Cat Breathing Fast

You should take the health of your cat should with the seriousness it deserves. But while this is the case, most often than not, you do not know how to handle a medical issue. If you notice your cat breathing fast, you should take fast action to correct it.

A cat breathing fast for a short time is healthy. However, prolonged stressed breathing gives insight into an underlying health problem.


How Fast is a Cat Supposed to Breathe?

A normal and healthy cat should have on average between 20 and 30 regular breaths every minute. The air that finds its way into the cat’s lungs oxygenates the blood which is pumped to the rest of the body.

When a cat is suffering from a rapid breathing, they do not precisely behave like dogs. They do not have their tongues all out and pant heavily and noisily. On the contrary, cats are more subtle in displaying their discomfort. They often assume a crouching or standing position with their elbows bending away from their chest, and the neck and head stretched out. Rapid breathing in cats can be host by a host of problems including cardiomyopathy and hydrothorax. We shall have a detailed look at these later on.

With rapid breathing, the cat’s breathing rate increases becomes shallow and irregular. This indicated that not enough oxygen is finding its way into the lungs and the body is deprived of it.  Regular heart breathing is important to the overall health of your cat.

What Can Cause Rapid Breathing in Cats?

Your cat breathing fast can be as a result of several reasons. If you think your cat is breathing fast, it is vital that you have him/her evaluated by a local vet a soon a possible.

1. Airway Diseases

Cats tend to have fast breathing as a result of contracting airway diseases. According to studies conducted by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, airway diseases will inhibit the ability of a cat to obtain sufficient levels of oxygen for the proper functioning of its organs. As a result, cats breath fast to try and compensate. Some of the airway diseases include; Pneumonia, Pulmonary edema, and Feline Asthma.

Of the three, pulmonary edema is the most common. It is characterized by fluids filling up the lungs. This often happens as a result of heart failure, near drowning, cancer, choking, or electrocution.

2. Pleura Effusion

If a cat is breathing fast, this could also be a cause. Cats with this condition experience a buildup of fluids in the chest around the lungs. The fluid buildup is usually in the pleural space. With fluid buildup in this space, the lungs are restricted and cannot inflate as they ought to. The cat as a result experiences labored breathing coupled with shortness of breath. Some of the conditions causing pleural effusion include heart failure, Pyothorax, Chylothorax, and cancer.

3. Problems with the Upper Airways

Most cats develop upper respiratory tract infections at the very least once in their lives. The symptoms of this infection include sneezing, runny eyes, gagging or coughing, nasal discharge and audible nasal congestion.

There are instances where some cats are so congested that they cannot breathe through their noses anymore. When it gets to such levels, they open their mouths partway to allow for easier breathing. It is only in this case where home care for a cat breathing fast is allowed. A small cotton ball dipped in warm water can be used to clean off the nasal discharge. Placing your cat in a humid environment can also help the situation.

While this may be rarer than upper airway infections, some cats have physical obstructions in their airways, and that will cause heavy and fast breathing. Some of these possible causes include tumors, foreign bodies, and nasopharyngeal polyp.

4. Trauma

For the cats that have been through trauma in the past, heavy and fast breathing is one of the symptoms that can manifest. Trauma can lead to internal bleeding into the lungs, a collapsed lung, a hernia that applies pressure to the lungs and general internal bleeding.

What Step Should I take when I notice my cat breathing fast?

When you notice that after an intense exercise your cat breaths faster for a prolonged period than is usual, the first and best step to take is to call in a professional veterinary immediately. A vet should ask for your cat’s medical situation over the phone and advice on the next step of action.

Calling a vet before anything else is wise as you will get to arrange the mode of transport to the hospital to avoid any more procrastination. Any time wasted can have severe consequences for your cat’s condition. When you notice the fast and labored breathing, it is important that you try your best to keep your cat calm. Travelling could potentially be stressful for your cat. Calling in a vet will share some expert advice on how to handle the transportation of your pet causing minimal stress.

If the worst comes to the worst, your cat might stop breathing before you get to the hospital. At this point, you should perform CPR. If there is no time to read on CPR instructions online, your vet will guide you through it via the phone.

Once at the hospital, the vet will access the cat fast breathing and its severity. Part if the accessing will include determining its cause and providing a steady and sufficient oxygen supply. After performing a thorough physical exam and a diagnosis is given, the best form of treatment is decided.

Depending on the severity of the cat’s state, the vet may put the cat in an ICU or oxygen cage. The vet shall also advise on the best care once the cat is released and taken home.

Treatment of Cat fast breathing

The treatment will be geared towards specific causes of the condition. In the case of pneumonia, infections or lungs filling with fluids, a prescription of strong antibiotics will help to combat the antibiotics. In many cases, your cat may have to be hospitalized to be provided with an around the clock care and support.

If the cat suffered pain or shock following the trauma, and no broken bones were detected, a simple prescription of pain medication will do the trick. In addition to this, you will need to provide the cat with a warm, quiet and safe place to heal and recover. Cat allergies can be treated with some anti-histamines and a regular dose of medication for acute reactions.


Well, there is very little that can be done to prevent some of these causes of cat fast breathing. However, for some infections, the likes caused by Feline Herpes Virus, the Viralys Oral Gel will come in handy. This is a lysine gel supplement designed to aid in treating the said virus. It can be given to cats to boost their immune system and ultimately prevent respiratory conditions causing fast breathing.

In the cause of cardiomyopathy, supplements of taurine will help reduce its occurrence. Probiotics for Cats as a supplement.

How Long Does Will a Cat Recover from Fast Breathing?

Ultimately, the recovery time solely depends on the cause of the condition. Pneumonia and infections are more serious infections and may require a higher degree of special vet care. That said, your cat’s recovery is bound to be faster with vet care and when medication is sought immediately when the symptoms start showing and are detected.

Given the seriousness of the condition, it is imperative to follow up on the symptoms of your cat to prevent a reoccurrence of the condition.

Overall, you could give your cat lots of water on hot days and actively keep them away from toxic chemicals as well as keep them calm.


Whether or not we find the suckling behavior cute or not is already out of the question, what is important is that we as human companions understand why our furry friends do this. From there, we can take further action – one that is suitable and appropriate that will not aggravate your cat’s welfare.

Rebecca Welters

Yes, I am that weird cat lady with 200 cats and live in the darkest corner of the city where no one dares to go! Joking! But I am a cat lover and have 2 Ragdoll cats called Toby, he's 3 years old and Dory, she's 8 years old. I'm 36 years old and live in the quiet town of Washington.

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