what does it mean when cats snore?
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Do Cats Snore Loudly? Causes of Cat Snoring Noises

If your cat snores while it’s in a deep sleep, you might wonder whether it’s normal or not. Snoring can be an annoying sound, especially if your cat sleeps close to you at night. But it’s easy to worry about whether it’s the sign of a more sinister health issue. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to stop a cat from snoring, but you can take measures to quieten the sound or try and prevent it from getting any worse.

Some cats snore naturally, while other factors – including obesity, awkward sleeping positions, dry air, or short-headedness – contribute to snoring in cats. Vibrations in the nasal and throat passages cause snoring, resulting from blockages or restricted airflow. It’s most likely to happen when a cat is in a deep sleep. Snoring sounds that come from an awake cat are more likely to be a respiratory infection. 

Snoring is reasonably common in cats, especially brachycephalic breeds with flat faces and short muzzles. Snoring is rarely a cause for concern unless it changes suddenly or becomes a problem when your cat is awake.

Is It Normal for My Cat to Snore?

Cats have various sleep cycles. A study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine identified that cats first go into a rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. During this stage, cats experience periods of rapid eye movement, muscle relaxation, twitching, and other facial muscle activity.

Once a cat has passed the REM stage of sleep, it will enter into a deep sleep, which is when a cat is at its most relaxed. This stage of sleep is the most important, as it’s responsible for rebuilding and repairing the body.

It’s also when a cat is most likely to snore. Snoring occurs when the passages in the upper airways of the nose, pharynx, and mouth vibrate loudly during the sleeping stage. This is when the tissue is also at its most relaxed.

In short, snoring is caused by an obstruction of the upper airway or soft tissue interfering with air passing through the nose or throat. Obstructions can include tumors, polyps, or foreign objects.

It’s crucial that even if your cat is snoring and becoming a nuisance, you don’t wake it up during the deep sleep stage. Cats need as much rest as possible to grow, develop, and stay healthy for longer. Factors that can cause a cat to snore include:

Cat’s Sleeping Position

Certain sleeping positions can cause snoring. If a cat lies on its back or angles its head or neck in a way that restricts the airflow, you might hear your pet splutter or begin to breathe more heavily than usual. Your cat will eventually right itself by moving – it won’t put up with an uncomfortable sleeping position for long.

cat started snoring

Cat is Overweight

Your cat’s weight can have a big part to play in its snoring habits. Larger cats with excess fat are more likely to snore. This is because the fat accumulates in the tissues surrounding the upper airways, restricting the airflow and adding extra pressure on your cat’s nasal passages.

If this is the case with your pet, it’s best to put it onto a calorie-controlled diet to reduce the fat and get it back to a healthy size.

Cat is Brachycephalic

Brachycephalic means ‘short-headed’. Breeds with shortened nasal passages and elongated palates – like Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese cats – are more likely to be snorers.

Because they have been bred to have shorter noses, the tissue found in the upper airways causes a higher level of sound. You might even hear these breeds snoring while awake. They can also have a hard time breathing, which can often sound like a snore but is actually an indication that your cat’s nasal passage is blocked.

Snoring in brachycephalic breeds is normal, but it should be monitored in case your cat starts struggling to breathe when it sleeps.

Dry Air in the House

If you live at high altitude or in a dry climate, the air might be drying out your cat’s mouth and nasal passages as it sleeps, causing it to snore.

You might also find that your cat’s natural snoring sounds become louder as it fails to get the moisture it needs to soften the snoring sound. Placing a dehumidifier where it sleeps is a great way to add a little moisture to the air to help stop the snoring or make it quieter.

Cat’s Genes

Some cats snore. It might begin from birth or develop later on in life. Either way, it’s natural and rarely a cause for concern unless your cat becomes unwell and starts to display other symptoms alongside the snoring.

What Does It Mean When Cats Snore?

Some sounds are very similar to snoring and can be easily confused. Snoring can be annoying, but it’s usually a harmless sound that’s a product of relaxed sleep.

But snoring can also be a window into a range of health issues, so it’s essential to always keep an eye on your cat’s snoring habits for any sudden changes that might indicate that something’s wrong.

Sleeping

Snoring most commonly occurs when a cat is asleep. If your cat snores while sleeping, it is likely because it is in its most relaxed state. The tissue in the nasal and throat passages is soft, while vibrations begin to occur that cause the soft snoring sound.

Cats with a more significant amount of tissue or animals that sleep longer in a more relaxed state are more likely to snore louder and more frequently.

Relaxed

If your cat is relaxed instead of asleep and is making snoring sounds, it’s unlikely that your pet is actually snoring. Instead, it might be suffering from a mild respiratory infection that’s causing a small blockage of the airways.

Also, heavy breathing can be easily mistaken for snoring. The sounds are very similar, and it’s often hard to distinguish between the two.

This is a good sign, though – it shows your cat is relaxed in your company and simply enjoying a well-earned rest. If it worries you, monitor it for a few days for any changes.

