Cat Snores: When Do I Have to Go to the Vet?

Adult ginger white cat sleeping sweetly with his head upside down. Domestic cat curled up and peacefully napping at home. Cat sleeps with its mouth slightly open close-up. Pet everyday life.

Even cats snore occasionally.

Does your cat occasionally snore? This is mostly no cause for concern. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t take rhonchopathy, the medical term, lightly, because dangerous diseases or health problems could be behind it.

Is it bad if my cat snores?

Many cats occasionally snore, which may not be alarming at first. Moreover, it depends to what extent and when your cat snores. It’s mostly harmless if it just makes gentle snoring noises at night.

Indications of dangerous causes

However, if your snoring cat shows further symptoms like shortness of breath (dyspnea) or feebleness, dangerous diseases could be behind it.

Fever is also an important indicator that your cat may be suffering from a bacterial or viral infection. But other serious diseases (e.g. tumours) can also lead to a rise in your cat’s body temperature.

It’s not uncommon for your cat’s snoring to be accompanied by further symptoms. If it has an infection, you can recognise the typical stridor (breathing noise due to constricted airways) and, for example, mucous nasal discharge.

When do I have to see a vet?

If your cat snores loudly and also shows the following symptoms, you should discuss the problem with your vet:

  • The cat shows further symptoms, such as loss of appetite and weight loss or swollen lymph nodes.
  • It makes further breathing noises when snoring (e.g. wheezing).
  • Your cat pants increasingly (during the day too).

Caution: In severe cases, affected cats show severe respiratory problems, up to and including mouth breathing. This is a sign that your cat is running out of air. In this case, the mucous membrane will be blue (cyanosis). So look for a vet immediately to prevent the situation from worsening!

Causes: Why do cats snore?

Your cat is snoring if it lets off a loud breathing noise when sleeping. This whistling generally comes from vibrations caused by constriction of the upper airway.

Hence, there are numerous triggers that lead to cats snoring. The most important are:

1. Being overweight

Excess weight can be harmful to health. This applies to cats and dogs too, because excess weight often presses on organs like the heart or lungs. As a consequence, they are under severe pressure and compulsively attempt to counteract it. Health problems are therefore inevitable.

2. Polyps

Polyps are one of the most common respiratory diseases in cats that lead to snoring. Benign nasopharyngeal polyps are pathological tissue growths in the nasopharynx and consist of inflammatory cells and connective tissue.

This alteration is particularly common in young cats, starting from the Eustachian tube. Thus, a polyp is often the consequence of a previous middle ear infection (otitis media).

polypes chez le chat © Christoph Burgstedt /
Voici à quoi peuvent ressembler les polypes chez les chats.

3. Foreign bodies

If your outdoor cat creeps through the neighbourhood, foreign bodies such as awns or hard grasses can get into the respiratory tract, which they constrict, causing your cat to snore and whistle. If the foreign body spears into the surrounding tissue, there is also a risk of painful inflammation.

4. Allergies

Be it pollen, dust mites or foods, allergic reactions in cats also cause the respiratory tract to swell and constrict. Along with snoring, you will then also observe your cat sneezing or itching.

5. Sleep Apnoea

If your cat only snores at night, it may be suffering from sleep apnoea, which involves respiration halting from time to time whilst your cat sleeps. You should check with your vet if these breathing interruptions increase, because the resulting insufficient oxygen supply can harm your cat in the long run.

6. Diseases and infections

Your cat may find it difficult to breathe if it has a cold or cat flu. It may snore during sleep or under strain.

Diagnosis: What does the vet examine with a snoring cat?

To be on the safe side, you should check with your vet if your cat is snoring. They can take a closer look at your cat’s respiratory tract and detect pathological changes.

External Changes

At the start of the examination, your vet will assess your cat’s appearance. They will check if your cat’s face is symmetrical or whether circumferential growth in the nose area is already noticeable at first glance.

Another look into the mouth cavity and ears (otoscopy) will give your vet further insights. They will pay particular attention to possible secretion or swellings. They can also assess the length of the soft palate.

The examination of the trachea and lower airways follows next. Your vet will touch your cat’s throat and listen to the lungs with a stethoscope.

Imaging techniques

It may also be necessary to use imaging techniques. An X-ray examination can make important areas visible to your vet that they cannot see from the outside. For instance, they can recognise foreign bodies or indications of internal circumferential growths (e.g. tumours or nasal polyps) on the X-ray image.

Treatment: What can I do if my cat snores?

The choice of treatment depends in each case on the underlying cause. For instance, if your cat has polyps or foreign bodies in its airways, your vet can remove them surgically. It is similar with tumours, with treatment depending on the location, type and size. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy are alternative cancer treatments.

If your cat is a few kilos overweight – another possible cause for it snoring – it’s important that it loses weight in a controlled manner. Adapt its food and make sure it gets sufficient exercise.

Further reading recommendations: Cat Agility – How to Bring More Fun and Exercise to Y0ur Cat’s Life

Prognosis: What are the chances of recovery?

If your cat snores, the prognosis depends on the cause. Hence, it’s important to ask your vet for advice early on. The sooner the vet can identify a cause that needs to be treated, the better the chances of recovery.

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