally costly, and even an exam will cost upwards of $50, but a consultation may be able to point you in the right direction. You can also just talk to a vet on the phone, and that could help as well. Finally, I would suggest sharing your concerns in our forum, where a vet moderator may be able to help.

  3. Robert Foggoa

    Hi my cat is brearimg hard is mouth stays open this stumit keeps going up can down
    He does this when he sleepimg. Right noe
    He at the vet. They took xrays . can took
    Fuled off is lungs 150 mm .
    He had is befor i took my cat to 2 vets
    They look at him gave me meds for it
    Cent me home.
    Now it back agine they are treating mittens in there hospital i am concen can worry.
    I have a bad feeling about this .can you please tell me anything that might comfore me .i want to bring my friend home .

    Thank you

    Robert Foggoa

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Robert,

      So sorry for not responding sooner! I’ve been in a similar position before and I felt helpless and sick with worry, so I think I can understand what you were going through when you wrote this comment. There’s nothing I can say to comfort your past self nor can I tell you what was wrong, but I wish you and Mittens all the best.

      Take care,


    2. l sin

      I had a kitty who had breathing problems all his life. He lived to be 15 in spite of his health. He too had to have fluid drawn from his lings 6 days in a row. Then he got antibiotics. This was when he was 7 so I hope Mittens has as long and happy a life as my kitty. If it is God’s will to be otherwise, I pray your grief is short and I know God will send you a companion who needs you as much you need them. Prayers.

  4. Diane

    Our 17 yo cat who has hyperthyroidism has been breathing harder for the past several hours. Her resting respiration is 40. Her nostrils flared briefly. Being a Saturday night do I call our vet? Thank you.

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Diane,

      If you haven’t already made the call, you’ll want to get in touch with your vet as soon as you can. It appears that hyperthyroidism can sometimes cause rapid breathing, but a sustained resting respiration rate over 40 isn’t normal and demands a vet visit.

      Hope you and your kitty are doing well.

      All the best,


  5. Missie Munfield

    My cat is almost 14 and about a month ago he started breathing different and I know he has bad teeth because his breath stinks like poop . He has a wheezing thing and kinda makes a gurgling sound with most breaths. He is still eating but a little less. And is eliminating. He’s lost some weight. I cannot afford any vet bill over 50. So I’m wondering when I should consider putting him down.

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Missie,

      Questions like yours are incredibly hard for anyone to answer. My first thought is that a cat who’s still eating and eliminating is probably still enjoying life. If your cat stops eating, drinking, grooming, playing, and using the litter box, then you’ll know that his quality of life has seriously declined and perhaps it will be time to consider the option of euthanasia.

      For now, your cat is still relatively young and exhibiting a variety of symptoms that may or may not be connected to a single disease. I think you’d be a lot better off if you took your cat to the vet for a checkup just to give you an idea of what’s going on. It is possible to get valuable information and assistance from a vet without spending a lot of money.

      Here’s a guide from the Humane Society that may help you find affordable veterinary care: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/having-trouble-affording-veterinary-care

      Hope this helps in some way.

      Take care,


  6. Madhusree Roy

    Ma’am , a week ago we noticed our cat having yellow jaw yellow paw and the other bare parts being yellow and his urine was also orangish yellow which made us think he had jaundice, but within 3-4days of that,he was turning to his normal colour slowly and he started eating normal, but was licking the bathroom floor sometimes, now from yesterday evening he stopped eating and started taking continuous breaths by making slow continuous sounds from inside,then we took him to the vet today, he prescribed fever and liver treatment medicine as my cat had 103.4 fever, but now after dosage of both the fever and liver medicine, he is still acting the same with fast breathing and little sound from inside, please tell me what is his problem? Is there any serious problem?

  7. Mallory Crusta


    Did your veterinarian give you a diagnosis? Based on his jaundice, fever, and breathing issues, it sounds like your cat may have a wet form of FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and it’s affecting his liver. This form of FIP is called “wet” because it causes fluid to build up in the chest or abdominal cavity. That fluid buildup could explain your cat’s abnormal breathing.

