✔ How To Recognize A Heavy Breathing Cat

When putting a cat and a dog into comparison, there are various differences between their living lifestyles, eating habits, behaviors, and intelligence. For instance, let us count down several contradictions existing between them:

  • Dogs bark or growl, cats meow.
  • Dogs enjoy eating big mouthful, cats in stark contrast love swallowing small pieces and frequent meals.
  • Dogs tend to work collectively, while cats are independent and introverted.

Therefore, when it comes to dealing with a heavy breathing cat, you are not encouraged to assume that dog pants so it is normal for a cat to do the same thing. In fact, they do not pant and even have been enduring some serious respiratory illnesses. 

If you have ignored your heavy breathing cat for a long time, check out these following symptoms, causes, and solutions to have an insight into this problem.


What is a heavy breathing cat’s respiratory rate? Is it much higher than normal?

The respiratory system comprises classifications of organs such as nose, lungs, and trachea. As cat’s body needs oxygen to maintain its basic functioning, these organs play a key role in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. It is, therefore, apparent to conclude that the respiratory system’s working productivity influences the cat’s whole body to such an extent.

When discovering a healthy cat’s body, its daily breath usually stays at a natural pace, without being pushed, struggling to take in oxygen, and making loud noises through the nose. 

Here is a necessary reminder: cats breathe at a higher speed than humans, usually take 20 – 30 times per minute. 

While trying to count your feline’s number of breaths, if you find out results are above the average rate, then immediately consider sending it to a hospital to prevent the conditions from getting into cat heavy breathing.

Common symptoms: How to tell whether I have a heavy breathing cat?

When there is something wrong from the inside, cats’ illnesses are being exposed through several external signs which require the owners to pay attention. 

Cat heavy breathing occurs commonly for senior cats, whose immune health and physical stamina have been exploited for years before dealing with new illnesses. Therefore, in order to sustain against aging, bacterias, and diseases, these cats are required to struggle much more intensely when compared to younger felines.

For the case of cat breathing fast, try considering these following warning pieces of evidence:

  • Changes in breathing pace

As mentioned, the average cat respiratory rate is bounded by approximately 20 to 30 breaths each minute. 

Problems definitely lie in the case when your cat’s conditions allow them to take in and send out gasps under the quoted minimum and above the maximum number.

Sometimes, there are cases when cats don’t even breathe in a short amount of time or maintain a weird breathing cycle, for example, ‘fast fast slow slow’, ‘fast slow no breathing’, ‘slow slow no breathing slow’, etc. This exactly indicates that your cat is struggling for oxygen.

  • Crouching

It is analyzed as normal when cat breathing fast after half an hour playing outdoor or jumping from place to place. However, if a specific moment comes when you recognize your feline staying on the sofa for hours but still crouching to catch a breath, there comes an urgent sign of internal illnesses. 

The act of bending down their legs, extending their neck by leaning forward, and putting their body close to the ground sends a warning message that it is so hard for cats to breathe in, just like after running in a prolonged period.

  • Losing weight

After being accustomed to a high respiratory rate, cats start to lose weight naturally as expected

The reason is that breathing with their nose now requires so many energies, cats switch to using mouth instead. At the same time, every activity such as drinking or eating involves mouth work. It is, therefore, obvious for a heavy breathing cat to avoid carefully chewing food, swallow them all at one time, or feel afraid of consuming nutrients for too long. 

After weeks, there comes noticeably after-effect like showing rib bones, losing weight, and looking more and more exhausted.

  • Sleeping a lot

Sleeping successively is one of the most common signs when a cat breathing fast. Just as taking in oxygen now is such a demanding job, cats usually refuse to play around and stop being involved in those dynamic activities. 

They are now fond of hiding in a quiet corner and retain sleeping a lot. Sometimes, it even leads to lethargy, dizziness, and hallucination, which are intense stages needed immediate examinations.

  • Not being able to engage with active works

Striving to breathe, sleeping, and becoming thinner, these symptoms negatively contribute to inhibit your cats’ moves. 

They are step by step being weekended in and out, which gradually brings them to the stage of being lifeless and not able to perform basic tasks such as eating, jumping, rolling, or engaging.

  • Dry heaving

Described as the tight feeling in the human stomach and pushing them to vomit, cat dry heaving also happens in the same way. 

When the sequence of stomach contradictions and gagging continues for a long period of time, you start to catch your cat’s moment of controlling itself not to throw up. That is when the heavy breathing illness is becoming worse and needed urgent checkup.

Types of heavy breathing cat: Which one is your feline similar to?

According to scientists, there are currently three types of cat breathing fast that you should pay close attention to, including dyspnea, tachypnea, and panting.


  • Dyspnea

Also known as labored or forceful breathing, dyspnea is the most common feline respiratory illness. This medical problem leading to cats forcing themselves in many ways to take air in as much as they can is usually exposed through some recognizable syndromes such as:

    • Inhaling and exhaling with their chest and belly moving up and down
    • Extending their head and neck, leaning forward to breathe in
    • Flaring nostrils in order to take in more oxygen
    • Creating noisy sounds through nose and throat because of pushing too hard
    • Losing weight and starting to show rib bones
    • Struggling to sleep well, experiencing restless nights
    • Looking tired and lack of energies for basic activities
  • Tachypnea

The second type of cat breathing heavy is biologically called tachypnea. Usually, we call it as rapid or shallow breathing case, in which cats exhale carbon dioxide quickly or inhale only a small amount of air each time. 

