Abnormal Breathing In A Cat

by Jennifer

photo by Steven Sanchez

photo by Steven Sanchez

QUESTION About Abnormal Breathing in a Cat

My mom has a female cat that is normally quite active. This morning, she is laying on a chair, seems to be breathing more heavily than normal, and vomited once.

She ate her canned cat food before she vomited, and there were no signs of cat hairballs in the vomit.

The cat will let people pet her, and does not seem to have any areas of pain(at least she did not cry out when I petted her). What do you think is going on with my Mom's cat?

Hi, Jennifer,

Monitoring breathing in cats is extremely important. Any abnormal cat breathing that persists more than a few minutes should be considered an emergency.

There are numerous conditions that can cause a cat to breathe abnormally. There are also a few different types of breathing a cat can have that we consider abnormal.

Cats at rest normally breathe fairly slowly and with very little rise and fall of their chest/abdominal region. Normal respiratory rates in cats vary from 20 to 40 breaths per minute. A resting happy, healthy cat will be closer to 20 than 40.

Cat should never breathe with their mouths open. They do not normally pant like dogs.

On rare occasions, cats will breathe faster and very shallow and with their mouths open if they are overheated or overly anxious, but this is rare and should only last a few seconds to a minute or so.

The type of breathing that is of most concern in cats and should send you running to the veterinarian is deep, slow breaths with very pronounced abdominal effort. Open mouth breathing in a cat is also of great concern if it lasts more than a minute or so.

There are many conditions that can lead to abnormal breathing in cats and all of them require quick medical attention.

They include feline asthma, feline heart disease, a feline diabetic crisis, feline anemia, cat cancer, fluid in or around the cat's lungs, smoke inhalation, electrical shock to the cat, and several others. As you can see from the list, it is always serious and requires veterinary attention.

Regarding your mother's cat, vomiting once or twice is not uncommon for cats. However, if the kitty is lethargic and continues to vomit and if her breathing has remained abnormal, she needs to be seen by a veterinarian now.

Good luck, let me know how she does. I hope everything turns out ok.

Dr. Neely

Return to Feline Heart Disease.

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