    You can learn more about FIP here: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-fip-feline-infectious-peritonitis#1

    Of course, I’m not a vet and this isn’t a substitute for veterinary advice or diagnosis. That said, the symptoms you described are consistent with FIP, so I’d recommend that you do some more research and discuss it with a veterinarian.

    Take care,


  8. Syed Khalid Ali

    Since last month i have been noticing my cat taking rapid breathing about 110 to 120 breaths per minute and these breaths are not deep but quite shallow. At start this behavior was rarely noticed but now it has become permanent . Further, there is no other symptoms of any disease like lack of appetite, weight loss, hair loss, etc and neither does she open her mouth while breathing. Kindly guide me about this matter, is it a disease?

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Though your cat isn’t exhibiting any other symptoms of illness, rapid breathing alone is enough to warrant a trip to the veterinarian. This type of rapid breathing could point to many different diseases and conditions, including allergies, infections, tumors, and more. A veterinarian can identify what’s wrong and provide expert guidance.

      Wishing you and your cat all the best,


  9. Victoria Doiron

    My cat is havibg a hard time breathing not sure why but it sound like a stuffy nose and it also sounds like something is stuck in her throat but i checked and dont see anything what else could it be ??

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Victoria,

      Any cat who’s having trouble breathing should see a vet as soon as possible. Noisy, labored breathing is a serious symptom that’s associated with many underlying causes. We’re not veterinarians and without the ability to see your cat, it’s impossible to tell you what’s wrong.

      Hope you get some good news soon.

      Take care,


  10. Ari

    My cat was recently diagnosed with constipation. They kept him overnight because he had a fever and wasn’t eating. They then advised us to give him a dropper of clavulax every morning and night. After two days I noticed that though he started releasing some poop he started sitting on his belly with his leg bones visible on top, like cats do when they are about to attack. He then stared breathing heavily with him breathing rather visibly as his back could be seen moving continuously up and down. If you go close to him, he makes some kind of noise from his nose while breathing and his pupils are dilated as if he is in pain.

    1. Avatar photoAll About Cats

      Hi Ari,

      It sounds like your cat is experiencing some sort of pain or discomfort.

      I would have him checked out again at your local Vet as soon as possible.

      For you need additional medical advice you may want to try the Ask A Vet widget we have on the page. It will open a chat box with a vet on JustAnswer (It costs between $10 and $100 to connect one-on-one with a real veterinarian in real time)



  11. Stefan Bradley

    I had no idea that your cat might be panting if they have some sort of heart problem like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Ever since I returned home from my vacation, I have noticed that my cat is constantly breathing heavily, even when she is asleep. It may be a good idea to visit a vet now that I know she could have a heart problem.

    1. Keira

      I certainly hope u & your kitty are alright. Please take him/her to the vet or ergency vet ASAP.

      8mos ago i found my 9yo Tonkinese in severe respitory distress & rushed her to the ER.

      She was diagnosed with HCM & was in heart failure with lots of fluid around her lungs.

      She was 10 days out from a dental cleaning & passing her senior exam. We had NO IDEA.

      She was in ER overnight in oxygen tank. T
      She didnt respond to any of their efforts to help her & we chose to say goodbye because she was suffering & even with cardiac treatment, she was so bad that it wouldve only bought her 3mos TOPS, 24/7 care & no quality of life.

      Respitory distress is VERY serious.. & i knew right away she was in serious trouble.

      Please if u are able, take your babies to the ER / vet.

      Heart failure isnt always the case… but if it is, it’s extremely serious. She was essentially drowning in her own body

      God bless you all.. i pray all your babies are healthy & doing well

  12. shannon

    Help! My cat got fixed today. When I brought him home, he was honestly almost back to his normal self. However, when he went to lay down by me, and slowly fall asleep, his breathing became shallow and fast. Should I be worried? I have 60 breaths per minute, which is very high. I attempted to wake him up, and he woke up pretty fast. He’s awake and sitting on the carpet, playing with a toy. he doesn’t seem to be breathing heavy now. I’d imagine that trip to and from the visit was high stress, and he may be in a bit of pain. I’m just wondering if I will need to contact a vet or not.

