Why is my cat breathing fast while sleeping? Cats are known for their unique sleeping patterns and positions, from curling up into tight balls to stretching out luxuriously. However, if you’ve noticed your cat breathing rapidly while sleeping, you might wonder if this is normal or a cause for concern.

In this read, we will explore the various reasons why cats might breathe fast while sleeping, the average respiratory rate for cats, potential health issues that could lead to rapid breathing, and when to seek veterinary attention.

Average Respiratory Rates for Cats

Before delving into the reasons for fast breathing during sleep, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes an average respiratory rate for cats. A cat’s average resting respiratory rate typically falls between 16 and 40 breaths per minute, with an average rate of around 20 to 30 breaths per minute. 

Causes of Fast Breathing While Sleeping


Like humans, cats experience dreams during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. During these dream phases, cats may exhibit fast and irregular breathing patterns. This is entirely normal and usually not a cause for concern.

Increased Activity During Sleep

Cats can be pretty active during their sleep, primarily when they are engaged in chasing prey or playing in their dreams. This increased activity can lead to faster breathing rates. It’s essential to differentiate between playful or active sleep and signs of distress or discomfort.

Temperature Regulation

Cats regulate their body temperature during sleep, sometimes involving breathing more rapidly. If your cat is sleeping in a warm environment or in a position that helps cool them down, faster breathing might be a natural response to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Anxiety or Stress

Cats that experience stress or anxiety may exhibit rapid breathing during sleep. Stressors such as changes in the environment, new additions to the household, or loud noises can contribute to this behavior.

Underlying Health Issues

While occasional fast breathing during sleep is usually benign, persistent or severe rapid breathing can indicate underlying health problems. Respiratory conditions, heart issues, or pain can increase breathing rates.


Overweight or obese cats may experience difficulties with breathing during sleep, especially when lying in certain positions. Increased weight can pressure the chest, leading to increased respiratory effort.

Allergies or Respiratory Irritants

Cats can be sensitive to allergens or environmental irritants, such as pollen, dust, or cigarette smoke. These irritants can lead to increased breathing rates, even during sleep.

When to Seek Veterinary Attention

While occasional fast breathing during sleep is often expected, several red flags should prompt you to seek veterinary attention for your cat:

Persistent or Severe Rapid Breathing

If your cat consistently exhibits fast breathing rates during sleep, especially when awake, it could indicate an underlying health issue.

Associated Symptoms

If rapid breathing is accompanied by symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, nasal discharge, or changes in appetite, these could be signs of a respiratory problem or other health concerns.

Changes in Behavior

Any noticeable changes in your cat’s behavior, such as increased lethargy, decreased activity, or hiding, should be taken seriously and investigated by a veterinarian.

Sudden Onset

If your cat’s rapid breathing suddenly develops or worsens, it may require immediate medical attention, which could signify a medical emergency.

Preexisting Health Conditions

Cats with preexisting health conditions, such as heart disease or respiratory issues, may be more susceptible to changes in breathing patterns.

If you know your cat has a chronic condition, monitor them closely for unusual breathing changes.

Conclusion: Why is my cat breathing fast while sleeping

Fast breathing during sleep in cats can have various causes, and it’s crucial to consider the context and accompanying symptoms. While occasional rapid breathing during dreams or active sleep is typically average, persistent or severe changes in breathing patterns warrant a visit to the veterinarian.

Monitoring your cat’s overall health, maintaining a comfortable environment, and addressing potential stressors can help ensure your feline friend’s well-being and peace of mind.