Cats’ life isn’t that complicated; their daily routine is mainly composed of eating, sleeping, and playing. In fact, sleeping constitutes a large part of their routine and they do this for an average of 16 hours daily – around two-thirds of their whole lives.
Although some cats have naturally more active personalities (e.g., Abyssinians, Bengal cats, Burmese, Munchkins, etc.), their need to doze off will always be present.
This is why cat owners will often see them sleeping; usually in an adorable position which probably has an underlying meaning.
But there are instances when you’ll observe them snoring. This may puzzle a lot of owners especially those who are not that knowledgeable about it. So, is snoring a normal activity for cats?
Is Snoring Normal?
To simply answer the question, yes, it is normal for cats to snore. There are even some breeds that are more likely to snore in their sleep such as the Himalayans, Persians and Scottish Folds. Snoring is more common to brachycephalic breeds—those with pushed-in faces and larger heads which suffer from the brachycephalic syndrome.
Even though this may be natural for some cats, sometimes this may also indicate the presence of a health problem that needs immediate attention. There are different causes of snoring and familiarizing yourself with each of them is important for the well-being of your cat.
What Happens During Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the tissues surrounding the cat’s upper airway (composed of the nasal cavity and the pharynx) vibrate audibly. The vibration is caused by the application of pressure on surrounding tissues as the air passes through the respiratory tract.
The sound produced by the vibration (also known as stertor) can be due to a variety of reasons such as partial obstruction of soft tissues in any part of the airway or fluid interference.
What are the Main Causes of Snoring and How to Deal with Them?
Snoring has a lot of possible causes. Some are harmless and natural, while some are harmful and may be a sign of a health issue. The following are the possible reasons why your cat snores, how they affect your cat’s well-being, and what you can do as the owner:
Allergic reactions are caused by the overreaction of antibodies towards an otherwise harmless substance. This is an immune system hypersensitivity disorder which causes a ‘misreading’ of harmless substances as harmful by the immune system. These substances are called ‘allergens’.
Allergic reactions cause snoring when the tissues surrounding the cat’s respiratory tract swell. The swelling part serves as a partial obstruction to the airway and thus, triggering snoring.
There are different substances that your cat may possibly be allergic to. Some allergies are called environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis). These allergies are primarily caused by allergens present in the environment especially those that come with the different seasons (e.g., pollen, mildew, grass, other organic substances).
Some allergies are caused by common household substances such as home cleaning products or perfumes and colognes. Your cat may also be allergic to fleas or flea-control products, or even to certain kinds of food (e.g., soy product, seafood, eggs, food preservatives, etc.).
If you suspect that your cat may be suffering from allergies, you should immediately have a veterinarian check it to know what things that your pet is allergic to.
You should also remove all the possible substances that you think may be causing your cat’s allergies. Constant bathing can also help ease itchiness caused by environmental allergies.
Another bodily reaction that may cause partial obstruction to your cat’s airway—and consequently trigger snoring—is asthma. Asthma attacks cause the tissues surrounding the small airways on a cat’s lungs to swell and thicken. This can also trigger the lung to discharge mucus which causes wheezing and coughing.
Asthma is, in principle, similar to how allergic reactions cause snoring. The restriction on the passage of air causes difficulty in breathing and snoring when asleep. Cats typically develop asthma starting on their 2nd year and is more common in females.
The best way to know if your cat has asthma is to bring it to the veterinarian. Better yet, you should have it checked regularly. As an owner, you can prevent asthma attacks from occurring by avoiding room fresheners, perfumes, hairsprays, and other similar substances, especially when your cat is around.
Stress can also worsen the symptoms of feline asthma and allergies so make sure that your pet is living in a hospitable environment.
3. Foreign objects
Aside from swelling tissues, foreign objects may also cause partial obstruction to your cat’s airway. Objects such as grass blades or small toy parts may get stuck in the back of your pet’s mouth or nose. These things cause additional pressure to the airways which triggers snoring and sometimes even sinus infections.
Some cases of stuck objects require removal by a professional through surgery. Professionals will usually provide pain control or intravenous fluids when your pet starts vomiting or squirming in pain. The veterinarian may also induce vomiting when deemed suitable as a way of removing the foreign object.
It is a common knowledge that one of the causes of snoring in humans in obesity. Unfortunately, this is also the case with cats. Obesity often leads to various health problems and worsens the existing ones. Although snoring is not that serious compared to other critical health problems, it is still something worth attending to.
The snoring is caused by the accumulation of excess body fat tissues around the cat’s upper respiratory tract. The excess tissues apply a lot of strain to the cat’s airway which leads to disturbed breathing. These tissues partially obstruct the cat’s airway triggering the snoring.
Of course, the best way to deal with your cat’s obesity is for it to lose weight and there are a lot of ways you can help your cat with it. First is exercise it more often. You can always try to regularly walk it out with you while it’s on a leash. If this doesn’t work (as a lot of cats do not like being on a leash), you can just get it toys for exercising like fishing rods, catnips, and balls.
Another way is to lessen the number of treats you give your pet. It probably loves being given treats but you have to set a limit because this greatly contributes to its weight gain.
5. Odd sleeping positions
Snoring does not necessarily indicate health problems in your cat. There are cases where snoring is caused by odd or uncomfortable sleeping positions. Snoring caused by these are most likely just temporary.
Some sleeping positions, especially certain angles of the head and neck, causes a restriction in the flow of air in your cat’s respiratory tract which triggers snoring. No matter how cozy or comfortable your cat is in its bed, it can still be in an odd sleeping position because cats naturally sleep in different, funny manner, especially when they are comfortable in the household.
It is fairly easy to know through observation if odd sleep positions are what causes your cat’s snoring. You will notice that the snoring does not happen regularly and that it stops whenever your cat changes position while asleep. You can easily treat this by changing your pet’s sleeping position when it starts to snore. Just be careful and try not to wake it up as much as possible.
6. Upper respiratory infections (URIs)
Upper respiratory infections can also cause snoring for cats and are considered very serious. Unlike the other causes of snoring, URIs require specific medications to be treated. They are very serious because they may cause severe health difficulties or even death if left unattended.
Aside from snoring, common URI symptoms also include loss of appetite, fever, congestion, sneezing, drooling, cough, eye squinting, and even depression. URIs can be caused by either viruses or bacteria.
They are contagious and can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing. They will spread easily if not taken care of. The most common viruses are the feline herpesvirus and calicivirus which are found in 80 to 90 percent of all URI cases.
Similarly, the most common bacterial causes are the Chlamydophila felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica. The most vulnerable to upper respiratory infections are kittens and adult cats with weak immune systems.
The most effective way of preventing your cat from catching URIs is to have it vaccinated. This is in line with the saying: “Prevention is better than cure”. Instead of risking the health of your pet, it is better for you to you plan its vaccination accordingly to prevent any future health problems.
You should also have your cat undergo regular veterinary exams which also helps against other diseases. Another factor that can make your pet more prone to URIs is a stressful environment. Such kind of environment weakens its immune system and makes it more susceptible to different health problems. It is your responsibility as the owner to ensure a stress-free household for your pet.
If for some reason your cat already has a URI, the first thing you should do is bring it to a veterinarian. This way you will know the required medication for your cat. You may also be advised to put your pet in isolation for a period of time to prevent spreading the virus or bacteria.