Why Does My Cat Huff And Puff? (8 Possible Reasons)

why does my cat huff and puff

When we talk about huffing and puffing, we are talking about the big bad wolf in the ‘Three little pigs’ or ‘The little red engine that could’.

In this instance, we are talking about times when you can hear your cat huffing and puffing. It can be rather amusing to hear your cat making more dog-like sounds than the usual meow or chirp.

When you hear your cat breathing heavily it does seem like it is huffing and puffing. Cats breathe this way when they are trying to catch their breath from exertion. A cat huffs to show their dissatisfaction with something as well. In more serious cases, such huffing sounds are caused by medical conditions.

In the majority of the cases, hearing your cat huffing isn’t a cause of concern. In fact, it sounds adorable. What we want to share in this article are the more common reasons that would make a cat huff and puff and when cat owners should be more concerned.

What Is A Cat Huff?

I’ve had quite a few readers ask me “What does a cat huff sound like?” To answer that question, imagine that you have a rather large piece of tissue paper stuck in one of your nostrils. In order, to expel it, you would exhale loudly and forcefully through your nose.

That sound is what a cat huff is.

To imagine the sound of a cat huffing and puffing, try dashing up a flight of stairs for five minutes and you’ll get what I mean.

Now that we are all on the same page with the technicalities, let us further understand the reasons that would make your cat huff or huff and puff.

1. Your Cat Is Unhappy About Something

cat looking unhappy

A cat snorts or huffs to show its annoyance or irritation about something going on. It is your cat’s way of saying “leave me alone”.

When cats huff this way, it is a normal reaction in the feline world and not something cat owners should be concerned about.

My cat snorts at me when he knows that I’m trying to catch him for a butt wipe after he poos.

2. Your Cat Is Feeling Contented

There are times when your cat’s huff can resemble a sigh. Cats sigh not because they are sad or frustrated about something. They do it more out of contentment.

I’ve heard many cats exhale loudly when they are sleeping or about to fall into a deep sleep. Mine included.

My cat makes huffing noises when he snores like a bear at night. Up to the point when his snoring can keep me awake.

3. Your Cat Is Feeling Sexually Frustrated

cat looking sexually frustrated

An intact male cat or tomcat can be huffing and puffing at a female who is in heat. I’ve seen a stray tomcat huff and puff directly in the face of a female cat that was ready to mate. She had her rear end in the air and was yowling like a banshee.

Sex hormones can push your cat’s desire to mate right through the roof and make them feel sexually frustrated if they can’t mate.

If you are not a professional breeder, it would be best to get your cat fixed as soon as possible. This helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and gives them a better quality of life.

4. Your Cat Is Tired

You might see this more often in kittens and younger cats. These cats have energy levels that don’t seem to deplete.

They can play for hours and hours without feeling tired at all. In fact, a young cat has about three times more energy than an adult.

If you find your young cat breathing heavily after a few hours of an intense play session, it could be like your cat is feeling tired and taking a breather.

My cat is fourteen years old and hardly breaks a sweat these days. He doesn’t even make an attempt to play much. Chasing the red pointer laser for hours like before is beneath him now.

5. Your Cat Is Feeling Stressed Or Anxious

cat looking stressed out

Some cats can start to huff and puff when they are feeling stressed or anxious. Given how sensitive cats can be, there are many triggers that can stress a cat out.

These triggers can be:

  • A change in the environment
  • A new family member or pet
  • Loud noises
  • The smell of another cat or animal in the vicinity
  • PTSD in cats

The one trigger that I would like to touch more on is post traumatic stress disorder in cats or PTSD. Cats suffering from PTSD have one or two triggers that can cause it. These cats might have been abused in the past or were involved in a serious accident.

If you suspect that your cat has PTSD, it would be best to speak to your vet about it. Treatment usually involves behavioral therapy and even anti-anxiety medication for cats with more severe PTSD.

6. Your Cat Is Feeling Very Warm

Similar to dogs, some cats can start to pant when they are feeling overheated. A cat’s normal body temperature ranges from 101-102.5 F.

When the cat is feeling warm, it will regulate its temperature by sending more blood to the ears to cool off. Your cat’s ears will feel warm to the touch on a hot day.

If the surrounding temperature is too hot and the cat can lose its body heat fast enough, it might start to huff and puff to try and cool down.