  13. Connor Therrien


    Earlier on 23rd we had the brilliant ideaof giving are cat a dip in some warm water to help clean him off, he’s 20 years old and has a few conditions mainly heart murmur and hyperthyroid and recently he’s developed a growth under his chin due to a gum/tooth issue (doc said surgery is far to risky due to his age). He also due to his mouth issue drools now plus he’s always had these tiny benign cycsts on his tail that ooze so he was really dirty due to these factors so we thought a quick soak would help get the icky off…he’s clean but I feel we did more harm then good.

    He still has his appetite but he has be breathing heavily since, he’s sitting next to me right now so I’m concerned, especially because it’s literally a day before the holidays that we may not be able to bring him in. I hope you can give some advice, I’ll try to call the vet in the morning as it’s night right now, I’m hoping it’s nothing to serious.

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hello Connor,

      I know this must be beyond worrying, especially since you feel that you may have done more harm than good while trying to do what was best for your cat. Please don’t beat yourself up over the bath, though. Getting him clean was a good idea.

      I wish I could give you more advice, but we’re not veterinarians and can’t give advice specific to your cat’s situation. If you’ve gotten in touch with your vet, I would consider their advice first and try to get your cat into the clinic as soon as possible. Otherwise, I would focus on reducing stress and closely monitoring your cat’s behavior. That way, you can report everything to the vet when you have the chance.

      Take care,


  14. Lisa

    My 13 year old cat exhibited breathing issues that you only noticed when he maid down and looked at his stomach when he would breath it looked like it was labored but his nostrils didn’t flare and his mouth wasn’t open it was just the way his stomach would move when he was breathing he did lose weight but was eating drinking, eliminating and playful ! I didn’t bring him to the vet cuz I thought if he was sick I would see other symptoms I just figured old age. Always an indoor cat! I found him dead yesterday looks like he died when clawing the couch ! I feel sad like it’s my fault that I didn’t bring him to the vet earlier. I didn’t know .

    1. Erika Lindberg

      Hi Lisa, my 17 year old kitty was euthanized on December 17th because I was told she had congestive heart failure. Three different vets had examined her previously and none of them noticed anything wrong with her heart. Please don’t feel guilty because even if you brought your kitty to the vet they might not have noticed anything wrong.

  15. Salesse

    My 3 year old cat has been experiencing a coughing fur ball like spell after switching his food for the past week. Yesterday he was a little lazier than usual and breathing a bit heavier. I am assuming the worst and wondering if I should be. With no fur all and his coughing/heavy breathing becoming consistent should I be worried?

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Salesse,

      Thanks for reaching out. Is it possible to bring your cat in to see a veterinarian? While I can’t say whether or not you’re right to be worried, such a distinct change in your cat’s behavior does suggest that he may need veterinary help.

      A few ideas for you to consider in the meantime:

      I would take notes on all of the symptoms you’ve noticed as well as any changes coinciding with the onset of your cat’s coughing spells and heavier breathing. In addition to the new food, changes in environment, litter, or routine may all be relevant factors. Since this began after you converted to a new food, have you tried switching back to his old diet?

      To conclude, I would recommend taking your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you can. This should put your mind at ease or at least give you an idea of what to do next.

      Hope you get some good news soon,


  16. Anna

    My 3 year old cat Ellie has been sick for 4 days, and she has been trying to hide. She has labored breathing and her breathes per minute is about 67ish, I cant afford a vet is there anyway isolating her will work. We cant afford all the tests if something is wrong.

    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Anna,

      Reducing Ellie’s stress and giving her a safe, comfortable place to hide may help her to feel better, but it’s unlikely that it will help to resolve any underlying conditions. Have you explored low-cost alternatives to traditional veterinary care?

      It’s no equal to detailed test results from a veterinarian, but you might think about using JustAnswer’s Ask a Vet service. This online service gives you personalized expert advice for $10-$100. Talking to an expert might help you to understand what’s going on and what you should do next.

      Additionally, you might explore low-cost veterinary care in your area or seek financial assistance from national or local organizations. Finally, consider using a payment plan to cover the costs of testing over time.

