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Home > Cats > My Cat Is Breathing Faster When They Purr, Is That Normal? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

My Cat Is Breathing Faster When They Purr, Is That Normal? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When humans breathe faster than normal, it is often a sign that we are tense, exhausted, or otherwise unwell. When you see your cat breathing fast, you may be quick to worry that something is amiss. Don’t panic; your cat’s quick breathing isn’t always a sign that something is wrong. If your cat is purring, it’s entirely normal for them to have a heightened respiratory rate. Keep reading below to learn more about your cat’s breathing rate.


What Is a Normal Respiratory Rate for Cats?

Every cat is different. Determining the exact number of breaths per minute that is normal for your pet may require a vet visit so that your vet can physically evaluate your cat. However, 20–30 breaths per minute is generally a regular and healthy amount.

How to Determine Your Cat’s Resting Respiratory Rate

While your vet can help you determine your cat’s resting respiratory rate, it is possible for you to do so at home. To determine their breathing rate, you can count the breaths they take in one minute. For a more accurate calculation, wait until your cat is sleeping or resting peacefully to begin counting. If you count when your cat is energetic, wide-awake, or even purring, their breathing rate will be elevated, and your count will be off.

Once you are ready to count your cat’s breaths, set a 1-minute timer. Then, watch your cat’s chest. Count one breath when their chest moves in and out fully. If you are afraid that you will lose count during a full minute, you can set a timer for 30 seconds and double the breaths counted for an accurate estimate.

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Why It’s Important to Know Your Cat’s Resting Respiratory Rate

Knowing how to calculate your cat’s breathing rate is a neat trick, but is there any practical application? Yes, absolutely.

By counting your cat’s breaths daily, you can monitor their resting respiratory rate for any drastic changes. If dramatic changes occur, they can be significant indications of a health complication. Providing this information to your vet will be helpful in determining a diagnosis and treatment plan. For example, your pet’s breathing rate is an indication of their heart health. If your cat’s resting breathing rate increases, it may be an early sign of heart failure or a respiratory condition like asthma. Catching serious conditions early on can spare your cat from suffering from a severe condition.

What to Do if Your Cat’s Resting Respiratory Rate Is Increased

An increased breathing rate in your cat is called tachypnea. If your cat’s resting breathing rate is higher than usual, it can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Film a short video, reach out to your vet and schedule an appointment right away.

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When Is Rapid Breathing an Emergency?

Sometimes, increased breathing requires emergency veterinary service. Knowing when to receive urgent care can be tricky, so watch out for the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Breathing with an open mouth (may look like panting)
  • Noisy breathing
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue, weakness, or lethargy
  • Rapid rise and fall of the stomach or chest
  • Both the stomach and chest rise and fall while breathing
  • Flaring nostrils
  • Blue gums

Frequently Asked Questions

Cats are fascinating creatures, and the connection between purring and breathing is fascinating. To learn more, we have answered some frequently asked questions below.

Why Do Cats Purr?

Purring is a soft, buzzing, continuous, and rhythmic sound that cats produce while they breathe. It is created by vibrations within the upper respiratory tract (vocal folds). While purring is a frequent sound that cats make, we know less about its purpose than meowing, hissing, and other sounds. Cats often purr when they are content, but that is not always the case.

Some cats have been observed purring when they are hungry or in pain, so it’s not always about expressing joy.  Behaviorists have suggested that the function of purring in this case would be to indicate that the cat does not pose a threat. To understand why your cat is purring, pay attention to the context and try to read their body language.

How Will a Vet Diagnose the Cause of a Rapid Respiratory Rate?

The first step your vet will take will be to evaluate the severity of your cat’s breathing problem and decide if they need oxygen supplementation or any type of medication. Once they’ve assessed your cat’s state, they may choose to listen for evidence of a heart murmur or fluid in the lungs.

They may also observe your cat’s gums for signs of discoloration, which can tell them whether or not your cat is receiving adequate amounts of oxygen. Other tests may be necessary, including blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, and more. From there, your vet can make a diagnosis.

How Is a Rapid Respiratory Rate Treated?

Once your vet determines a diagnosis, treatment will vary depending on the condition. Treatment may require temporary hospitalization so that your vet can supply a steady stream of oxygen to your cat while they work on solving the issue.

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Final Thoughts

It can be startling to notice your cat breathing fast, but not all situations are a cause for alarm. For instance, if your cat is purring, an increased breathing rate is normal. You can determine your cat’s resting respiratory rate by counting the breaths they take each minute. That information can be invaluable to you and your vet as you evaluate your cat’s health.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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