Cat Breathing Problems

Cat breathing problems are relatively common in cats. You should expect that your pet may have brief periods of labored breathing on rare occasions throughout his life. However, these episodes can be signs of serious underlying diseases and may, in rare cases, be fatal. Learn about the various causes of cat breathing problems so that you can better understand why your cat may experience them. If your cat has difficulty breathing for a period of time longer than a few minutes, or if he experiences frequent episodes, have him examined by a veterinarian right away.

Normal Breathing Problems

Cats may have a difficult time catching their breath if they have exercised or overexerted themselves. If you notice that your cat has trouble breathing for a few minutes after playing with him, consider limiting your pet's exertion by cutting playtime short or not running him as hard. This type of labored breathing is normal but still not comfortable for your cat, so it's best to avoid this if at all possible.

Breathing Problems Related to Allergies

Many cats have allergies to ingredients in food, particles in the air and other sources as well. These allergies vary significantly on a case-by-case basis, but they may occasionally lead to breathing difficulties. In these situations, eliminating the offending allergen from your pet's environment is the single most effective way at eliminating his allergic reaction. Work with your veterinarian to identify the allergen so that you can work to remove it from your home.

Feline Asthma

Feline asthma may be linked to allergies, but it can also develop for other reasons as well. Cats may be sensitive to certain odors, smoke or dust in the air and may have a difficult time breathing in these cases. Keeping a clean home environment and ensuring that your pet has plenty of fresh air can help to clear up asthma, while an air purifier is a wise investment in these cases as well. In severe situations, work with your veterinarian to help relieve your pet's asthma symptoms with medicines.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Feline upper respiratory infections, or URIs, are the equivalent to the common human cold. These diseases have a number of causes and may be related to bacterial or fungal infections or a variety of viruses. URIs may cause congestion and can constrict your pet's breathing passages, making it difficult for him to take in the air that he needs. Most of these conditions resolve themselves in a matter of days, but antibiotics and other prescription medicines can help to address the problems as well.


Occasionally, parasites like heartworm can cause breathing problems in cats. These are serious conditions that must be remedied quickly in order to ensure that your pet remains healthy.

A breathing problem can escalate quickly, and it is crucial that you react promptly when your pet exhibits difficulty breathing. While most of the conditions and problems listed above are not immediately life-threatening, only a veterinarian can help to determine the exact cause of your pet's breathing difficulties.