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Can Cats Breathe Through Their Mouths – Is It Normal


The first time your cat starts breathing through their mouths, you may be concerned. It’s normal to be worried about your cat seeming to breathe through their mouths, but the first question you may ask yourself is whether they are breathing through their mouths or if they are showing another behavior. So, can cats breathe through their mouths?

Cats can breathe through their mouths, but it is not normal behavior. Cats are supposed to breathe in smooth, long breaths through their nose. Blocked nasal passages or serious conditions can lead to mouth breathing. 

Don’t worry; this article will cover why your cat might be breathing out of their mouth, what you should do to help, and why your cat might start breathing through their mouth. Of course, since breathing through their mouths can be caused by some fairly serious health problems, if you’re ever worried about your cat breathing through their mouths, you should immediately contact your vet.

Why Is My Cat Breathing Out Of Their Mouth

There are lots of reasons your cat might start breathing out of their mouth even though it’s almost always a sign that something is wrong. Some of the problems can be pretty simple to resolve, like your cat overexerting themselves while playing, while other problems might mean you need an emergency trip to the vet.

Here are some common (mild) reasons your cat might start breathing out of their mouth:

  • Allergies (especially in spring or fall)
  • Intense exercise
  • Asthma
  • Old Age (especially combined with any other factor)
  • Respiratory Infections

Other than respiratory infections, all of these problems should be relatively easy to identify. If your cat has asthma, you should keep a close eye on them to ensure a mild attack doesn’t turn into a more serious problem.

If your cat has played too hard and is panting through their mouth, you should stop playtime and give them a little time to relax and recover. See if your cat is interested in water or ice to help them cool off.

Allergies can be harder to manage, but your cat may do better if you have an air filter and keep them inside. If your cat’s allergies start to become more severe, you should take them to the vet to see what treatment options might be available.

If you don’t think that any of those options are the cause, you might be dealing with a more severe issue. There are a lot of problems that can make your cat start breathing through their mouths, from a bad respiratory infection to a foreign body obstruction to damage in their throats or stomachs, to a severe asthma attack.

The cause is less important than getting your get to the vet with any of these problems. Your vet will be able to diagnose and treat the problem much more effectively than you can.

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Having Trouble Breathing

Your cat breathing through their mouth can be a sign that they are having trouble breathing, but it’s not always the case. For instance, if your cat is breathing through their mouth after playing and then start breathing normally a few minutes later, they aren’t having trouble breathing. They just needed a little extra oxygen for a few minutes.

But if your cat is acting weird, lying down and don’t want to move, or have cloudy eyes while they are breathing through their mouth, they are probably having trouble breathing.

You should also check their gums and tongue to see if they have changed color. Both should be a healthy pink but can turn gray or blue if your cat is having trouble breathing. If you notice that your cat’s gums or tongue have started to change color, then you need to get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Why Is My Cat Opening His Mouth

Just because your cat has their mouth open doesn’t mean that they are breathing through their mouth. Check to see if your cat’s stomach is heaving while their mouth is open or hearing their breath. In either case, they are probably breathing through their mouth.

But sometimes your cat will open their mouth randomly, and sometimes they’ll leave it open for quite a while before they close it.

Usually, when your cat leaves their mouth open, it’s because they smell something interesting and are trying to get more of that scent to identify it. Your cat has important scent glands in their mouth, so opening their mouth helps bring odors closer to their most sensitive scent organs.

If you ever see a flehmens response from your cat, where they open their mouth wide and make a weird expression, that’s a more exaggerated form of smelling the air with those important scent glands.

Why Does My Cat Sound Like He Can’t Breathe

There are lots of reasons your cat might sound like he can’t breathe. If your cat is asleep, they might just be snoring, for instance. Allergies and mild sinus infections can also cause a partial obstruction in their nose, making a whistling sound while they breathe.

Unless your cat shows signs of distress or looks like they are choking or gagging, the chances are that they are breathing. You should still check their gums to make sure they are breathing well.

If you’re worried about a sound your cat is making, even if their gums are still pink, it’s a good idea to call your vet. They’ll have a better idea of what might be causing your cat’s distress and can use your description of the sound to decide if you should bring your cat in for a checkup.

How Do You Treat Feline Dyspnea

Feline dyspnea is just the technical name for trouble breathing in cats. It’s not usually a disorder on its own; instead, feline dyspnea is a symptom of other problems. The best treatment is to deal with the underlying cause of the problem.

Sometimes, like with asthma, that may not be an option for you or your cat. Instead, manage their symptoms with hydration support, air filters, and limiting toys that make them exercise too heavily.

A combination of hydration support, limiting scented items, and a good diet should help in other cats. But, if your cat is struggling to breathe, or has had even mild breathing problems for more than 10-15 minutes, you should go to the vet for more specialized treatments.

How Can I Help My Cat Breathe Better

Sometimes there isn’t much you can do to help your cat breathe better. If your cat has mild asthma, for instance, they will probably have trouble breathing every once in a while, and unless you have a prescription for medication to help, there isn’t much you can do.

However, there are some simple things you can do to help any cat breathe better, though these solutions won’t always help a cat that is already having a hard time breathing.

Avoid Diffusers, Scented Candles, And Other Scented Air Products

Your cat probably doesn’t appreciate your pumpkin spice fall scented candle nearly as much as you do. Scented products tend to have chemicals and oils that are too strong for your cat, which can stress their kidneys and liver, and their lungs.

Avoid all scents, but essential oil diffusers can be particularly dangerous. While some essential oils can be safer than others, many are toxic, and it’s not always clear which oils you should avoid. For instance, Lavender tends to be calming for humans and dogs, but it’s very toxic for cats.

If you do want to use scented products, try to use as little as possible. For candles, try opening the candle without burning it, or only burning for 5-10 minutes.

Always give you cat options away from the scented area. Most cats will avoid toxic scents and naturally will want to seek cleaner, safer air. However, not all cats will do this, so you can’t count on it as a response.

Also, monitor your cat closely and remove them from the scented area immediately if they show any signs of abnormal fatigue or respiratory distress.

Buy an Air Filter

Especially if you know that your cat has allergies or asthma, it’s good to get an air filter to help keep the air cleaner and help your cat avoid possible allergens.

A good filter should have a HEPA filter, and may even have ultraviolet sterilization. Both can help your cat breathe more easily.

Make Sure They Have Plenty Of Water

Water is vital for all breathing, and cats don’t naturally have a strong instinct to drink much water since they get most of their hydration from food in the wild.

Help encourage your cat to stay hydrated and get the breathing benefits by providing lots of clean water sources in your home.

You can also consider using ice as an enrichment item to help them stay better hydrated.

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