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Why is My Cat Breathing Fast? 5 Reasons for This Behavior

A cat that seems to be breathing faster than usual can be a bit problematic. After all, any change from the ordinary can potentially signal a problem. Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses, so heavy breathing may be the first sign of some serious illnesses.

While fast breathing can signal that something deeper is wrong with your cat, there are also many innocent reasons why your cat may be breathing faster than usual.

In this article, we’ll take a look at many of the common causes of this behavior to help you decode your feline.

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The 5 Reasons Your Cat Is Breathing Fast

There are several reasons why your cat may be breathing quickly. Some of these are innocent, while others are a bit dangerous and could indicate a problem. Most of the time, rapid breathing is entirely normal. However, there are rare occasions where a call to your vet may be in order.

1. A Medical Reason

There are several medical reasons why your feline may be breathing quickly. Typically, many of these are accompanied by other symptoms. If your cat is sick, it will likely be experiencing multiple symptoms, not just one. However, many of these symptoms may be unnoticeable until you know what you’re supposed to be looking for.

Rapid breathing is medically known as tachypnea. It can be a sign that your cat’s oxygen level is low for whatever reason, as well as a symptom of anemia or asthma. If there is fluid near the lungs, it can also cause your cat to breathe heavily. A build-up of fluid is usually caused by heart failure, which will typically involve other symptoms.

The type of breathing is essential. A cat that appears normal but has a chest that appears to be rising up and down quickly is one thing. A cat that is physically panting is another. It is vital to explain the breathing appropriately to the vet should you contact them. Panting is typically more severe, as cats only pant rarely.

vet holding burma cat
Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock
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2. Pain

When in pain, cats will usually breathe quickly or pant. An underlying issue usually causes pain. However, it isn’t in all cases. Your cat may have a thorn in its paw, which can cause pain but isn’t particularly serious.

Cats that are giving birth will also pant because of pain, even if everything is going well.

In many cases, you may know why your cat is in pain. In other situations, you may not. If you can’t find an apparent reason for your cat’s pain, you will need to contact your vet. Many medical conditions cause pain and heavy breathing. It is impossible is diagnose your pet at home. Instead, your vet will need to run tests to figure out the cause.

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3. Stimulation

If something has surprised your cat or is hugely interested in their surroundings, they may begin breathing heavily. Humans begin breathing heavily when they are excited, and our cats are no different. Even if something doesn’t seem interesting to you, your cat may find it enamoring.

Usually, you can tell that this is why your cat will be intently staring at something. They may also be in “pounce” mode, which is basically when they stick their butt in the area.

It is important to note that stimulation can occur in their sleep as well. Cats often dream, and their breathing can change during these periods. They may be having a stimulating dream, which can cause their heart rate and breathing to quicken. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. It can be a bit problematic when your peacefully sleeping cat starts breathing heavily, but it is typically nothing to be worried about.

cat playing with a ball and a tunnel at home
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock
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4. Anxiety

Anxiety can also cause cats to breathe quickly. This goes along with the stimulation reason we previously discussed. The cats are very concentrated on their surroundings because of their anxiety. Still, they may not necessarily be concentrating on anything in particular – and nothing, in particular, maybe going on. They may act fearful and jumpy.

This is most common when something scary happens, which sends out cats into fight or flight mode. In most cases, the rapid breathing will only last for a few minutes as the cat considers the information. However, suppose the cat is anxious for an extended period (like what happens when a new animal is introduced to the home). In that case, they may continue this behavior until the anxiety passes.

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5. Sniffing

When cats sniff, their chest will rise and fall more rapidly and noticeably. Usually, they will also be concentrated on whatever it is they are sniffing. Usually, this occurs alongside something stimulating. So, if a new cat walks into the room, it is normal for a cat to increase its breathing rate as they investigate the name animal (even from afar).

close-up of nose and mouth of a cat
Image Credit: Photographerivanova, Shutterstock

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Treating Rapid Breathing in Cats

In many cases, rapid breathing is a symptom of an underlying situation – whether it is an illness or feeling. Because of this, you need to treat the underlying problem to fix the rapid breathing.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you want to fix the rapid breathing, though. In many cases, the breathing is entirely harmless and only part of being a cat. For example, if your feline is sniffing something, there is no reason to reduce their breathing rate.

Common Treatments for Unwanted Rapid Breathing

1. Work with Your Vet

If your cat is rapidly breathing for no apparent reason, it may be time to take them to the vet. Usually, your cat will have other symptoms as well. This is not always the case, though. Many cats are very good at hiding their underlying illnesses, so you may never notice that something is too late until it is seriously wrong. It is always better to treat diseases early and quickly – before they progress into something serious.

If you’re confused about your cat’s rapid breathing, you should contact your vet. They can give your cat an exam and run tests, which will help you figure out if something is wrong with your feline. If nothing is wrong, then your cat is likely breathing heavily for a different reason. If this breathing has occurred for an extended period, but there is no apparent health condition, it is likely from stress.

Veterinarian doctor holds cat
Image Credit: H_Ko, Shutterstock

2. Make Your Cat More Comfortable

If there is no underlying health condition, your feline is likely stressed. You can reduce their stress by making them more comfortable, which can be done in various ways. Firstly, consider giving them their own space. Even if nothing new has happened, enclosing them in a smaller area of your house can reduce their stress.

If you’ve recently adopted a new animal, separate them. Introduce them slowly to get used to each other before being allowed in the same area.

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When to See a Vet

When it comes to our pet’s health, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If your feline is breathing rapidly for no apparent reason, call your vet. At the very least, your vet will be informed of the situation and tell you what to watch for if it turns into an emergency.

In many cases, your vet will ask you to bring your feline in, as some serious illnesses can cause rapid breathing.

See also: Do Cats Breathe Faster When They Purr? Is It Normal?

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Featured Image Credit: TheMetalDroid, Shutterstock