Rapid Breathing in Cats

Updated April 17, 2017

Normally, a cat takes smooth and even breaths without difficulty. Rapid breathing is a sign of a problem that could be simple or could be serious. A veterinarian must properly diagnose and treat the condition.

Preliminary Implications

According to A. David Scheele, a veterinarian in Midland, Texas, "Rapid breathing generally means one of two things: Your pet is in pain, or she isn't getting enough oxygen." Checking for injuries or issues that causes pain in the animal is the first step. Examine the eyes, and gently poke the abdomen to see if the animal has an adverse response. Move the cat's legs around to check for pain.

Frequent Causes

If pain is not the issue, the cat may be suffering from another ailment. Cats with congestive heart failure have trouble taking in oxygen, and they often will not lie down because, according to veterinarian Ralph Barrett, "Sitting upright helps them breathe a little easier, just as people with breathing problems will prop themselves up with pillows." Respiratory infections and asthma also cause cats to have difficulty breathing. Blue or grey gums are a sign of lack of oxygen.

Other Causes

Aside from the main instigators, several other possibilities exist, which is why a cat that is breathing rapidly should be taken to a vet. Other triggers include but are not limited to fever, stress, shock, anaemia, dehydration, lung disease, a build-up of toxins, diabetes and kidney failure. Determining the precise cause is difficult and often requires X-rays and other tests.

Serious Signs

Rapid breathing accompanied by any of the following is cause for heightened alarm, and help for the animal must be sought immediately. Signs to look for include symptoms regarding fever and gums, heavy panting, voice changes, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, gagging, snoring, panting during the night, a heavy stomach, dry, bloody or crusty nose and discharge from the nose or mouth.


Since rapid breathing can be a sign of a serious problem, the cat must be brought to the vet immediately. The vet will perform a complete exam consisting of tests such as urine analysis, blood count, chest X-rays and biochemic profiles. Oxygen therapy, fluid therapy and certain medications are useful in treating the condition. Some natural remedies, such as herbal treatments, are effective as well. However, a vet must be consulted before any medication or therapy is administered.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Jen Marx holds a Master of Arts in English and American literature. She is a consultant at a university writing center and has numerous print and online publications, including "Community College Campus News." Marx specializes in topics ranging from wedding planning to history to the environment.