      Wishing you and Ellie all the best,


  17. Cathy

    My Cat was having a hard time breathing and I can tell he was in discomfort. I called three vets and finally found one that could get him in. My husband took him in with my daughter and we found out he was seriously ill and he had fluid in his chest. We couldn’t afford the vet bills as it be in the $1000’s and still no guarantee he would get better. We had to let him go. I feel so quilty and keep thinking what if. Can cats recover from heart conditions and fluid in the lungs?

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Cathy, I can’t say how severe your cat’s illness was and, even if we could make some estimate of his prognosis, it’s impossible to say whether or not he actually would have recovered. Whenever you make a decision like this, some regret is almost inevitable. You might go through a similar process if your cat was 22 years old, bone-thin, and no longer eating or drinking. I know it’s difficult, but I hope you can be gentle with yourself and not ruminate over the what-ifs.

      You may appreciate this article on dealing with feelings of guilt after euthanasia.

      Take care.

      – Mallory

  18. Courtney

    Hey Mallory,

    My Cat is quite old at this point in his life. He’s at his smallest weight wise, bony (despite loving to eat) and has been losing his fur in small areas such as his ears, back area etc. Lately within the week, his breathing has been quick and looking to come from his lower half. He will often try to elongate himself which he didn’t always due and once in a while the breathing can be noisy. There are no signs of panting though or tongue out. I’m concerned due to his age to take him to a Vet and wanted to know your best advice for him. I hope you can help.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Courtney,

      This is such a difficult question to answer. I’m not a veterinarian, so please take the following with a heap of salt.

      Have you ruled out hyperthyroidism? Your cat’s healthy appetite and skinny body make me think of this condition, which is extremely common among senior cats. Rapid breathing is sometimes seen in cats with advanced hyperthyroidism, so there may also be a connection there.

      You don’t say exactly how old your cat is, but regardless, I can appreciate your hesitance to take him to a vet. Instead of exposing your cat to the stress of a vet visit, have you considered connecting with a vet virtually? Perhaps a call with a vet or a consultation through something like JustAnswer’s Ask a Vet service would help to give you some peace of mind. Here are a couple of links to services that may help:


      I think that consulting with a vet will give you a much stronger foundation of knowledge to work with. With a vet’s advice to give you some clarity, you can then make the decision whether or not it’s time to take your cat in for an examination or treatment.

      Hope this helps!

      Take care,


  19. Maria

    I’m trying to figure out what is wrong with my cat and if I need to find a way to get him to a vet while I am on lockdown for the coronavirus. He is about 3 years old, he is neutered and healthy, although a bit overweight (12 lbs). He has a healthy appetite, he eats well, eliminates well, he’s energetic and playful (albeit less than he used to, he used to get these crazy spurts of energy and run around like a maniac but he doesn’t do that as much anymore or for as long, which I thought was because of the weight he gained after he was neutered and him having grown a bit older). The thing is, there is something wrong with his breathing. It’s not fast or shallow but some times you can hear him inhale loudly a lot of times and now I’m noticing that when he breathes in, he also moves his head backwards a bit, almost raises his upper body. I’ve never seen this before and I’m wondering if there might be an underlying problem. Thanks in advance, should you be able to read and answer this. I would take him to the vet just in case but I’m quarantined for another 13 days because a coworker got sick. I just need to know if this sounds urgent enough for me to find a way to have him taken to the vet even though I can’t take him.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Maria,

      Though it does sound like your cat’s in overall good health, the breathing issue you described is concerning.

      I’m not a veterinarian and, without being able to see and hear your cat, can’t give any insights about what might be causing this. Instead, I’d recommend creating a file on your cat’s breathing. Take notes on when the unusual breathing began, when it typically happens (if there’s any noticeable pattern), and—if possible—record a video clip of him doing it. Share this information, including the video, with a local veterinarian. Their feedback may help to give you a stronger sense of what needs to be done. Armed with personalized feedback from an expert, you should be able to more easily decide whether or not you need to figure out a way to have your cat taken to the vet.

      I know it must be stressful to be going through this, especially while quarantined—please try to take good care of yourself as well as your cat.

      Sending purrs,


  20. Jawad Jaffery

    Hello Mallory,

    My cat is pregnant and probably within a week she might deliver kittens. recently i have noticed changes in her behavior where she is restless and continuously changes positions. Meanwhile she has rapid breathing and sometimes with open mouth. Her breathing is fast too while she is trying to sleep. is it normal for pregnant cat ?

    I cannot take her to vet even because of the lockdown i dont know for how many weeks.

    Any advise is much appreciated.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hello Jawad,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not a vet, but it sounds like the heavy breathing coincided with other normal pregnancy-related behavioral changes and is probably a normal part of approaching labor. Many cats who are very close to giving birth do start panting and breathing heavily. That said, contacting a veterinarian may help to give you some peace of mind. Wishing you and your cat all the best.

      – Mallory

      1. Jawad Jaffery

        Thank you Mallory for your kind advise. well there is a good news that last night she gave birth to 5 kittens, out of which the 2nd born was found dead half hour after birth. The rest all are healthy and very loud with their meaow vocal chord.

        Meanwhile after giving birth the queen (persian cat) is much filled blood and liquid in her down area and i am afraid because of her long hairs and due to lack of hygiene that she might get infected . Can you please advise if i can give her a quick bath I will try to get in contact with any vet in meantime as it is very difficult because of COVID-19 total lockdown in my city.

        1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

          Hello Jawad, thank you for the happy—and sad—news. I do believe it would be alright to give your cat a quick bath or, if you prefer, you can just wipe down the area with a damp towel. This is a weird time, but it sounds like you’re on the right track and I think things are going to be alright. Wishing you, your cat, and the kittens all the best.

  21. Pauline

    Yesterday my dad and i brought my 17-years-old cat to the vet because her paw is swollen. The vet didnt say much about the paw at first, instead she told us our cat breathes too heavily (however at normal pace). She said she uses the abdomen to breath. Then she told us it might be best to give her something to end her suffering… However, my dad refused to accept the sudden suggestion from the vet and today he brought her to another vet who said the breathing was fine… Is it right to just let it go? I thought i was going to lose her and it feels strange that they had so different opinions about it.

    PS. She´s getting medicine for her paw now.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Pauline,

      All of that does sound, honestly, pretty baffling and I can see why you might feel a bit lost after getting all of that conflicting information.

      First off, I’m not a veterinarian and none of the following is a substitute for a vet’s advice. You may want to consult a third veterinarian if possible (perhaps sending them a video of your cat’s breathing) as a sort of tie-breaker. Otherwise, I’d recommend monitoring your cat’s behavior, watching to see if she is interested in eating, drinking, playing, and interacting with the family.

      If she generally seems healthy, you can probably take it easy for now, continuing to closely monitor her breathing and looking out for signs that something has changed.

      Again, this is a really tricky situation and I can’t say exactly what is best, but I hope this helped to give you a better plan for your next steps.



  22. Shobana

    Hiy kitten is abt 3 month old. She had constipation and tuk her to the vet she was given laxative (liquid paraffin) nd she started pooping better than before.. now i see her with breathing fast.. stomach bloated nd not playing not showing interest in eating… is tis normal or its something to me seriously worried… couldnt see the poor kitten undergoing al tis..

  23. Aiyla Heath

    Recently, my cat was diagnosed with dyspnea, and her breathing level was exceeded to 40 bpm (breath per minute). I went to my family vet, and he literally helped my cat to win back her life. It was all happened because of you. Well, before taking the cat to the vet, I read this article, and it had aided me in understanding what dyspnea is. Thanks!

