Cat Purr Sounds Congested – Why Does it Happen?

Generally, cats purr when they are happy, comfortable, and pleased. Therefore, it can be annoying or alarming when their calm purr sounds stuffy and hoarse, as if they have a head cold. You may wonder why suddenly your cat purr sounds congested and how you can fix it. 

Worry not because today we will go through all the information to help you navigate the congestion situation. 

Table of Contents

Why Does My Cat Sound Congested When Breathing?

Cats’ deep purrs can turn congested and raspy for several reasons. Frequent explanations include the following.

Tracheal Foreign Bodies

Cats are curious creatures who like exploring their surroundings but may occasionally inhale foreign objects that become trapped in their airways.

As air blows through the foreign body in the trachea, it becomes obscured and triggers loud breathing and sometimes congested purring. The blockage can cause erratic breathing rhythm or heavy breathing when resting. 

Visiting a veterinarian early enough will help alleviate your cat’s problem on time. They’ll remove the foreign body so your cat’s laborious breathing can return to normal.


Whenever your cat wheezes and breathes noisily, it is most likely asthmatic. Asthmatic cats exhibit several clinical symptoms, such as fast breathing and hacking/coughing.

Asthma occurs due to an inflammatory reaction that narrows the airways, causing them to constrict, thus bringing about loud and difficult breathing. Therefore, a cat with asthma will breathe through its mouth to allow more airflow into its lungs.

Most veterinarians believe that airborne irritants like artificial perfumes, dust mites, or pollen may cause or exacerbate asthma episodes. Hence, limiting the number of allergies in your home can be one strategy to assist your cat.

Upper Respiratory Infections

It regularly occurs among pets, particularly during the winter, especially viruses.

A kitten with rhinitis

(A kitten with rhinitis)

Some might be transitory and resolve within a week, whereas others go into latency and may reawaken at any time. Moreover, felines are perpetual carriers of the infection and sometimes transmit it to other cats.

Although less common, don’t completely rule out fungal and bacterial infections. 

Usually, a bilateral discharge resembling pus accompanies most bacterial infections. Conversely, fungal infections, such as those caused by environmental cryptococcus, are frequently asymmetric, meaning the pus-like or bloody discharge is usually through one side of the nose. 

(A cat with an abscess on the neck)

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Airway anomalies make flat-faced cats noisier breathers. Such anomalies form brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

Persian chinchilla cat with a flat face

(Persian chinchilla cat with a flat face)

BOAS has symptoms like a hypoplastic trachea and stenotic nares in cats. Airway resistance comes about due to a reduced airway diameter or extra tissue.

Fluid Build Up

Cats may have breathing congestion due to fluid accumulation in the lungs in conditions like pleural effusion and pulmonary edema. The cats’ lungs stop expanding, as usual, then they have trouble breathing and getting adequate oxygen. 

Symptoms; Bloating, loss of appetite, dry cough/wheezing, and heavy and rapid breathing 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD progresses from moderate to severe, and all its phases limit airflow, making cats sound congested while breathing. COPD is more prevalent in older cats and can also occur due to long-term irritation, such as cigarette smoke and allergens. 

Symptoms of COPD in cats; include repeated respiratory infections, dyspnea, and congestion.


Hyperthyroidism is a less likely cause of your cat’s noisy nasal breathing, but it can present with symptoms like aggression and weight loss.   

Thyroid glands may also grow, and due to their location in the neck, they might block the airway, making breathing difficult and loud. 

Tumors and Cancers

Though rare, cats’ airways can develop tumors in the sinuses, lungs, trachea, etc., which can block the airway and result in breathing congestion.

Depending on the site of tumor growth, the symptoms can be;

Lungs; Noisy breathing, fluid collection around lungs, fatigue, weight loss, and reduced appetite. 

Trachea and larynx: High-pitched breathing, hoarseness, and coughing.

Sinuses and nose: Seizures, facial abnormalities, and pus-filled and bloody mucus. 

How Can I Help Prevent Breathing Obstruction?

Generally, you can assist in preventing future congestion by:

  • First and foremost, schedule an appointment with a vet should your cat sound congested. The veterinarian will physically examine the cat and carry out additional tests like x-rays before diagnosing the underlying cause and issuing a treatment option. Depending on the illness, treatment can range from surgery, medication, or both.
Vets with a cat in an x-ray room

(Vets with a cat in an x-ray room)

  • Then, avoid strenuous activity in a feline with incurable underlying diseases. 
  • Because dry air can cause an inflammatory reaction in kitties, adding the air’s moisture with a humidifier can help improve congestion symptoms. 
  • Fourthly, get rid of allergies and irritants in your house. Even though they don’t cause congested breathing, they can aggravate the condition and induce airway irritation. 
A cat about to sneeze

(A cat about to sneeze)

  • Watch out for any early indications that your cat is unwell. Cats are adept at concealing pain; thus, studying cat sleeping postures while ill might provide an early warning that anything is awry.
  • Using cat litter with minimal chemicals, scents, and dust will help relieve asthma symptoms in cats.
  • Lastly, frequently check your cat’s respiration rate (approximately 20 to 30bpm (breaths per minute).


Cats, just like any other animal, require oxygen to breathe. And so, you should seriously handle any signs of congested breathing and rush your cat to a vet for immediate check-ups and treatment.