Cats are notoriously awful bedfellows, from waking up at 3 a.m. for a litter box pitstop to swatting at your toes as you toss and turn. Among the most disruptive yet adorable kitty nighttime habits is the gentle rumble of a cat snoring. If you’re thinking about ditching your white noise machine to offer your cat the job instead, you might be wondering: why do cats snore when they are sleeping?
Cats snore because there’s a blockage in their airway. Some common snoring triggers in felines include unusual sleeping positions, obesity, sleep apnea, allergies, and upper respiratory infections. However, brachycephalic breeds (Persians) and senior cats are more likely to have airway obstructions.
While cat snores can be distracting as you try to catch Zs yourself, most instances of cat snoring are entirely harmless. To learn about seven reasons that cats snore (and what you can do to prevent it), read on!
How Snoring Works in Cats
Like humans, dogs, and other mammals, there are two possible explanations for a cat’s chronic snoring habit: normal tissue vibrations and partial airway obstructions. Let’s quickly review what each of these means.
Normal Tissue Vibrations
When a cat enters into a non-REM deep sleep, her muscles relax from head to tail — including the soft tissue flaps in her throat, nose, and mouth. The steady airflow from the lungs to the pharynx can cause these airway tissues to vibrate, creating quiet, gentle snores.
Partial Airway Obstructions
An unexpected partial blockage in the throat or nostrils can force the air through a much narrower pathway as a sleeping cat breathes. An obstructed airway — caused by everything from nasal polyps to excess fat on the neck — will create a noisier roar as your kitty sleeps.
A cat’s snoring habit can take on many forms and include dozens of bizarre sounds. In the video below, you’ll hear the typical kitty snore that keeps many cat owners awake at night:
If your cat’s typical noisy breathing has suddenly become an all-out snore, your kitty likely has a partial airway obstruction. Most snoring triggers in cats are nothing more than an inconvenience for you as you try to get some sleep. Let’s review seven of the most common cat snoring causes and what you can do about them.
An Unusual Sleeping Position
Cats are notorious for experimenting with different sleeping positions as the night progresses. The night usually begins with your kitty cuddled up in a neatly-wrapped ball, later to have all four paws in the air with her head hanging halfway off the bed.
Unusual neck positions or back sleeping can cause a temporary bout of snoring in sleepy kitties. These snoring sessions usually resolve themselves when your cat repositions — a gentle nudge can end the snoring.
A Simple Case of Allergies
Up to 1 in 5 cats struggle with seasonal or environmental allergies at some point in their lives. Some cats develop itchy skin after you introduce a new laundry detergent, and others will suffer from inflamed or clogged airways when pollen returns in early spring.
This snoring will persist until you remove the allergen from your home entirely. Keeping your cat inside, staying current on flea and tick treatments, and feeding your cat a prescription diet can reduce snoring.
Sleep Apnea, Asthma, or Other Airway Blockages
Sometimes, cats snore or wheeze because of a pre-existing respiratory condition like asthma, airway polyps, or sleep apnea. Any of these conditions can make it challenging for your kitty to catch her breath or maintain a steady breathing rate as she naps.
Since a partial airway obstruction can turn into a complete blockage and eventual suffocation, your vet may suggest a kitty CPAP machine or corticosteroids to keep your cat’s lungs healthy and mobile.
Obesity or Excess Weight
A cat carrying around 10-20% extra weight technically meets the criteria for obesity. Though there’s an adorable allure that comes with chubby kitties, obesity opens cats up to a whirlwind of severe health concerns that can cut years off of their lifespans.
Overweight cats tend to have extra neck fat, weighing down a portion of their airway and restricting airflow as they nap. Put your cat on a strict diet, encourage playtime several times per day, and avoid excess treats.
A Part of the Aging Process
As cats get older and reach their senior years, plenty of body systems begin to work less efficiently — including the respiratory system. Those coveted golden years also come with less muscle tone, more body fat, and a few extra hours of sleep each day. This combination triggers a slightly narrower airway and gentle snoring as your senior feline catches Zs.
Most aging effects are irreversible, so making your old cat comfortable as she sleeps is your best bet.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Mutual grooming and play sessions will warm your heart as a cat owner, but multi-cat households also tend to be hotbeds for viral spread. Upper respiratory infections can stuff up your kitten’s nose, increase fluid in the lungs, and cause inflammation in the throat.
URIs typically clear up within 7 to 21 days without requiring a vet visit. However, your vet may prescribe antibiotics if your cat’s symptoms include lethargy or lack of appetite.
It’s a Brachycephalic Thing
Like many odd cat behaviors, your cat’s knack for snoring might have a genetic link, especially if your cat is a member of a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed. Many of these breeds have naturally narrow nostrils, soft palates that partially block the airway, and difficulty breathing in hot or humid bedrooms.
Snoring comes with the territory as a proud Persian, Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair, Burmese, or Scottish Fold cat owner.
Other Possible Snoring Causes
The seven reasons above are the most common explanations for persistent feline snoring, but cats might snore for many reasons. The following circumstances might make a cat more likely to snore while sleeping:
- Tooth abscesses
- Foreign bodies trapped in the nostrils or throat (like grass or clay litter)
- Trauma to the lungs or pharynx
- Tumors blocking the airway
While we usually see snoring as an “abnormal” sleeping behavior in cats, snoring might be “normal” for your cat. Some unlucky kitties will snore regardless of their sleeping position or genetic makeup, and others will only breathe noisily when they’re not feeling well.
When to Take Your Cat to the Vet
It’s very rare for a cat’s noisy nighttime breathing to require an emergency vet visit. However, there are a few instances where an appointment makes sense to rule out more serious health concerns. Take your cat to the vet if her snoring:
- Seems only to be getting worse
- Comes with behavioral changes
- Involves steady open-mouth breathing
- Is accompanied by nasal discharge, coughing, rapid breathing, or voice changes
Your vet will check to see that your cat is breathing normally and doesn’t have a collapsed lung, foreign object lodged in her throat, or a tooth abscess.
Kitty snores are Instagram-worthy at first, but they quickly become the final roadblock between you and a good night’s sleep. To drown out the snores:
- Set up a white noise machine.
- Place a comfy cat bed on the other end of your bedroom.
- Give your cat SnoreStop tablets to open up her airway.
- Wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
- Play with your cat for 15-30 minutes a day to help her maintain a healthy weight.
Most importantly, take your cat to the vet if her snoring seems to be getting worse, as it could be a severe medical issue.
- Amazon: SnoreStop for Pets 20 Chewable Tablets Pet Snoring
- LiveScience: REM vs. Non-REM Sleep: The Stages of Sleep
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons: Brachycephalic Syndrome
- Cornell Feline Health Center: Respiratory Infections
- Cornell Feline Health Center: Obesity
- Wikipedia: Feline asthma
- NCBI: Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges