How Fast Do Cats Breathe?

Understanding your cat’s respiratory rate is essential to their well-being. This article explores what’s normal and not in terms of cat breathing, and why the respiratory rate matters. 

Cats have a resting breathing rate that typically ranges from 16 to 40 breaths per minute, depending on factors like age and health. During physical activity or when they’re excited, their breathing rate can go even higher, and that’s perfectly normal.

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Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine research reveals that understanding your cat’s baseline breathing rate can be crucial in spotting potential health issues. As responsible pet owners, it’s our duty to ensure their well-being.

In this article, we will also explore two important concepts related to cat breathing: bradypnea and tachypnea.

Bradypnea is when your cat’s breathing is unusually slow, while tachypnea is characterized by rapid breathing. But first, let’s start with the basics: what’s normal for your feline friend.

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The Normal Cat Breathing Rate

Your cat’s normal breathing rate when they’re at rest typically falls within the range of 16 to 40 breaths per minute. This range may seem broad, but it depends on various factors such as age, size, and overall health.

Kittens and younger cats tend to have faster breathing rates, while older cats may breathe more slowly.

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Research from the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms this range, noting that fluctuations are perfectly normal. Cats, like us, can have variations in their breathing rate depending on their emotional state and the environment they’re in.

During periods of rest, your cat’s breathing should be calm and steady, with no visible signs of distress. Cats are expert breathers, and you may not even notice them doing it most of the time.

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Remember that knowing your cat’s normal baseline breathing rate is crucial because it allows you to detect potential issues early on, such as bradypnea and tachypnea. But don’t worry; we’ll get to those in detail later in this article.

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What Is Bradypnea?

Bradypnea is when your cat’s breathing becomes unusually slow. It’s often a sign of an underlying health problem, and it’s crucial to recognize it early.

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Research conducted at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis, indicates that bradypnea can occur due to various causes, including heart issues, neurological disorders, and certain medications.

But what are the health issues associated with bradypnea, and how is it diagnosed? We’ll answer these questions and provide valuable insights into treatment and prevention in the upcoming sections.

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Before we dive into that, let’s also explore tachypnea, the opposite of bradypnea. Understanding both conditions is essential for ensuring your cat’s respiratory health.

What Is Tachypnea?

In contrast to bradypnea, tachypnea is characterized by rapid breathing in cats. Tachypnea is often a sign that your furry companion is experiencing discomfort or distress. 

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Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care research states that there are various causes for tachypnea in cats, including respiratory infections, heart disease, allergies, and even obesity.

Understanding the potential health issues associated with tachypnea is crucial for early intervention. We’ll discuss these issues in more detail shortly. But first, how do you know if your cat has bradypnea or tachypnea? Let’s take a closer look at diagnosis.

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Diagnosing Bradypnea and Tachypnea in Cats

Diagnosing bradypnea and tachypnea in cats typically involves a visit to your veterinarian. It’s important to consult with a professional who can accurately assess your cat’s respiratory health.

A vet can conduct a detailed physical examination, including listening to your cat’s chest and measuring their heart rate and oxygen saturation.

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These parameters help identify potential issues and guide the diagnosis process. Further tests may be recommended — X-rays or blood tests — to pinpoint the underlying cause of these breathing abnormalities.

Remember, early diagnosis is essential, as it leads to more effective treatment and a better chance of a positive outcome. 

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Treatment and Prevention

Now that we’ve discussed diagnosis, let’s move on to the crucial topic of treatment and prevention.

For Bradypnea:

  1. Medication: Treatment may involve medications to address the underlying cause, such as heart medications or drugs to manage neurological issues.
  2. Lifestyle Adjustments: Depending on the cause, your vet might suggest various lifestyle changes, whether that be reduced physical activity or changes in your cat’s diet. 

For Tachypnea:

  1. Antibiotics: If the cause is a respiratory infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  2. Cardiac Medications: For heart-related tachypnea, your vet may prescribe medications to manage the condition.
  3. Allergy Management: If allergies are the culprit, your vet may recommend allergy management strategies.
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Preventing these conditions often involves maintaining your cat’s overall health. Here are some tips:

  1. Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to catch any issues early.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Breathing issues can be caused by obesity, so ensure your cat maintains a healthy weight with the right diet and exercise.
  3. Stress Reduction: Minimize stress in your cat’s environment as it can exacerbate respiratory problems.
  4. Dental Health: Breahting can also be affected by poor dental health and subsequent infections, so pay attention to your cat’s oral hygiene.

Read more: What causes neurologic disorders in cats?

