5 Reasons Why Cats Breathing Heavily While Resting? – Breathing issues are unfortunately very common in cats. This is especially true for senior cats. When these issues arise they must be met with close monitoring and professional examination and care because senior felines naturally lack the proper immune health to fight off various forms of infection and illness.

They can succumb to breathing difficulties far more easily than compared to their younger and healthier counterparts. This is yet another reason why heavy breathing while resting should never be ignored or dismissed.

5 Reasons Why Cats Breathing Heavily While Resting?

5 Reasons Why Cats Breathing Heavily While Resting?

If there is a quote unquote rule number one it’s that cat should never have labored breathing while resting or sleeping.

It is critical to note that breathing issues are a secondary symptom. Getting to the root cause of the issue is the objective . This is why professional care is so important. The sooner you get your cat to vet the sooner proper diagnosis can be established and the proper treatment provided.

Never attempt to self diagnose your cat’s medical concerns, especially something as serious as difficulty breathing. Once you notice the issue monitor it and then act accordingly. Waiting days to take your cat to the vet can prove dire.

In this blog we will detail five of the most common reasons that cause labored and heavy breathing as well as the critical symptoms that you should always look for.

The Most Common Cause Of Heavy Breathing

5 Reasons Why Cats Breathing Heavily While Resting?

Before we begin to explore each specific cause it’s important to remember that every root health concern that has led to your cats labored breathing is serious. While some are certainly more critical than others it’s vital to treat all conditions with proper respect. Laboured breathing is not normal, so while the conditions may vary in terms of severity, each ailment must be addressed in a timely manner.

In no particular order the most notable health issues that can trigger heavy and labored breathing are as follows

1. Airway Diseases

Conditions such as pulmonary edema, feline asthma, and pneumonia can make it difficult for your cat to breathe with ease. Limiting your cat’s oxygen supply these diseases can make it difficult for your cat to not only breathe but to perform basic tasks.

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Pulmonary edema for example can cause fluid to build up within your cat’s lungs . This condition can prove dire if not treated accordingly. This is especially true for senior cats.

Noted as a secondary condition to a much greater issue, pulmonary edema is often lead to heart failure, cancer or another disease that has greatly compromised the health of your cat’s immune system.

2. Upper Respiratory Infection

Regarded as one of the primary causes of heavy and labored breathing most every feline will develop some form of upper respiratory infection in their life. However, infections of this nature can be quite difficult for senior cats because older cats lack the proper immune health and physical stamina to fight off most infections. Eliminating the congestion caused by an upper respiratory infection is critical the sooner the better.

Senior felines are not equipped to combat infections on their own so they certainly need our help. In addition to heavy breathing the symptoms associated with upper respiratory infection may include sneezing, coughing or hacking, discharge from the eyes, snorting, the sound of nasal congestion and discharge from the nose.

It becomes vital to monitor your cat closely if these symptoms are present. As things can take a turn for the worse if your cat is already in failing health has a pre-existing condition or is of senior status. If severe lethargy and lack of food or water consumption develop and you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible .

3. Pleural Effusion

Fluid that builds up outside of the centralized area of the lungs within what is known as the pleural space is called pleural effusion.

Causing the lungs to no longer inflate properly pleural effusion can cause shortness of breath which results in heavy and labored breathing. Unfortunately as more fluid accumulates the more difficulty your cat will have.

Intense breathing even while resting is common. Health conditions and diseases such as cancer congestive heart failure and a chest infection can produce pleural effusion.

4. Obesity

If your cat is slightly overweight or has been expertly classified as obese labored breathing could be a prominent issue. This is notably true for senior cats because elderly felines often deal with joint and muzzle discomfort the days of playing and running around have long since vanished. In fact basic tasks can even become a thing of yesteryear in severe cases.

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If your cat has been grounded due to failing mobility this can lead to obesity. Many times obesity has very little to do with your cats eating habits but rather a case of your cat simply doing less. Inactivity sometimes due to old age and immobility is often the root cause behind the entire condition.

The best way to deal with heavy breathing that is a byproduct of obesity is to adopt dietary changes with the help of a professional.

Even if over feeding and lack of exercise is not the issue. Certain subtle changes can still allow your cat to stay on the right side of nutrition while also shedding a few pounds. It’s all about proper balance and this is where your vet can help you immensely.

5. Physical Trauma

Impacting cats of all life stages physical trauma from a fall and altercation or in some cases an assault from a malicious individual can cause great harm to your feline. Depending on the injuries heavy or labored breathing can be the result.

In respect to senior cats trauma can come from a lack of mobility, more so a lack of balance.If you’re elderly cat attempts to jump on your sofa and comes up a bit short the fall to the floor can be costly. No longer able to contort its body properly to escape danger your cat could suffer greatly.

Sadly this is not too much unlike an elderly person who sustains a fall. In most cases physical trauma that results in breathing difficulty is the result of a chest injury. If you discover a flesh wound on the chest or feel swelling your cat needs immediate medical attention.

Symptoms Of Laboured Breathing

5 Reasons Why Cats Breathing Heavily While Resting?

While heavy breathing independently and void of other issues is not a major concern if it’s a one-time experience. Prolonged heavy breathing especially when met with other symptoms can be a sign of a serious issue.

Some common symptoms of labored breathing include:

Changes In Breathing Pace

Although heavy breathing can be worrisome breathing that changes pace is a sign that your cat is struggling for oxygen slow, fast,  aggressive no breathing, fast, slow, fast all of these signs are troublesome as they indicate that your cat is trying everything possible to breathe. These symptoms can also be viewed as forceful breathing.

If breathing is not only labored but also bordering on voluntary then your cat could be in a dire circumstance.


Punching down similar to a person bending over or putting their hands on their knees or hips is a sign of trouble especially if this action is in combination with changes in breathing pace. It is not uncommon for cats to crowd down and lean forward with an extended neck in an attempt to breathe.

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Loss Of Appetite

The consumption of food requires a momentary blockage of oxygen, at least partially as it relates to normal breathing. If your cat is already struggling to breathe then food in the mouth can almost act as a form of suffocation. Have you ever had a stopped-up nose and try to consume a large amount of food? Between the chewing and swallowing it can feel like you’re at the bottom of a swimming pool.

This is not unlike what your cat experiences. If your cat has stopped eating this is likely a deliberate act as a means to conserve as much energy and oxygen as possible.

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perpetual lethargy can often accompany labored breathing. This symptom not only involves a general lack of activity and interest but in some cases a failure to acknowledge you or even respond in any capacity.

If your cat is so weak that it fails to move and engage in any standard of positive living, you should seek medical attention immediately as this points to a much larger issue than just labored breathing alone. Disease and severe illness can render your cat virtually lifeless when things become dire.


Often working in tandem with lethargy it is common for your cat to go into hiding when breathing difficulties and illness are ruling the day.

Some examples of hiding can include

  • your cat sleeping and relaxing in places it has never cared for in the past
  • your cat comes out of hiding only to use the bathroom and then returns to the same hiding location
  • your cat starts to use the bathroom near or at the hiding location rather than the litter box
  • Your cat makes a deliberate attempt not to be found or seen.

Some examples may include hiding under the table or under your sofa.

Blue Or Purple Gums

Heavy and labored breathing can also give way to blue and or purple gums. If your cat is struggling for oxygen discoloration of the gums in this fashion is a sign that your cat’s minimal oxygen needs are not being met. This symptom is very serious and it goes far beyond mere laboured breathing and general heavy excels .


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