Why Is My Cat Snoring? The Reasons Behind Your Feline’s Noisy Sleep

Normal Cat Breathing

The average normal respiratory rate for a resting or sleeping cat is about 15-30 breaths per minute, according to veterinarians. This is the normal respiratory rate when a cat is relaxed and not being active. Breathing is typically very quiet and subtle in a resting state.

Cats generally have a respiratory rate between 15-40 breaths per minute while asleep. Respiration over 40 breaths per minute during sleep or rest may indicate underlying issues. According to veterinary guidelines, sleeping respiratory rates under 60 breaths per minute are normal, while over 60 breaths per minute may indicate a medical problem.

It’s important to monitor your cat’s resting and sleeping breathing patterns to get a sense of their normal rate and rhythm. A change in these normal patterns could signify a potential health issue.

Reasons for Audible Breathing in Cats

There are several medical and non-medical reasons why cats may breathe loudly or make audible breathing sounds while resting or sleeping. Some common causes include:

Upper airway obstructions – Nasal congestion, sinus infections, nasal tumors, or foreign objects stuck in the nasal passages can obstruct airflow and cause noisy breathing sounds. Cats may snore, snort, wheeze, or make gagging sounds as they struggle to breathe through blocked airways (Source).

Asthma – Cats with asthma or other lower airway diseases often make wheezing, whistling, or snoring sounds as they breathe due to narrowing and inflammation of the bronchial airways. Asthma attacks cause severe labored breathing episodes (Source).

Heart conditions – Fluid in or around the lungs due to heart failure or disease can cause crackling lung sounds, rapid breathing, and heavy, labored breathing. Cats may make loud snoring or snorting noises (Source).

Snoring – Like humans, some cats simply snore loudly due to the vibration of soft tissues in the mouth, nose, and throat. This is especially common in overweight cats or brachycephalic breeds.

Upper Airway Obstructions

One of the most common causes of noisy or labored breathing in cats is an obstruction in the upper airways. This includes conditions like stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, laryngeal paralysis, and brachycephalic airway syndrome (source).

Stenotic nares refer to abnormally narrowed nostrils that restrict airflow. This is often seen in brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like Persians and Exotics. The narrowed nostrils cause increased airway resistance during inhalation, leading to loud snorting or snoring sounds.

An elongated soft palate is when the soft tissue at the back of the mouth is abnormally long, partially obstructing the airway. This also commonly occurs in brachycephalic cats. The excess tissue vibrates during breathing, causing loud snoring or gurgling noises.

Laryngeal paralysis happens when the cartilage around the larynx becomes weak, causing it to collapse inward and obstruct airflow. This leads to noisy inspiratory effort and sometimes respiratory distress. Older, overweight cats are most at risk.

Treating upper airway obstructions usually involves surgery to remove excess tissue and open up the airways. Medications may help reduce swelling and inflammation. Severe cases can require a temporary tracheostomy tube to bypass the obstruction.


Asthma is one of the most common causes of audible breathing in cats. It affects approximately 1-5% of domestic cats in the United States according to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-asthma-what-you-need-know).

Feline asthma occurs when the small airways of the lungs undergo inflammation, constriction, and increased mucus production. This inflammation obstructs airflow and makes breathing more difficult, resulting in noticeable loud or raspy breathing sounds.

The exact cause of feline asthma is unknown, but potential triggers include allergens, air pollution, infections, obesity, and stress. Cats with a genetic predisposition are more prone to developing asthma. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, open-mouth breathing, and fatigue.

Diagnosis involves a veterinary exam, chest x-rays, and tests to assess lung function. Treatment focuses on reducing airway inflammation and may include corticosteroids, bronchodilators, and avoiding asthma triggers.

While feline asthma cannot be cured, with proper management most cats can live normal, active lives.

Heart Conditions

Congestive heart failure is one of the most common heart diseases in cats that can lead to congestion and rapid breathing. It occurs when the heart can’t pump efficiently, causing blood to back up and fluid to build up in the lungs and chest cavity.[1]

As heart disease progresses in cats, the left atrium enlarges and blood flow backs up, leading to congestion in the lungs. Fluid accumulation makes it difficult for the cat to breathe normally. Cats may exhibit open-mouth breathing, rapid breathing, or exaggerated abdominal effort when inhaling. In severe cases, the buildup of fluid may lead to respiratory distress.[2]

Other heart conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle thickens, can also impair blood flow and oxygenation. The restricted blood flow causes fluid to leak into the lungs. As the condition advances, cats often develop rapid, shallow breathing as their bodies struggle to get enough oxygen.[3]


Many cat owners are surprised when their feline friends make snorting or snoring sounds while asleep. In most cases, this type of noisy breathing is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern (Source: https://www.diamondpet.com/blog/health/weight-management/why-my-cat-snores/). Snoring or snorting while asleep is common in cats just like humans. When cats enter deep REM sleep, their bodies fully relax, including throat muscles and soft palate tissue. As air passes through the relaxed throat and over the soft palate, it can cause snoring or snorting sounds.

