Why Do Kittens Breathe Fast? – Things You Need to Know

Why Do Kittens Breathe Fast?

​Rapid breathing in kittens can mean a lot of things, from respiratory problems to cardiac arrest. If it seems like your kitten is suffering from a rapid breathing, this is something a pet owner should not be ignored and consider a wakeup call that your kitten must be taken to the vet as soon as possible.

Fast breathing in medical term is called tachypnea. It is a respiratory disorder that indicates an abnormal breathing pattern either it is shallow or rapid. It is caused by a small amount of oxygen level in the body making the lungs not able to expand well normally and because of too much fluid around the area. It can be due to a physiological problem in which the kitten’s respiratory stimulus in the brain is overly active.

​Fast breathing after exercise cannot be considered as tachypnea. It will normally settle down after a short period of time. The normal respiratory rate for kittens is 20-30 breaths per minute which are basically twice as fast than humans. There are different kinds of breathing problems that affect the breathing patterns.

​A normal kitten should appear to have a small chest movement whenever it breaths. If the other side of his body is moving several times than the other, that indicate an abnormal breathing pattern. Compare to dogs, cats never breathe with short and quick breaths. If the kitten has a normal breathing pattern, an excessive moment in the stomach should not be present.

​For some kittens, fast breathing is due to stress and exercise especially after playing and running around the house in a hot weather. However, there are those that pant when they are taken for a ride inside the car.

​There are times that kittens touch their mouths making it appear like they are trying to open to breathe freely. It can be a manifestation of congested sinuses or nose. To confirm this, the kitten may appear to have a loud breathing than a normal sound.

two cat

Why is My Kitten Breath Fast?

​The kitten breath fast for many different causes. If it seems like your beloved feline friend is breathing fast than normal, it is necessary to take him to the vet as soon as possible.

Airway Illnesses

​Kittens can start to have a rapid breathing due to airway problems. According to some studies, this condition will impair the kitten’s ability to supply oxygen in the bloodstream making them breathe fast and requires more exertion to try to neutralize. Airway illnesses include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma in kittens
  • Pulmonary edema

​The most common type of fast breathing is the pulmonary edema. This condition creates a fluid around the lungs. This is caused by a cardiac arrest. However, it can also occur with electrocution, cancer, choking and other systemic disorders.

Pleural Effusion

​Kittens can also suffer from a fluid formation in the thorax region that is confined outside the lungs. It happens in the area which is called as pleural space. When the fluid develops in this area, the lungs cannot expand as much is it should normally. The kitten will start to have a difficult breathing as fluid increases to fill the area. The pleural effusion can also cause by the following:

  • ​Heart failure
  • Fatty fluid
  • Chest infection
  • Cancer
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Upper Airway Obstruction

​Kittens can also develop upper airways infection. Symptoms include:

  • ​Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing

​Some kittens may suffer from nasal congestion making them hard to catch up breathe with the use of their nose. If this happens, the kitten may touch their mouth to breathe freely. It is the right time for proper home management in fast breathing cases for kittens. Apply a warm water with the use of cotton balls to clean the discharge in the nose. Place them in a humid area like bathroom and start running a hot water. You can also use a humidifier. If the kitten is experiencing loss of appetite and appears to be lethargic, take him to the vet for proper assessment.

biting cat

​It is quite rare to develop upper respiratory infection for kittens but they can also suffer from physical obstruction in the airway making them breathe fast. One of the possible factors is called nasopharyngeal polyp or also known as a tumor.


​Kittens that have experienced trauma, fast breathing is a symptom that must watch out for. Trauma can be a source of bleeding around the lungs or other types of internal bleeding. 

Reduced oxygen

  • ​Low amount of red blood cells. This type of blood helps carry oxygen in all parts of the body
  • Lung inflammation and infection
  • Severe pneumonia
  • Sepsis
  • Kidney failure, diabetes
  • Food poisoning
  • Low oxygen blood levels
  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Heartworm
  • Heart arrhythmia

Mechanical Difficulty

  • ​Fluid formation in the pleural cavity or around the lungs
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pus formation in the pleural cavity
  • Airways obstruction
  • Tumors
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary embolism

Physiological Effect

  • ​Side effects from drugs like cannabis and aspirin
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Stress

How is The Problem Diagnosed?

Cat Bite Me

​The vet may be able to diagnose the problem on a physical evaluation. An x-ray may require. If the kitten has a serious fast breathing pattern, this test may not be good for them. For kittens with pleural effusion, it is necessary to get a sample of the fluid coming from the thorax region to be done by the vet. It will help them identify the problem clearly. However, this process will not be very comfortable for your friend.

In cases of heart failure, the vet may suggest having your kitten undergo an echocardiogram. It is an ultrasound of the heart which able to assess a lot of activities of the heart. Asthma is also diagnosed with the chest x-ray but for a serious condition, your kitten may be referred to a bronchoscopy if needed. For airway obstruction and nasopharyngeal polyp, the kitten may require being sedated for an oral exam, x-ray for the neck, ear and skull exam.

​The vet will also perform a complete physical exam that includes listening to the heart and lungs sound for any possible heart abnormalities or fluid buildup in the lungs. A medical history will also be obtained from the owner including the onset of symptoms. Some diagnostic tests may also be performed such as:

  • ​CBC, urinalysis to assess for any possibility of infection, anemia and organ failure
  • Ultrasound to assess the liver, heart and lungs for any sign of inflammation, tumors, obstruction and fluid
  • Biochemical profile
  • Echocardiogram to see the size of the heart and to look for any possible heartworms
  • Thoracentesis. This is a procedure that removes the fluid from the pleural space to make it easier for your kitten to breath and for the fluid to be examined in the laboratory
  • Blood test to assess the carbon dioxide level in the bloodstream and the oxygen level
  • Antibody for heartworm infection
  • Blood test to check for thyroid hormone level in the blood especially if any sign of hyperthyroidism is present

Treatment for Fast Breathing?

​The treatment for fast breathing depends on the underlying cause. Some medications must be given first to alleviate fast breathing before any diagnoses can be done.

​In cases of pulmonary edema, diuretic medication like Lasix must be given along with an oxygen.

Pleural effusion may need to drain the fluid buildup in the lungs.

​Kittens with asthma must require taking steroid remedy or a cat inhaler treatment.

​For upper respiratory infection, antibiotics and nursing care management are necessary.

​Kittens with cancer of FIP, the medication can be given for a short period of time and may need to keep your friend comfortable at all times.

Prevention is Always Better

​If it seems like your kitten is suffering from a fast breathing, take him to the vet. It is always the best thing you can do and have them assessed by the vet during the first onset of symptoms. With proper care for your kitten, you can provide him the love and care that he needs and keeping him alive for more years to come.

Important things to remember

  • ​Always avoid too many activities for your kitten during the recovery period
  • Give all the medications prescribed by the vet
  • Closely monitor your kitten and seek medical help immediately if you notice unnecessary changes