  24. Juvan Van Der Merwe

    Hi my cat was recently injured by a dog and i rushed to get him out of it as soon as i heard it and he doesnt have any physical injuries that we can see but he has been panting and that subsided but hes breathing is what i am concerned about and i dont know if its normal or not but im so scared that he has a really minor lung i jury because when he breathes it sounds like hes chest is a bit closed up and has a wheeze every now and then but not constantly and his heart rate seems normal (sounds about the same as every other tine i put my head against him to hear but i hear no major breathing problems aside from the bit of wheeze he has and he had blood on his chest but there was no open wounds or anything we could find and looked closely for an open injury somewhere but couldnt find any …he is walking slowly but doesnt seem to be walking cripple and he looks like he hasnt slept for weeks and he has droopy looking eyes wich was usually full of energy so im not completely sure if he is just over exerted and still a bit traumatized wich is causing this and i habe bewn looking everywhere on google to see if i can find anything and we cannot get to a vet at the time because all vets where closed and we dont know the emergency number …the attack happened atleast 4 hours or less ago at around about 11PM and he has just been lying on my bed stretching a little bit every now and then but still wants to catch a bug if it flies past him and when he stands up and moves to readjust how he is lying he moves really slowly and carefully …im in need of some mkre experienced advice as to what might be wrong with my cat and if i have to take him to a vet because we dont really have enough money for vets so we always try and look after our pets as best as possible so plz help me to figure out as to what might be the best solution for my cats health if possible …thank you in advance

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hello Juvan, how is your cat doing now? This does sound like a very worrying and scary experience, so my heart goes out to you! It’s possible that your cat has internal injuries or was in shock, so I would encourage you to take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. You can consider a payment plan or find a financial aid program for low-income households. This article may help: https://www.wildernesscat.com/cant-afford-a-vet/

  25. Catticus80

    My 17 year old cat is breathing about 45 breaths per minute and the vet has said over the phone we’re near the end and treatment is not in her best interest anymore. She’s been on blood pressure med for two years and was diagnosed a few months ago with liver disease and put on pain/anxiety medication. Her muscles are atrophied. She alternates between hiding behavior and needing to be on me. She’s drinking every few hours but eating very very little and struggling to sleep. He didn’t say how long…are we looking at hours or days? Do my kids have time to say goodbye?

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hello there, it’s always difficult to respond to questions like this. The answer depends on when your cat last ate, the severity of her liver disease, and many other factors. I’m sure that you’ve gained more clarity over the course of the day. I apologize that I wasn’t able to respond more promptly, but hope that whatever the outcome, you and your family are at peace. Wishing you all the best.

  26. Tanvi

    Help please im worried sick! My kitty is about 5 months old and he has been fine until just a week or 2 ago-
    Ive observed him squating and extending his neck and cough but no hairballs came each time. It has happened thrice this week. His resting breathe rate is about 36..but at night i observed variations constantly- like over 40..when he sleeps, i don’t hear anything most of the times..but more often than not he makes some weird light snoring sound (his abdomen and chest aren’t moving at alarming rate but still) and when he plays or runs he does this weird huffing sound…it was less frequent before ig..but he did alot today when he played…im super worried…i feel like i should go to vet- but i see diff. People saying diff. Things and that it’s normal. His weight, diet, sleeping habits and playtime everything is constant.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Tanvi, I believe it would give you peace of mind to consult with a veterinarian. The huffing sound when playing is particularly concerning—I would certainly want to talk with a vet about these symptoms. All the best to you and your kitty!

  27. Rose

    My cat is curled up on the floor next to mem and the house is very quiet. I just noticed that she’s breathing audibly on her inhalation. I thought that I’d heard her do this several weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure because it wasn’t continuously audible breathing. Even now, she’s only doing it periodically. (At this particular moment she’s breathing silently.) Her demeanor doesn’t change when she’s inhaling audibly.

    What could be happening, and what should I do?


    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Rose, while what you’ve described doesn’t immediately sound like cause for concern—this could be normal snoring—I would still recommend consulting a veterinarian to make sure that nothing is wrong. Wishing you and your cat all the best!

  28. Priyankaa

    Hi.. My cat who’s 3 months and 2 weeks old got vaccinated a week ago for rabies and calcivirus.. the vet gave him a deworming syrup which is supposed to be for dogs and we gave him that 2 ml syrup twice.. once a week before the vaccination and one dose yesterday.. a day before yesterday we noticed that cat is unable to meow and had some crackling sound coming from his chest and coughing after water/meals.. we visited the vet and he gave him some injections as he had fever and told us that our kitten has URTI.. now he’s on oral syrup for 2 days and even though he’s active and playful.. he’s starting to meow but is unable to meow properly.. his voice breaks..but there is still cracking sound from his chest and there are bouts of coughing and sometimes he sits with elbows by his side.. we tried to give him steam too.. I’m worried about the crackling sound and his meow coming back.. what can we do for him?

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi Priyankaa, thank you for reaching out. Unfortunately, this is out of my realm of expertise, so I would encourage you to seek further insight from our expert moderators in the All About Cats community forum. That said, it sounds like your cat may have laryngitis, just like a human who has laryngeal inflammation. As for the crackling, I’m not sure. This article suggests that this may be a symptom of bacterial pneumonia, but again, I think you need expert consultation to reach a conclusion on this. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be of more help, but I hope that this helps to send you in the right direction. Wishing you and your kitten all the best.

  29. kakrohn

    Hello. My kitty is about 1 year old. Some times when she’s done playing or gets mad, she will let out a weird loud huff noise. She doesn’t have any breathing issues that I know of, but she just started doing it in the last 2 weeks.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi there! I’ve noticed my cat, Wessie, “sighing” or “huffing” in a way that sounds similar to what your kitty is doing. While it’s not loud, it’s a somewhat sharp exhalation that usually happens if he’s a little overstimulated during play or getting too much attention. A lot of other cats seem to do this as well (see this Reddit thread), but I’m not sure that we’re all talking about the same thing. Since this is such a new behavior for your cat, I would consider talking with a veterinarian just to make sure that everything’s okay. Hope this helps!

  30. Moriah

    Why have vet charges gone so high? One always sees ads on tv, about cats/dogs needing a good home, asking for donations, etc….Yet when a cat/dog has to go to the Vet. The prices are outrageous!! For example. I have/had a 2yr old cat. I have a letter from a Dr. stating that he is part a “service cat”, due to I have 3 autoimmune deases, that cause depression. Early in the morning, 1:30 he started having breathing problems, I rushed him to the nearest Vet. They took him in the back, put him in an ox tank, (so they said). Came out an hour later, Told me I had to pay $3600.00 Before they would run test to see what was causing his problem. He was still laboring to breath. I am 74 yrs old, making only 1200. a month. I Begged them to treat him, promising I would pay in payment. The so called Dr. said no, I had to pay up front for the test, then for treatment. If my regular vet was open at that hr. she would have treated him, I have had high vet bills and Paid Them In Full. I can not describe how putting him down, what it did to me. The loss of my baby, because I didn’t have the money to save him. I hope and wish that All Vets like him, suffer the way I did, I hope and pray they go through in there life what he put me through

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      I am so sorry you went through that. As for why this is the case, it’s a complicated situation; vets have expenses to cover, and most consider taking payments to be a risk not worth taking. It doesn’t make financial sense for them. Insurance and financial support programs may be able to help.

  31. Lynda K

    You left out hyperesthesia. When my cat first started experiencing symptoms of this, she would breathe heavily and become stressed. Now when attacks occur, she is more used to it and doesn’t panic anymore. We try distracting and catnip to calm it down. Hyperesthesia is an area that needs more research in cats. I hope I’m spelling that correctly.

  32. dee

    My cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism 2 years ago. His numbers aren’t bad, but he has become lethargic since last week and the last couple of days, no eating. I am food syringe feeding him unsalted chicken broth. He refuses everything else-Churu, baby food, nothing. He has been to the vet twice last week and received an injection of an antibiotic for a possible infection. He’s getting worse. No energy, weak, won’t play, has lost weight and sleeps constantly. I am lost here. I believe he is not in pain, but slowly slipping away. His eyes tell me that he may be tired of fighting. How long do I let this go on. It’s painful to me to just watch him die. Any suggestions?

    1. kateKate Barrington

      So sorry to hear about your cat, Dee. It sounds like you’re concerned not just about your cat’s health but his quality of life. I’d recommend talking to your vet about end-of-life options to see if they agree it may be his time to go. It’s never an easy decision but it’s our responsibility as cat owners to follow our cats’ cues and try to understand what they’re telling us. I recently had to let one of my own cats go and found in-home euthanasia to be the perfect option for our situation. If it’s something you want to learn more about, you can find providers in your area here: https://petlossathome.com/