By Kate Hughes
When you brought kitty home from the rescue organization, you probably expected the typical cat experience. When she settled in immediately for a nap, you knew it was coming. She is a cat, after all. What you didn’t expect were the super-loud—but still probably pretty cute—snores coming from her teensy little nose as she slept.
Snoring in cats is less common than it is in dogs, which may leave cat owners wondering if there’s a major issue with their feline companions. While snoring could be indicative of a larger health issue, a cat who snores is not necessarily in medical trouble. So if kitty is sawing wood in the next room and you’re not sure if you need to schedule an appointment with your vet, here’s what you should know.
Causes of Snoring in Cats
There are all sorts of reasons that a cat may snore. Certain breeds—namely the ones with flattened facial features like Persians—are much more likely to snore due to the shape of their heads. “These brachycephalic cats have shortened bones in their face and nose, which makes them more prone to snoring,” explains Dr. Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center and cardiologist at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Clinical Sciences. “They also may have smaller nostrils that restrict breathing,” he adds.
Brachycephalic cats may have other physical features that cause snoring, such as an elongated soft palate that could partially block the entrance to the windpipe. This makes it more difficult for air to pass through and could lead to cats making strange noises when they breathe.
But it isn’t just genetics that cause snoring. Like people, certain sleeping positions precipitate snoring. So if your cat shifts around and all of a sudden lets out a loud snore, it could just be that he’s angled his head and neck in a way that restricts airflow and causes him to sputter. Also like people, cats who are overweight are more prone to snore.
It could also be related to existing medical conditions. “If you have a cat that suffers from upper respiratory infections, or chronic nasal inflammation or rhinitis, it’s likely that cat will be a snorer,” says Dr. Andrea Jones, a veterinarian at the New Jersey-based Princeton Animal Hospital & Carnegie Cat Clinic.
Another cause may be blockages in the nasal canal, such as polyps or tumors. Even foreign objects stuck in the nasal cavity, like a blade of grass, can cause snoring.
Signs You Should Take Your Snoring Cat to the Vet
With so many possible causes, many of which aren’t associated with larger health issues, when should you take a snoring cat to the vet? If your cat has always snored, he’s probably OK. However, if the snoring comes on suddenly or is accompanied by other changes in behavior, it’s time to make that call.
Beyond a rapid onset of snoring, owners should also be wary of symptoms of distressed breathing while the cat is awake. Think panting, wheezing, working harder than normal to breathe, or any open-mouth breathing. “If your cat is breathing through his mouth for an extended period of time, you should take him to the vet immediately,” Kornreich says.
Kornreich also notes that cat owners should look out for signs like nasal discharge and coughing, which may be indicative of a more serious affliction. Even symptoms that might not seem like symptoms—like a change in meow—could signify a problem. “Cats don’t tend to show signs of illness until they’re very sick, so owners really need to be vigilant,” he says.
Jones agrees, adding that owners of snoring cats should also keep an eye out for swollen areas on the face. “This could indicate a tooth root abscess, which can be very painful and needs medical intervention,” she explains.
How to Treat Snoring in Cats
Depending on the reason for the snoring, there are some ways you can help your cat stop. If polyps, a tumor, or foreign objects are to blame, your vet can remove them.
Like people, losing weight can also help some cats stop snoring. “Lots of cats are overweight, so that is a big factor to consider,” Jones says. So make sure that kitty isn’t overeating and is getting enough exercise.
There are also non-medical solutions. For example, consider putting a humidifier near where kitty likes to doze. Very dry air can have the same effect on cats as it does on people, and adding a little moisture to the surroundings may be beneficial in achieving a quiet night’s rest.
Above all, if your cat is playful, happy, has a healthy appetite, and her snoring isn’t anything new, try not to be too concerned. It may just be another one of her quirks.