Awake

Cats that make a snoring sound when awake are usually suffering from a blocked airway or soft tissue that prevents air from passing cleanly through the throat or nose. This occurs more often in brachycephalic cat breeds.

The snoring noise might actually be a stertor, which is a low-pitched sound, or a stridor – a high-pitched tone that sometimes occurs during cat respiration.

However, it’s also possible that your cat has a respiratory infection or condition that causes a sound similar to snoring. If you notice a wheezing sound coming from your cat’s lungs, your pet may need medical attention. Your cat might also have asthma, which will need ongoing treatment.

Older Cats

Cats deteriorate as they get older. The muscles around the throat, mouth, and nose get weaker, causing the vibrations in these areas to become more intense. Respiratory problems are also common in older cats.

Infections and diseases can affect the soft tissue around the nasal and throat passages, causing your cat to create noises that sound like snores – whether awake or asleep.

Brachycephalic Cat Breeds

‘Brachy’ means shortened, and ‘cephalic’ means head. Brachycephalic cat breeds have shorter bones in the face and nose, meaning the anatomy between these structures and the tissue is altered. This often causes breathing problems and, almost certainly, snoring as they sleep.

A study published by the US National Library of Medicine found that a brachycephalic cat’s short skull significantly impacts owner reports of increased respiratory difficulty or noise.

These breeds are also prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome, which refers to a set of upper airway abnormalities that affect brachycephalic cats. These abnormalities include:

  • Stenotic nares. This means that the nostrils are pinched or narrow, which restricts airflow into the nose.
  • An elongated soft palate, which is when the soft part of the roof of the mouth is too long and blocks the entrance to the trachea
  • A hypoplastic trachea means that a cat’s windpipe is smaller than it should be, restricting the sound.
  • Everted laryngeal saccules. Laryngeal saccules are small sacs that can be found inside the voice box. They turn outwards or become sucked into the airway because of the stenotic nares or elongated soft palate. Eventually, these sacs will obstruct the flow of air.

Cats affected by any of the above might make louder noises when they breathe and are likely to snore when sleeping. The following brachycephalic breeds are most likely to snore:

Persian

The Persian cat is arguably the most famous flat-faced cat. Originating from Persia, they were first introduced into Europe in the 1600s and feature a long, fluffy coat that requires extensive breeding.

Unfortunately, Persians are commonly known for their breathing problems. They also suffer from bouts of coughing and snoring and can develop eating issues – some Persians grasp their food with the underside of their tongue, causing them to underfeed.

Their narrowed nostrils, soft palates, and small tracheas lead to labored breathing and noisy snoring as they sleep. Some Persians need medical intervention to lead a normal life, but most are happy and healthy – snoring is just part of their charm.

Himalayan

The Himalayan is a cross between a Persian and Siamese, boasting a beautiful Persian coat and Siamese color ‘points’, with brown, blue, or lilac tips on their paws, tail, and ears. Because of the Persian genes, Himalayans have inherited ‘pushed-in’ skulls that can restrict the breed’s breathing.

As a result, noisy snoring can occur when a Himalayan is in the deep sleep stage. If a Himalayan has an elongated soft palate (not all do), which is the soft tissue that forms the roof of the mouth, the windpipe entrance can be blocked and cause snoring.

Exotic Shorthair

Experts disagree on the type of cat the Exotic Shorthair actually is. Some believe them to be a type of Persian, while others see them as their own breed. Exotic Shorthairs have a soft, gentle voice and a friendly personality, making them popular pets for families with children.

Exotic Shorthairs are prone to obesity. This can make snoring more likely as the excess fat places too much pressure on the airways and restricts airflow. Weight management is essential.

And like all brachycephalic breeds, Exotic Shorthairs are more likely to develop brachycephalic syndrome, or respiratory distress syndrome. This affects cats with a short nose and flat face. Because there is less space for the tissue to grow, the soft palate becomes too long for the mouth and hangs into the airway. The nostrils and windpipe are often too small, also.

Altogether, these issues cause obstructed airways, in the worst cases leading to sleep apnoea and intense snoring. Swelling and congestion can develop in the lungs, worsening the problem.

Silver Persian (Chinchilla Cat)

The Chinchilla is a beautiful flat-faced cat that was created by breeders attempting to develop a silver Persian. They have large blue or green eyes and white fur tipped with gold or silver specks. They’re also renowned for their beautifully thick coat.

Chinchillas aren’t as prone to the health issues of other, more extreme brachycephalic breeds. Their noses aren’t as flat, but they do have a short muzzle. This can cause an element of snoring when they’re in the deep sleep stage. It’s often much quieter than other flat-faced cats.

Scottish Fold

With a flat face, big eyes, and floppy ears, the Scottish Fold is a popular cat breed. They have flattened ears that fold forward and downward due to a genetic mutation found in a Scottish farm kitten in 1961.

Unfortunately, Scottish Folds come with a range of health problems. However, this is usually in the form of kidney and ear infections. Their faces aren’t as flat as Persian or Himalayan breeds, but their short muzzles do make them prone to snoring – although it is usually quite quiet and soft.

