My friends heard me complain about my spouse’s loud snoring. However, a snoring cat never bothered me. My beloved cat Crispy, who died in 2017, was a notorious snorer.
I found their rhythmic breath sounds calming and calming. If the ambient sound generator on my bedside table was set to “Crunchy Snore”, I would choose it every night.
Snoring occurs when the tissues in the upper airways (nose and throat) vibrate while breathing. This is most likely when cats are most relaxed – when they are sleeping. In addition, any obstruction to the flow of air through the upper airways can contribute to the onset of snoring.
Is It Normal for a Cat to Snore? The short answer is … sometimes. There are harmless reasons for cats to snore and some not so innocuous reasons.
Strange sleeping positions can cause your cat to snore
The most innocuous reason would be a strange sleeping position. Cats are master snake people. Positions that look bizarre to us are often very comfortable for our feline friends.
A sleeping position with the head twisted in an oddly twisted position can sometimes lead to snoring if that position causes a slight narrowing of the airways. This is what happens with my cat glitter. When I call her name, she wakes up briefly and immediately falls asleep again, with her head in a new position. The snoring usually goes away. Basically, this is the equivalent of poking your snoring spouse in hopes that their new sleeping position will be calmer.
Snoring is quite common in brachycephalic cats – those with flat faces like the Himalayas, Burmese, and Persians. These breeds have abnormal nasal anatomy. Their short nasal passages and the smaller than average nostrils can impede airflow and lead to snoring. Another common characteristic of these breeds is a soft palate that extends further back than other breeds. This elongated, soft palate can partially block the entrance to the windpipe (windpipe), making it harder to let air through, which contributes to snoring.
Being overweight can make cats snore. Excess fat can build up in the tissues that surround the upper airways, restricting airflow and making breathing sounds more audible, especially during sleep. Snoring is just one of many reasons cat owners should keep their cats from becoming overweight.
Viral upper respiratory infections are common in cats and lead to the same clinical symptoms that humans experience with colds: coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, and a stuffy nose. Not surprisingly, a cat with a respiratory infection is more prone to snoring. Cats with chronic sinusitis (persistent inflammation and infection of the upper respiratory tract) are lifelong vocal breathing machines and notorious snores.
Nasopharyngeal polyps (NPs) are a common cause of snoring in young cats. These are benign, pinkish-white growths that typically arise from the lining of the middle ear and extend into the nasopharynx (throat). The average age is between 14 months and 3 years, although I’ve seen many cases in kittens between 4 and 8 months.
While these masses are benign (not cancerous), they can grow to a size that causes obstruction of the nasopharynx. Affected cats don’t just snore while they sleep. They snore all the time, their loud breathing sounds often mimicking those heard in Bulldogs and Pugs. In addition to breathing loudly, cats with NPs often have nasal discharge, gagging, and difficulty swallowing.
The most common approach to treating NPs is to remove the polyp using gentle traction. The cat is anesthetized or heavily sedated. A spay hook (a probe-like surgical instrument with a small curve at the end) is used to pull back the soft palate, revealing the polyp. The polyp is then grasped with forceps and gently pulled out. Polyps are growths with a small stalk and it is imperative that the polyp be gripped by the stalk to ensure complete removal or it may grow back.
Removal of a nasopharyngeal polyp can be a very satisfying surgery for veterinarians because the cat experiences instant relief. I clearly remember my most memorable polyp case: an uncomfortable 5 month old kitten whose breathing could be heard all over the room. My staff and I were amazed at the dimensions of the polyp – almost the size of my thumb! When the anesthesia wore off, we had a happy, playful new kitten and a shocked (and enthusiastic) owner.
While snoring can be a cute, quirky, and harmless trait in many cats, it can sometimes be a sign of illness. If your normally calm cat suddenly starts snoring, or if the snoring gets louder, or if your cat develops symptoms other than snoring, such as sneezing, loss of appetite, weight loss, or difficulty breathing, an immediate examination by a veterinarian is needed.
Featured image: Nazar Khabal | Getty Images
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