Is it normal to hear kitty snores? Decoding your cat’s sleep sounds

Is It Normal to Hear Your Cat Breathing While Sleeping?

As a cat owner, hearing your feline friend breathe while they sleep is a common occurrence. Though cats tend to be very quiet sleepers, it’s not unusual to pick up on the faint sounds of their breathing if you’re near them while they slumber.

Cats typically have a resting respiratory rate between 20-30 breaths per minute when awake. When sleeping, this rate often slows as their body enters a relaxed state. But there are times when a sleeping cat’s breathing sounds may become more pronounced or change pace.

In this article, we’ll cover the range of normal and abnormal cat breathing sounds, potential causes for noisy breathing, and when to seek veterinary help. With a better understanding of sleeping cat breathing patterns, cat owners can rest easier knowing what’s normal and what could indicate an underlying issue needing attention.

Normal Cat Breathing

Breathing rate in cats will vary depending on if a cat is awake, resting or asleep. According to Home Breathing Rate Evaluation – VCA Animal Hospitals, normal breathing for a sleeping adult cat ranges between 20-40 breaths per minute. While at rest or asleep, cats take shallow and slower breaths compared to when awake and active. A cat’s resting breathing rate may fluctuate occasionally, but should return to normal.

As outlined in the report Monitoring Your Cat’s Sleeping Respiratory Rate, most cats have a sleeping respiratory rate of less than 40 breaths per minute. This reference provides more details on evaluating normal cat breathing based on weight:

  • Less than 30 breaths per minute for cats weighing over 10 lbs
  • Less than 40 breaths per minute for cats weighing 6-10 lbs
  • Less than 50 breaths per minute for cats weighing under 6 lbs

So in summary, a normal respiratory rate for a sleeping adult cat is usually less than 40 breaths per minute. However, the exact normal range can vary slightly based on your cat’s size and age.

Noisy Breathing

It’s normal for cats to have some noise when breathing while asleep. However, louder or raspy breathing can indicate an issue. Some causes of noisy breathing in cats while sleeping include:

  • Upper respiratory infections – Colds, sinus infections, and other viruses can cause congestion, sneezing, and noisy breathing. Cats may breathe loudly through their nose or mouth while sleeping if congested. (PetMD, 2022)
  • Asthma – This chronic lung disease causes inflammation and narrowing of airways. Cats may wheeze, cough, or breathe noisily, especially when asleep. (WagWalking, 2016)
  • Nasopharyngeal polyps – These benign growths in the nasal cavity/throat obstruct airflow causing noisy breathing, especially during sleep. (AMCny, 2022)

While minor upper respiratory infections may cause temporary noisy breathing, chronic or worsening breathing issues while asleep warrant veterinary attention. Cats should sleep quietly without gasping, wheezing, or loud mouth breathing. Tracking when and how long noisy sleep breathing occurs helps the vet diagnose any underlying condition.

Underlying Conditions

There are several medical conditions that can affect a cat’s breathing and cause noisy or labored breathing, especially while sleeping. Some common conditions include:

  • Asthma – This chronic respiratory disease causes inflammation and narrowing of a cat’s airways, making breathing difficult. Asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens, smoke, stress, or other irritants. Cats may wheeze, cough, or breathe with an open mouth during an attack. Asthma usually develops in middle-aged to older cats. Treatment involves medications to control inflammation and open airways.
  • Heart disease – Conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, heartworm disease, or heart valve disorders can lead to congestive heart failure in cats. Fluid can build up in the lungs, causing noisy breathing, especially when lying down. Coughing and lethargy may also occur.
  • Pneumonia – Bacterial or viral respiratory infections can progress to pneumonia, causing inflammation in the lungs. Cats may breathe heavily and rapidly, run a fever, and be reluctant to move. Pneumonia requires antibiotic treatment.
  • Cancer – Lymphoma, lung tumors, and metastasis from other cancers can all lead to breathing difficulties in cats. Cancer interferes with normal respiratory function.
  • Obesity – Excess weight puts additional pressure on the lungs and airways. Obese cats often breathe heavily, especially when resting.

If an underlying condition like these is suspected, diagnostic tests like x-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, heart tests, and sometimes biopsy are needed. Treatment depends on the specific cause but may include medications, oxygen therapy, losing weight, or sometimes surgery.

When to Seek Help

It’s important to contact your veterinarian right away if your cat is showing any signs of breathing distress, such as:

  • Labored or open-mouth breathing
  • Noisy breathing sounds, like wheezing or grunting
  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Difficulty inhaling
  • Blue gums or tongue
  • Lethargy or reluctance to move
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

According to veterinarians at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “Any cat that is showing signs of breathing distress should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.” [1] Breathing difficulties can arise suddenly in cats, so prompt veterinary assessment is crucial.

Veterinary evaluation helps determine the underlying cause and severity of the breathing problem. The vet will listen to the cat’s chest with a stethoscope, take x-rays, and run other diagnostic tests as needed. This assists in diagnosing conditions like asthma, pneumonia, heart disease, and more. Early treatment improves the prognosis and prevents complications. So at the first sign of labored breathing or other respiratory distress, contact your vet without delay.