Signs showing that your cat might be suffering from this illness comprise:

    • Inhaling and exhaling with their chest and belly moving up and down (same as dyspnea).
    • Keeping its mouth closed all the time.
    • Being too exhausted to try any outdoor activities, exercise, or consider moving.
    • Feeling stressed out with no possible reasons.
    • Spending most time sleeping.
    • Occasionally experiencing lethargy.
    • Enduring exaggerated fears when traveling to a pet hospital or encountering bigger animals like dogs, which leads to fast-paced breathing.
    • Starting to have discolored gums.
  • Panting

Well-known for dogs, panting is vastly considered as a way for dogs to express their happiness and excitement, or to inhale more oxygen after losing lots of energies for activities. This behavior is described as sticking the tongue out and breathe vocally through nose and throat. 

This case is also applied to a normal healthy cat occasionally. Most of the time, however, panting for cats is considered not as “behavior” but more as “syndrome” of high cat respiratory rate consisting of these signs:

    • Maintaining mouth open to breathe in and out
    • Occurring when cats are too hot, excited
    • Being an aftereffect of obesity
    • Making exaggerated sounds while taking air to the lungs
    • Obtaining other similar symptoms to tachypnea mentioned above: chest and belly movements, discolored gums, lethargy and dizziness, lifeless feeling, and fears of different things

Causes: Why is my buddy turning into a heavy breathing cat?

“Everything happens for a reason”.

Causing a cat to breathe heavily is the result of plenty of possibilities including changes in lifestyle, air pollution, contaminated surroundings or being abused, etc. 

However, instead of being so vague about what diseases your cat heavy breathing is deriving from, let us list down some of the strongest causes that impact harmfully on the feline.


  • Airway diseases

As mentioned before, the respiratory system includes not only nose, trachea but also lungs – the most important organs in the chain. In airway, all these following medical problems happen within the lungs and force it to suffer from pain:

    • Pneumonia
    • Pulmonary Edema
    • Feline Asthma
    • Leukemia

These illnesses are usually listed as the most common for humans, which has no differences when applied to cat dry heaving. Enduring one of them might bring your feline discomforts including:

    • Restricting cats from receiving oxygen supply
    • Inhibiting the cat’s capability and energies in breathing, doing activities or performing daily tasks
    • Building up fluid gradually inside the cat’s lungs
    • Bringing cats to the stage of dealing with other worse illnesses, for example, heart failure or lung cancer, etc.
  • Feline upper respiratory infection (URI)

Also known as feline infectious respiratory disease and feline upper respiratory disease complex (URD), feline upper respiratory infection (URI) is usually caused by bacterias or viruses, occurring frequently to those senior cats whose immune health is much worse than younger ones. 

There are 3 common types of virus that 90% appear in leading cats to suffer from this infection:

    • Herpesvirus Type-1
    • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
    • Chlamydophila Felis

To be more specific, understanding the need of the owner to know how to recognize whether their feline is struggling with a high cat respiratory rate or not, here come some basic symptoms:

    • Sneezing
    • Coughing
    • Hacking
    • Discharge from eyes and nose
    • Snorting
    • Nasal congestions
    • Noisy breathing sounds
    • Lethargy
  • Feline obesity

Obesity is classified as a stage when cats’ weight is 20% above the average level, which contributes directly to prevent them from running, jumping, or doing other active works. 

This is frequently observed for senior cats, who might have stopped working out, being exposed to nature, and suffered from old age. Their failing mobility for a prolonged time leads to some several other illnesses such as:

    • Osteoarthritis
    • Hip Dysplasia
    • Diabetes Mellitus
    • Heart-related Illnesses
  • Physical and mental trauma

Normally, humans get haunted and injured by bad events happening in life for example a fall from high places, and so does cat panting. After experiencing being attacked by a bigger dog, accidentally sinking in water, or witnessing the death of someone they love, etc. they might start to endure chest or lung injury, mental issues, and stressed feelings.

This can also be considered as one of the hardest causes to treat among what have been mentioned above because internal pain is much more demanding to understand and solve when compared to physical ones.

Treatments: Here are some tips to treat a heavy breathing cat!

  • Do not self diagnose your cat

You might read news and analysis online discussing symptoms of cat breathing fast, try to check some signs that are similar to what your feline is suffering now, and assume that a cat is definitely sick. 

In fact, these signs are listed as the most common ones but might not be 100% applied to your cat’s conditions due to different living styles, surroundings, and eating habits. 

  • Bring to the vet to receive professional examinations

It is, therefore, necessary for you to read this post carefully to evaluate whether it possibly has a high cat respiratory rate, then send it to a pet hospital to receive professional advice and treatments.

That is what vets are for, right?

  • Adopt dietary alterations

After taking cats to the hospital, if it is concluded that your feline is obese, then try to apply vets’ dietary changes and workout habits to help improve its health in the future. 

Remember that senior cats might have to suffer much worse if, during the young age, they are not active enough.

We have come to the end…

You might consider this as a very long post, however, it brings you various sources of information that are necessary for answering the question: “How to tell if I have a heavy breathing cat or not”. 

Anyway, hospitals and vets always stay right there if you need any help from professional ones!

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