Why is My Cat Breathing Heavy in Orlando, FL?

cat breathing heavy orlando fl

We often think of dogs as the heavy breathers in the pet world, due to their panting ability and general tendency towards excitability and sloppiness (and we love them for it). Panting is rarely normal for cats. They are rogues, sneaky, graceful and silent as they creep around the house.

If your cat starts panting and breathing heavy and they haven’t been running around or playing, you should contact your vet as soon as possible. Heavy breathing could be a sign of respiratory distress and a serious health problem for your cat.

There are various conditions that can cause heavy breathing in cats, which we will discuss below. If your cat has started breathing heavy, contact 24/7 Animal Hospital of Orlando at (407) 298-3807 so we can help.

5 Potential Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats

Is your cat breathing heavy due to a respiratory issue, severe pain, or some other condition? Here are 5 potential causes of heavy breathing in cats, all of which need to be addressed by a vet immediately. Do not attempt to diagnose your cat’s condition yourself!

Heart Failure

Having congestive heart failure means your cat’s heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout their body. As a result, fluid begins to accumulate in their lungs, and they will have to work harder to breathe. This presents itself as heavy, labored breathing. There are a variety of causes of congestive heart failure in cats, from a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the walls of the heart grow thicker and less elastic, to blood clots, tumors, anemia, and high blood pressure.

Heart failure can be managed with proper care. Be sure to contact your vet as soon as possible, as your cat’s condition might be treatable.

Heartworm Disease

Your cat’s heavy breathing may also be due to heartworm disease, a parasitic infection in which heartworm larvae enter your cat’s bloodstream and propagate in the heart and lungs. The maturation and multiplication of heartworms in the body can take months, and you may not realize your cat is infected until their condition has significantly worsened. Heavy breathing is one of the warning signs of heartworm disease in cats, as their heart struggles to pump blood to the body. Heartworm disease is often fatal in cats, which is why we strongly recommend giving your cat their monthly heartworm preventative all year round.


Cats can have asthma just as humans can, and experience symptoms such as heavy breathing, wheezing, open mouth panting, and coughing. Asthmatic cats also tend to be lethargic. While the condition isn’t curable, it can be effectively managed with the proper medication and regular checkups.

Respiratory Infection

Another possible cause of your cat’s heavy breathing is a respiratory infection. Many cats will experience an upper respiratory infection at least once in their lifetime, but prompt treatment is important to help prevent the infection from spreading to other cats (if you have others in your household) or developing into a bacterial issue. Along with heavy breathing, other clinical signs of a feline respiratory infection include coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, and thick nasal mucus.


Cats tend to hide their pain very well, making it difficult for their owners to know when something is wrong. However, a cat experiencing severe pain due to a traumatic injury or disease will likely breathe heavy as a response to their condition. Always assume a cat’s heavy breathing is caused by something serious and contact your vet promptly.

When It’s Normal for Cats to Breathe Heavy

Is it ever normal for a cat to breathe heavy? Yes! If your cat just had the zoomies or was roughhousing with another pet, it’s perfectly normal for them to be panting and breathing heavily right after. However, this heavy breathing should dissipate as your cat’s heart rate returns to normal and they become more relaxed. If their heavy breathing persists, there could be a medical issue.

Is Your Cat Breathing Heavy? Call Our Orlando, FL Hospital


24/7 Animal Hospital of Orlando is available around the clock to provide immediate care to your pet if they are experiencing respiratory distress. While some heavy breathing is normal immediately following rigorous activity, it should not persist while your cat is relaxing on the sofa or simply walking over to their food bowl after a long nap.

Call our animal hospital in Orlando, FL at (407) 298-3807 if your cat is breathing heavy when they shouldn’t be. Our vet team will use every available resource to help and make sure your pet receives the care they need.