Here are some signs to look out for if your cat is overheating:

  • Rapid panting
  • Vocalization
  • Restlessness
  • Very red gums
  • High body temperature

If the weather is very warm and you notice your cat panting, you need to help your cat cool down quickly.

  • Turn on the air conditioner
  • Bring your cat indoors
  • Towel them down with cold water
  • Syringe them with water

A sudden heat wave can catch your cat by surprise and overheat it quickly. As a pet owner, you need to learn to look out for the signs.

7. Your Cat Has Feline Asthma

Feline asthma affects 1%-5% of cats out there. It is very similar to asthma that we humans have. Many of us had asthma when we were kids but outgrew the condition.

The severity of asthma in cats can range from mild to life-threatening.

A cat that has asthma sufferers from chronic inflammation of the passageways in the lungs. This is usually caused by allergens (dust, pollen) or even stress.

When the cat inhales the allergen, it triggers an autoimmune response in the cat’s body which results in swelling and constriction of the airways.

The narrowing of the airways restricts the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs which makes it difficult for the cat to breathe.

Here are some common symptoms of feline asthma:

  • Sudden fatigue
  • Rapid breathing pattern
  • Huffing and puffing through the mouth
  • Coughing shallow breaths

A wheezing cat is also a common sign that your cat has asthma. If you notice your cat wheezing and it looks like it has trouble breathing, please take your cat to the vet right away.

Diagnosing And Treatment Of Asthma In Cats

There isn’t a specific test that can accurately diagnose asthma in your cat. The vet will usually recommend an x-ray or bronchoscopy to get a better idea of your cat’s lung condition.

The common medication for feline asthma are corticosteroids and an inhaler which needs to be used regularly.

If you are able to ascertain what triggers your cat’s asthma, it would be best to keep your cat away from the allergen as much as possible. The most common triggers are dust and pollen. You can use an air purifier at home to keep the air clean.

8. Your Cat Is Overweight

Yes, I hate to admit it but chonky cats are really cute to look at. But on the flip side, overweight cats can suffer from many health problems.

Research has shown that up 55% of domestic cats in the United States are overweight.

The cause of this is simple.

Pets owners are either overfeeding their cats or not feeding them a good enough diet. Dry food or kibbles contain a lot of carbs which promotes weight gain in cats.

Free feeding cats or feeding them human food can also lead to excess calorie intake.

Too much fat on a cat’s body and organs can make breathing difficult for the poor feline. Normal breathing in a healthy cat should be smooth, deep and unlabored. If your cat is overweight, it can make an audible huffing noise even during normal breathing.

The average healthy weight for a cat is about 11 lbs. Some cat breeds like the Maine Coon can grow up to 25 lbs. If you are not sure if your cat is of a healthy weight, take it to the vet for a check-up.

Why Does My Cat Exhale Loudly?

Loud breathing in cats is usually caused by air passing through a narrow airway which causes some resistance. Cats that are overweight or have asthma can have this problem.

There are some cat breeds like Persian cats and Himalayans where loud breathing is a common trait of the breed. Such cat breeds have short noses and flat faces which makes breathing more difficult.

Why Does My Cat Huff At Me When Playing?

When your cat overexerts itself while playing with you, it can start to make huffing noises. Playing sessions increase your cat’s heart rate making them breathe faster and louder.

Your cat’s rapid breathing should return to normal after a few minutes of rest. If it doesn’t, it could mean that your cat is overweight or just not very fit.

Why Does My Cat Huff At Other Cats?

Cats are not as sociable as dogs and don’t warm up to each other as quickly. If your cat huffs at other cats, it could mean that your cat isn’t agreeable with the sight or smell of another cat in its proximity.

If you are trying to socialize a new cat with your existing cat, make sure to do it slowly to prevent any fights from happening.

Why Does My Cat Huff At Me?

Your cat huffing at you doesn’t always mean that it is unhappy about something. A huff from your cat could also mean that it is happy and contended to be near you.

For some reason, my cat makes this weird loud huffing sound whenever I pick him up which will always be a mystery to me.

If your cat starts to snarl, shows its teeth or claws while huffing, it is best to keep your distance and not touch your cat. This means that your cat is pissed about something and is telling you to back off.


When you think about it, it is rather amazing how our cats use a variety of sounds to convey their emotions to us.

They can meow, chip, thrill, yowl and even huff.

For most cats, huffing and puffing shouldn’t be much of a concern. But do consult a vet if your cat shows any signs of difficulty breathing.

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