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Factors Affecting Cat Breathing Rate

A cat’s breathing rate can be influenced by various factors, including age, temperature, environment, stress, and physical activity:

Age and Life Stage: Kittens and young cats typically have faster breathing rates than their older counterparts. Knowing what’s normal for your cat’s age is essential.

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Temperature and Environment: Cats may breathe faster in warmer environments or when they’re exposed to stressors like loud noises or unfamiliar surroundings.

Stress and Anxiety: Stress can lead to increased breathing rates. Reducing stress in your cat’s life can have a positive impact on their overall health.

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Physical Activity and Exercise: After playtime or exercise, your cat’s breathing rate may increase. This is entirely normal and a sign of a happy, active cat.

Underlying Medical Conditions: As discussed earlier, underlying health issues can significantly impact your cat’s breathing rate. Regular vet visits are essential to catch and address these issues promptly.

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How to Measure A Cat’s Breathing Rate

Measuring your cat’s breathing rate is a straightforward process and a useful tool for monitoring their respiratory health. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Find a Quiet Space: Choose a quiet environment where your cat feels comfortable.
  2. Observe Your Cat: Watch your cat as they rest or relax, ensuring they are not engaged in any strenuous activity.
  3. Count the Breaths: Use a timer and count the number of breaths your cat takes in one minute. You can also count for 15 seconds and then multiply by four to get breaths per minute.
  4. Record the Rate: Note down the breathing rate and compare it to the typical range for your cat’s age and size.
  5. Repeat for Accuracy: It’s a good idea to repeat this process a few times and take an average to ensure accuracy.

By knowing your cat’s baseline breathing rate, you’ll be better equipped to detect any deviations that could signal respiratory distress.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the average breathing rate for a healthy cat?

A: The average breathing rate for a healthy cat typically falls between 16 to 40 breaths per minute, with variations depending on age, size, and activity levels. Monitoring your cat’s breathing is a valuable practice to ensure their well-being.

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How do I know if my cat has bradypnea or tachypnea?

A: Bradypnea is characterized by unusually slow breathing, while tachypnea is marked by rapid, shallow breaths. If you notice a consistent and significant change in your cat’s breathing rate, it’s best to call your vet to find out if there’s an underlying issue. consult with your veterinarian to determine if there is an underlying issue.

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What can cause sudden changes in a cat’s breathing rate?

A: Sudden changes in breathing rate can result from various factors, including infections, allergies, heart conditions, stress, and obesity. Identifying the cause of these changes is essential for timely intervention.

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When should I seek veterinary care for my cat’s respiratory distress?

A: If your cat is experiencing severe respiratory distress, such as gasping for breath, bluish gums, or obvious signs of pain, seek immediate veterinary care. For less severe changes in breathing rate or mild distress, consult your vet for guidance.

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Are there home remedies to alleviate mild breathing issues in cats?

A: For mild respiratory issues, maintaining a clean and stress-free environment, ensuring proper hydration, and reducing exposure to potential allergens can help. However, always consult your veterinarian for advice tailored to your cat’s specific needs.

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Can environmental factors like smoking affect a cat’s breathing?

A: Yes, environmental factors like smoking can negatively impact your cat’s respiratory health. Secondhand smoke can lead to a variety of health issues, including respiratory problems. If you smoke, consider doing so in an area that is entirely separate from your cat to protect their health.

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Final Thoughts

Understanding your cat’s breathing rate is an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership.

Monitoring their respiratory health, recognizing signs of bradypnea and tachypnea, and taking early action when needed can significantly improve their overall well-being.

By staying vigilant and proactive, you can ensure that your feline friend enjoys a long and healthy life. Regular vet check-ups, a supportive environment, and a little knowledge go a long way in ensuring your cat’s respiratory health.

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In conclusion, be attuned to your cat’s respiration, and you’ll be better equipped to give them the love and care they deserve. For more information and resources on cat health, feel free to explore the following:


  1. American Association of Feline Practitioners – A reputable source for feline health information, offering valuable insights and guidelines.
  2. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care – A scientific journal with articles on emergency and critical care, including studies on feline respiratory health.
  3. The Humane Society – An organization dedicated to the well-being of animals, providing useful information on cat health and care.

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Cristina is a licensed veterinarian who has been a cat owner since she was 12. She is passionate about giving useful advice to pet owners across the world. Her favorite topics range from pathology and novel therapies to infectious diseases and animal welfare. Her work has been featured in many online publications from The Pet Friendly House to Alpha Paw, Animal Wellness Magazine, and

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