Snoring in cats
We are all familiar with the sound of snoring in our pets or partners! Usually, it is nothing to worry about but if your cat suddenly starts snoring you should consider whether there may be anything wrong.
Is it normal for a cat to snore?
Snoring is the noise caused by vibrations of the loose tissue at the back of the throat, ie the soft palate, uvula, and tonsils, which relax during sleep.
In most cases snoring is completely normal in cats. Snoring occurs when cats are asleep, especially if they are experiencing ‘deep’ or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Cats sleep for up approximately 70% of their lives, so it's no surprise that most cat owners have heard their cat snore at some time or other! Cats are more likely to snore if they sleep in certain positions that compress the tissue in the back of their throat, however, sometimes snoring can be an indication of a medical issue.
What causes snoring in cats?
There are lots of different reasons why cats snore, including:
- Face shape: Brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds such as Persians or Exotic short- haired cats are more prone to snoring. This is because they have such flat faces that their nasal passages are shorter and soft palate longer than in normal cats. This reduces and obstructs normal air flow, making snoring more likely.
- Obesity: Overweight or obese cats are predisposed to snoring, as the excess fat pushes down on the tissue at the back of their throat.
- Asthma and allergies: Cats with allergies or asthma can snore due to inflammation of their airways. These cats are also likely to show other signs, such as wheezing, coughing or difficulty breathing.
- Foreign body: Sometimes blades of grass or other objects get stuck in a cat’s nasal passage or behind its soft palate. Cats that have something stuck in their nose or throat tend to show other signs such as sneezing repeatedly, having nasal discharge from one side of the nose and may paw at their face.
- Infections: Viruses that cause cat flu, such as FHV-1 (feline herpes virus) and FCV (feline calici virus) can cause cats to snore. FHV-1 can cause acute inflammation and narrowing of the nasal passage, inflammation of the throat and nasal discharge, causing affected cats to snore. Bacterial infections such as Bordetella bronchiseptica and fungal infections such as aspergillosis may cause airway irritation and inflammation in cats, but these are less common.
- Chronic rhinitis: Some cats can suffer from long-term inflammation of the nasal passages, making them more likely to snore. This is seen commonly in cats that have recovered from flu but have been left with on-going inflammation due to damage or scarring of the tissue in the nasal passages. Other reasons for chronic rhinitis and/or obstruction of the nasal passages include nasopharyngeal polyps, which are benign and usually found in younger cats and neoplasia (cancer), which is more commonly seen in older cats.
- Trauma: Cats that have suffered from head trauma, eg after being in a collision with a car are more likely to snore due to tissue damage in inflammation of the nose, throat, or jaw. Many of these cats will go on to make a full recovery and cease snoring altogether.
Should I contact my vet if my cat is snoring?
Providing snoring is not accompanied by any other health or behavioural signs, it is unlikely veterinary attention will be needed. However, snoring cats should be monitored for any changes that could indicate something is wrong. Owners whose cats are snoring and showing any of the following additional signs should seek veterinary advice:
- Difficulty breathing
- Open-mouth breathing
- Coughing, sneezing or wheezing
- Nasal discharge (including blood)
- Not eating
- Lethargy or dullness
- Swellings of the mouth or throat
- Pawing or clawing at face
- Retching or vomiting
If your cat has and behavioural changes such as aggression, hiding/interacting less with people or other animals in the household you should always seek advice from your vet.
Does my cat need treatment?
In most cases snoring causes no problems and no treatment is necessary. However, if your cat is overweight you should speak to your veterinary practice about putting your cat onto a weight loss programme, which will help prevent obesity-related health issues. Slow and steady exercise should also be encouraged in overweight cats who snore. The use of humidifiers can be beneficial for snoring cats, as they can moisten the airways.
If you are worried about any aspect of your cat’s health or your cat’s snoring concerns you then contact your vet for further advice.