Occasional snoring while asleep is harmless for most cats. However, loud snoring or breathing noises that occur even when awake can indicate an underlying health issue. Cats who struggle to breathe, gasp for air, or wheeze while asleep or awake require veterinary attention. Concerning breathing noises may be a sign of obstructions in the airway, asthma, heart failure, respiratory infections, or other problems (https://www.petguard.co.uk/cats-snoring). It’s important to observe your cat’s normal breathing patterns while awake and asleep. That way you can recognize concerning changes in noise or breathing difficulty.

When to See the Vet

While audible breathing during sleep is often normal in cats, there are certain concerning respiratory signs that warrant a veterinary visit. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, any cat showing signs of breathing difficulty is at high risk and needs prompt treatment.

Some alarming symptoms that require emergency veterinary care include:

  • Labored breathing or panting with an open mouth
  • Making raspy breathing sounds, gasping, or wheezing
  • Breathing with an abnormally fast rate or effort
  • Turning blue in the gums, tongue, or ear tips
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, especially combined with lethargy or weakness, take them to the vet immediately. Timely treatment can save a cat’s life when they are having extreme difficulty breathing. According to the Veterinary Emergency Group, even just a few hours delay can be dangerous.

Other concerning signs include coughing, gagging, stretching the neck to breathe, hiding, or refusing to lie down. Take note if noisy breathing happens at rest and not just when active or stressed. Get veterinary advice quickly if your cat’s breathing seems worsened from their normal state.

Diagnostic Tests

There are several diagnostic tests vets may use to assess breathing issues in cats:

Chest X-rays allow vets to visualize the lungs, heart, and upper airways. This helps identify conditions like pneumonia, asthma, heart enlargement, or masses in the chest. X-rays require anesthesia in cats.

Endoscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a camera into the airway to examine the nasal passages, throat, and larynx. This procedure is done under anesthesia.

CAT scans provide 3D images of structures inside the body. They give vets detailed views of the nasal cavity, sinuses, lungs, and upper airways to pinpoint obstructions or masses.

ECG and echocardiogram tests evaluate heart function. Abnormal heart rhythms or structural problems can manifest in noisy breathing.

Bloodwork, like a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel, helps assess overall health and rule out systemic diseases.

Respiratory function tests measure airway resistance and gas exchange. This helps diagnose asthma, airway obstructions, or other lung conditions.

Cytology or biopsy of nasal or airway tissues can determine inflammation or cancer-related causes.

Diagnostic testing, guided by the cat’s symptoms, gives vets crucial information to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.


The treatment for noisy breathing in cats depends on the underlying cause. Some common treatment options include:

If upper airway obstructions like polyps are the cause, the polyps may need to be surgically removed. This allows the airway to open up and breathing to improve.1

For asthma, vets may prescribe inhalers with steroids to reduce inflammation in the airways. Bronchodilators may also help open up the airways.2

If heart disease is contributing to noisy breathing, medications like diuretics can remove excess fluid buildup in or around the lungs. Other heart medications may also be prescribed.

In some cases, medications to reduce anxiety may help for cats who snore or breathe loudly due to stress.

Making environmental changes like using air purifiers, cleaning dust, or avoiding triggers like smoke can also help manage underlying conditions.

For severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments, oxygen therapy may be needed to aid breathing.

Managing Noisy Breathing

If your cat’s noisy breathing is chronic but not life-threatening, there are some things you can do at home to help make your cat more comfortable:

  • Keep your cat’s nasal passages moist using a humidifier or by taking your cat into the bathroom during shower time. The steam can help loosen mucus and open up nasal passages.[1]
  • Use saline nose drops to help soften and remove dried mucus. Tilt your cat’s head back and put a few drops in each nostril.[2]
  • Keep your cat’s head elevated while resting or sleeping. Use pillows or towels to prop up your cat’s head to make breathing easier.[3]
  • Avoid exposing your cat to smoke, dust, and other irritants that could worsen breathing issues.
  • Consider using calming supplements or pheromones to reduce your cat’s stress, which can exacerbate breathing difficulties.

While these tips may provide some relief, it’s still important to have your vet examine your cat if noisy breathing persists or worsens. They can determine if medication or other treatment is needed for your cat’s long-term health and comfort.

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