Snoring and Noisy Breathing (Stertor) in Cats

Key takeaways

Snoring and noisy breathing in cats is called stertor, and refers to a low-pitched noise from the nasal cavity during breathing.

  • Stertor is uncommon in cats, although it is more common in flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds
  • Occasional stertor, especially while sleeping, is normal, and not cause for concern
  • Cats presenting with consistent stertor while awake require prompt veterinary intervention, regardless of breeding
  • Stertor typically results from narrowing or blockage of the airway, such as by infections, tumors, or foreign bodies
  • Diagnostics for stertor include a physical examination, diagnostic imaging, nasal biopsies, and bloodwork
  • Treatment depends on the underlying condition, and may include medication, surgery, and supportive therapy
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A closer look: Snoring and Noisy Breathing (Stertor) in Cats

Stertor is uncommon, but not cause for concern on its own. It is normal for cats to occasionally snore, especially if they are a short-nosed breed or sleeping in an unusual position that puts additional pressure on their airway. Cats that are obese are more likely to experience increased pressure on their airway resulting in snoring during sleeping.

If stertor presents consistently, while both awake and asleep, prompt veterinary attention is recommended to identify the underlying cause, regardless of breeding.

If stertor is accompanied by other symptoms such as excessive panting, gagging, exercise intolerance, difficulty eating, or difficulty breathing, emergency veterinary attention is indicated.

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Possible causes

Risk factors

Stertor can vary in terms of both recurrence and severity.

Cats may only breathe noisily occasionally or while sleeping. In these cases, snoring is expected to be a result of sleeping position or shape of the nasal cavity. Stertor that is consistently present whether awake or asleep is more likely associated with underlying conditions blocking the airway, such as tumors, polyps, or infections.

Stertor can also present mildly, or more severely with accompanying snorting, gagging, and panting. Severe stertor is associated with more complete blockages of the airway, and may severely compromise airflow and oxygenation.

Push-face (brachycephalic) cats are at highest risk of stertor due to structural abnormalities in the face and upper throat. Obese cats are also at highest risk. Although occasional snoring is normal for cats, if obese or push-face cats are snoring consistently, veterinary attention is advised.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics for stertor include:

  • A physical examination
  • Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or CT of the head
  • Bloodwork
  • Diagnostic testing for specific infectious agents
  • Nasal biopsy

Treatments vary depending on underlying cause, and may include:

  • Removal of foreign objects
  • Weight loss through dietary changes and increased exercise
  • Surgery
  • Medication, such as antibiotics or antihistamines
  • Supportive therapies, such as IV fluids and oxygen

Similar symptoms

Associated symptoms

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