Diagnostic Tests

If a cat is experiencing breathing issues, a veterinarian will likely run several diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause. Some common tests include:

Chest x-rays – X-rays allow vets to see the lungs, heart, and chest cavity in detail. They can reveal fluid in the lungs, an enlarged heart, tumors, foreign objects, and more.

Blood tests – Bloodwork helps identify infections, anemia, cancer, and organ issues that could contribute to breathing problems.

Heart tests – Cats with heart disease often have labored breathing. ECGs, echocardiograms, and cardiac blood tests allow vets to evaluate the heart.

Bronchoscopy – A lighted tube with a camera is passed down the trachea to examine the airways. Biopsies or fluid samples may also be taken.

CT scan – This imaging test provides a detailed 3D view of the chest and can detect very small abnormalities.

Pulse oximetry – Measures oxygen saturation levels in the blood to assess lung function.


If your cat is experiencing breathing difficulties due to an underlying condition, the veterinarian may prescribe medications or other treatments to help address the root cause. Some potential treatments include:

Bronchodilators – If asthma is causing wheezing or difficulty breathing, the vet may prescribe bronchodilators like terbutaline or inhaled steroids to open up the airways (1). These medications help relax the muscles around the bronchial tubes to make breathing easier.

Diuretics – These drugs help reduce fluid buildup in the lungs that may be caused by heart failure. Furosemide is a common diuretic used to decrease swelling (2).

Oxygen Therapy – Severe breathing difficulty may require oxygen therapy to raise blood oxygen levels. This involves your cat wearing an oxygen mask or resting in an oxygen chamber temporarily.

Antibiotics – If a bacterial infection is involved, such as pneumonia, antibiotics may be prescribed to fight the underlying infection.

Anti-inflammatories – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like meloxicam may help reduce inflammation associated with allergies or other conditions causing breathing problems.

Always consult your veterinarian regarding the appropriate treatments for your cat’s specific condition. Proper treatment can greatly help restore normal breathing.



At-Home Care

If your cat is diagnosed with a respiratory condition, there are some things you can do at home to help them breathe easier and be more comfortable:

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air, which can help loosen mucus. Make sure to keep the humidifier clean to avoid spreading bacteria or mold.
  • Sit with your cat in a steamy bathroom. The warm, moist air can help open airways and ease breathing difficulties.
  • Elevate your cat’s food and water bowls. Eating and drinking from bowls on the floor can be difficult for cats with breathing issues.
  • Avoid exposing your cat to smoke, dust, and other airway irritants.
  • Keep your cat calm and relaxed. Stress and anxiety can worsen breathing problems.
  • Monitor your cat’s breathing rate and effort. Count their breaths per minute while they are relaxed and watch for increased abdominal effort or open-mouth breathing. Contact your vet if breathing becomes rapid, labored, or distressed.

Make sure to follow your vet’s at-home treatment instructions carefully. With attentive home care and monitoring, many cats with respiratory conditions can breathe easier and enjoy a good quality of life.


There are several ways to help promote healthy breathing and prevent respiratory issues in cats:

Get regular veterinary check-ups to monitor your cat’s health and catch any potential issues early. Annual exams allow the vet to listen to your cat’s breathing and look for any abnormalities.

Keep your cat at a healthy weight, as obesity can put extra pressure on the respiratory system. Feed an appropriate diet and amount based on your vet’s recommendations.

Avoid exposing your cat to secondhand smoke, dust, pollen, and other lung irritants that can cause inflammation. Keep your home well-ventilated.

Treat any nasal discharge, dental disease, or other conditions that may obstruct breathing passages. Regular teeth brushing promotes oral health.

Use flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medications as directed by your vet. Parasites can transmit diseases that affect the respiratory tract.

Reduce stress for your cat, as chronic stress can weaken the immune system. Provide environmental enrichment with toys, scratching posts, and perches.

Ask your vet about supplements that support respiratory health, like L-lysine for cats prone to herpes flare-ups.

See your vet promptly if you notice any unusual breathing noises, difficulty breathing, or other signs of respiratory distress. Early treatment is key.

With proactive care, you can help your cat maintain healthy breathing throughout their life.


In summary, monitoring your cat’s breathing during sleep is important to watch for abnormalities that may indicate underlying health issues. Healthy cats typically have slow, regular breathing around 15-30 breaths per minute while sleeping. Noisy breathing like snoring or wheezing can be normal in some cats, but may also signify respiratory problems. Contact your vet if you notice persistent changes in your cat’s resting breathing rate or rhythm, especially rapid breathing over 30 bpm. With a vet exam and potential diagnostic tests, many conditions that affect breathing can be effectively treated. Being aware of your cat’s normal sleeping respiration can help you identify concerning changes early on.

Key points include:

  • Normal cat breathing rate while asleep is 15-30 breaths per minute
  • Noisy breathing may be normal but can also indicate respiratory disease
  • Contact your vet if you notice increased breathing rate, noisy breathing, or other abnormalities
  • Underlying conditions like heart disease, asthma, infections, and more may cause breathing issues
  • Diagnostic tests like x-rays, bloodwork, and scopes can identify the cause
  • Conditions are often treatable with medications, supplements, lifestyle changes
  • Monitoring your cat’s sleeping breathing helps identify problems early
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