Selkirk Rex

The Selkirk Rex is a lesser-known breed of cat, but it’s quickly growing in popularity. While the features aren’t extreme, they have a short muzzle and round face. One of the Selkirk Rex’s unique characteristics is its curly coat, which can be long or short-haired. They’re also stockier than other brachycephalic breeds.

The breed is overall very healthy. They’re not known to suffer commonly from respiratory issues, but they are more prone to snoring than typical cat breeds with longer muzzles. They’re more likely to make soft snoring sounds instead of loud, choking sounds while they sleep.

cat breathing sounds like snoring

My Cat’s Breathing Sounds Like Snoring

If your cat is awake and making snoring sounds, it’s unlikely to be snoring. Instead, it is likely to be having difficulty breathing due to a health issue. Understanding the type of noise your cat is making can help determine what is causing the problem, making it easier to treat.

In Veterinarians by Veterinarians, a stertor is described as a low-pitched snoring or snorting sound that results from turbulent airflow caused by a partial obstruction of the upper airway. It will occur from somewhere between the nasal passages and the back of the throat. As well as giving off a snoring sound, your cat’s breathing may sound like nasal congestion.

A stridor is a higher-pitched wheezing sound. It’s most likely to be caused by a blockage in the larynx or windpipe and can be heard when your cat breathes in. Stridors can also occur from bacterial infections and need to be treated as quickly as possible.

Wheezing – or a continuous high-pitched whistling sound – that can be heard when your cat breathes out is likely to be caused by a narrowing or obstruction in the lower airways.

Cats shouldn’t have to work hard to breathe. If your cat displays any of the symptoms named above, snoring shouldn’t be immediately blamed. Instead, listen carefully to your cat’s breathing patterns and rhythms and pay close attention to any changes you’re noticing. If your cat becomes stressed, anxious, or generally unwell, it’s time to seek help.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Cat’s Snoring?

While snoring is considered normal and usually harmless, it can sometimes be accompanied by symptoms that indicate that something isn’t quite right with your cat’s health. The snoring will be even more noticeable if it has only recently started or if your cat has never snored before. If you notice any of the following, it’s best to seek expert advice.

  • A reduction in appetite or increased tiredness. These are the most common symptoms and are significant indicators that your cat is feeling under the weather.
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose. This could indicate that your cat is suffering from mucus in the nasal passage caused by a respiratory infection.
  • Coughing, spluttering, snorting air quickly, or open-mouthed breathing. These symptoms indicate that your cat has picked up a respiratory problem that is causing its snoring to sound worse or make sounds that are very similar to snoring.  
  • Rapid breathing and an extended neck while sitting. This can indicate labored breathing, which can be a serious problem if left untreated.

Help Your Cat Stop Snoring

Some cats are prone to snoring and will do so their whole lives. Natural snoring is hard to prevent, and some humans will need to learn to live with the sound their pet makes.

As long as your cat is happy and healthy, snoring is harmless and is rarely a cause for concern. However, snoring can be prevented with these steps:

Reduce Your Cat’s Weight

Helping your cat to maintain a healthy weight is the main priority. Overweight cats are more prone to snoring because the extra weight can affect – and sometimes even block – the upper airways. As your cat loses weight, you should find the snoring quietens down. It may also stop completely.

Obesity in cats is also responsible for a range of other health issues, including breathlessness and various diseases. In serious cases, it can lead to an early death. Snoring in overweight cats can be a good indicator that it’s time for a cat to go on a diet.

Use a Dehumidifier

Placing a dehumidifier in spaces with dry air can add a little moisture to the surroundings, which may help to soften your cat’s snoring.

Dehumidifiers can help with nasal and throat congestion in particular and can stop the respiratory system from drying out. In cases where the cat feels poorly due to dry air, a dehumidifier can help take the edge off.

Check for Foreign Objects

If your cat’s snoring is caused by foreign objects, tumors, or polyps, a vet can remove and treat these blockages to clear your pet’s airways. In the case of obstructions, snoring is often accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, obvious pain, and lethargy.

Comfortable Sleeping Space

If your cat sleeps awkwardly, it could be because it can’t find a space where it feels comfortable. Cats will find the strangest places to sleep, but it always helps to provide some sort of bed or living area that provides the comfort and warmth your cat needs.

Laying blankets and pillows down in your cat’s favorite spot is also another good way to encourage your cat to lay properly, reducing the risk of your cat bending its head or neck in ways that make it difficult for it to breathe.

Always monitor your cat’s snoring – even subtle changes could highlight an underlying health issue that needs addressing. Otherwise, it’s best advised to leave your cat be. Snoring is a natural process – especially in flat-faced breeds – and often lasts throughout your pet’s lifespan.

And even if snoring starts to occur as your cat gets older, it’s simply part of the aging process. To put your mind at rest, cats commonly snore when they’re in a deep sleep, which means it’s enjoying some proper recovery time.