Have you ever noticed that your cat is breathing rapidly while sleeping? If your cat is breathing rapidly, it can be a sign of a variety of problems, from stress to heart disease. Cats tend to be subtle in showing signs of illness to their caregivers, so cat groomers need to be extra vigilant to notice symptoms like rapid breathing.
Why is My Cat Breathing so Fast?
Rapid breathing in cats is also known as tachypnea. First, let’s establish what a healthy respiratory rate (breathing) is for a cat. It is usually between 20 and 30 breaths per minute.
To determine your cat’s resting breathing, count the number of breaths she takes while resting. One breath consists of an inhalation (when the chest rises) and an exhalation (when the chest falls). It’s important that your cat doesn’t purr when you count her breathing rate. The sleep rate is usually slightly lower than their resting breathing rate.
Using your phone or a watch, count how many breaths you take in that 30-second period. Then multiply the number of breaths counted by two to find the number of breaths your cat takes in one minute.
Causes of Rapid Breathing in Cats
Rapid breathing in cats is a symptom of a variety of diseases and injuries and should be checked out by your veterinarian immediately.
Some possible causes are:
- emotional stress
- heart disease
- Pleural effusion (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity)
- pulmonary edema (the lungs fill with fluid)
- Foreign objects in the windpipe or other airway obstruction
- respiratory infections
- Trauma, exposure to toxins, or injury
- Tumors in the chest or throat
Signs of Rapid Breathing in Cats
If your cat is breathing rapidly, you may notice several signs, including:
- Difficult breathing
- Belly and chest move with every breath
- Loud breathing
- tiredness or lethargy
- Panting or breathing with your mouth open (like a dog)
- A flare-up of the nostrils
- Rapid rise and fall of abdomen or chest
- Blue stained gums
If your cat seems to be breathing faster than normal, look for factors that may be contributing to the condition and eliminate them. For example, if your cat For example, if she has been outside in the hot sun, or if emotional stress or anxiety is a factor, move her to a cooler, quieter place immediately. Make sure she can drink plenty of water.
Respiratory rate is an indicator of overall health – if your cat suddenly starts breathing rapidly (more than 30 breaths per minute consistently) while sleeping, this could be an early clinical sign of heart failure. Lower levels are not a cause for concern as long as your animal is otherwise behaving normally.
Also, note that in some cats your veterinarian may consider respiratory rates below 30 breaths per minute to be elevated and abnormal – the correct respiratory rate for your cat should be determined on an individual basis.
Your careful monitoring can help limit your pet’s disease progression, reduce the likelihood of overnight hospital stays, and reduce heart failure treatment costs.
Diagnosis of Rapid Breathing in Cats
If your cat is breathing rapidly, you should consider any factors that could be causing this and remove them from your cat’s environment. Some factors are emotional stress and heat. For example, if your cat For example, if she is panting due to heat, get her out of the heat as soon as possible and make sure her water is available. If rapid breathing persists despite eliminating the possible cause, you should consult a veterinarian.
The vet will perform an exam during which they will observe your cat’s breathing, listen to the chest for signs or abnormalities such as a heart murmur or fluid in the lungs, and check the color of your cat’s gums to see if the organs are being well-oxygenated, and performs a complete examination of the entire body.
Your vet will most likely do blood tests to check for underlying conditions and X-rays and/or ultrasounds to examine the lungs and heart.