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Why Do Cats Huff (and Puff)?

Why Do Cats Huff (and Puff)?

Cats don’t have a way to talk with their owners, so they often rely on vocal or physical cues to let their owners know what they are thinking.

Cats have a range of vocal sounds, including hissing, sighing, purring, and huffing. Hearing one for the first time can be alarming to owners that have never heard a cat huff.

cat-huffingA huff is a short exhale of air from the cat’s nose that is sharp and direct. Cats huff to show they are dissatisfied with their current situation, and huffing has a negative connotation.

A cat will also huff to catch its breath if playing or exercising. Huffing can indicate a severe medical problem, so a veterinarian should treat continued huffing.

Sometimes, cats can also snort or wheeze. Although wheezing can be associated with seasonal allergies, it could also mean your cat suffers from asthma.

A veterinarian should see cats that struggle to catch their breath after playing or exercising continuously.

An emergency vet should treat cats with trouble breathing or exhibit signs of labored breathing. Lodged food or foreign objects can block a cat’s airway and become potentially fatal if not treated immediately.

What Is a Cat Huff?

cat-with-ownerA cat huff is an unusual term, and many owners don’t know what a huff is until they hear their cat performing this behavior.

Usually, a huff is a short exhale from the cat’s nose. Like a sigh, the huff is usually short and punctuated and is used to communicate between cats and owners.

Is Huffing Normal?

Unlike humans, cats can not communicate through language. Instead, they rely on several sounds and indicators to express their feelings.

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Huffing can help express fear or dissatisfaction and is completely normal for a cat. Although this behavior is normal, hearing a cat huff for the first time can be pretty concerning.

Rest assured that typically, huffing is just a way of your cat telling you it is unhappy with the current situation. 

Some cats will huff to let you know they are hungry, while others will huff to say they have had enough petting for the day simply.

Every cat is an individual, and some owners may report a significantly more vocal cat than others.

What Does a Cat Huff Mean?

cat-in-houseA cat huff is a way for your cat to tell you it is unhappy or dissatisfied with the current situation. Just a human may sigh or scoff, and a cat will huff to show discontent.

Huffing and puffing can mean your cat wants more or less attention depending on the situation. Your cat may be hungry, want to play, or could be telling you it is ready for bedtime.

Do Certain Cat Breeds Huff More Than Others?

cat-lying-downHuffing seems to be a universal signal across all cat breeds, and huffing appears to be determined by the individual cat.

Some cats may never huff in their entire life, while others will huff at their owners daily to tell them they are hungry.

Breathing disorders, like huffing, can be connected to certain cat breeds with a flat face or shortened nasal passage.

Some cat breeds like Munchkin, Persian, Bombay, Himalayan, or Scottish Fold Cats may demonstrate this breathing pattern.

A cat may have breathing abnormalities that make it sound like it is struggling to breathe.

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If you have a cat breathing audibly, be sure to monitor your cat and observe your cat for worsening health conditions that may indicate a more significant problem.

What Are Signs My Cat Is Unhappy?

cat-playingA cat huffing is a sure sign your cat is unhappy with the current situation. Usually, a huff is a minor communication tool used as a gentle warning to indicate your cat is unhappy.

Cats will use other communication tools to let you know when it is displeased with the current situation. Some other signs your cat may be unhappy include:

  • Twitching Tail – A cat that is twitching or swishing its tail from side to side could be trying to tell you it is stressed, on guard, or wary of its current situation. Usually, this body signal shows your cat is annoyed.
  • Crouched Behavior – It could be uncomfortable if your cat is seated in a crouched position. Crouching helps protect your cat if it feels threatened and helps give it leverage if it needs to jump or quickly run away from a dangerous situation.
  • Meowing – Vocal sounds, like meowing, could indicate that your cat is trying to get our attention or is unhappy with the current situation.
  • Swatting or Biting – A sure sign that your cat is unpleased is swatting and biting, not connected with playtime. Swatting is your cat’s way of telling you to back away and give it some space.
  • Hissing or Growling – An extremely unhappy cat will hiss, growl, or yowl. This behavior is an audible warning sign for the owner and other animals in the room. A cat that hisses or growls is trying to tell you it does not want to be bothered.
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Why Does My Cat Huff When It Plays?

cat-playing-with-ownerSometimes, owners will report hearing their cat huff while they are playing. Although cats enjoy vigorous playtime, exercising uses a great deal of energy.

Huffing while playing is similar to a human taking a few deep breaths after exercising or running. When your cat huffs while playing, it is a way for your cat to catch its breath again.

From a physiological standpoint, playing and exercise can cause your cat’s heart rate to increase, making them breathe faster than normal.

To compensate, a cat’s body will sometimes make a huffing noise. Huffing while playing is more common in overweight cats or cats not exercising frequently.

Is My Cat Sick If I Can Hear It Breathing?

sick-catAn occasional huff is no cause for concern, but hearing your cat breathing heavily could indicate your cat is suffering from an underlying health issue.

Heavy or shallow breaths combined with coughing or wheezing could be troubling signs.

A cat that is having difficulty breathing could be in distress. Ensure the cat does not have a blockage in its airway caused by food or a foreign object.

While cats can be prone to allergies that can cause labored breathing, it is always best to have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian if its breathing is audible or labored.

Is Wheezing In My Cat Problematic?

playing-catSometimes your cat’s breathing troubles could sound like wheezing. Cats can be prone to seasonal or environmental allergies, which can cause the airway and lungs to become inflamed.

Occasional wheezing, combined with other allergy symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose and eyes, could mean your cat is suffering from allergies.

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Asthma is also a common disease in cats. A wheezing cat, especially after playtime, could indicate a problem with asthma.

Although asthma is not curable, it may be possible to treat your cat’s asthma with the help of your veterinarian.

You and your vet can create a strategy to keep your cat safe and healthy, which may utilize prescription medication to control your cat’s asthma.

When Should I Take My Cat to the Vet for Huffing?

cat-asleepIt is essential to differentiate between usual communicative huffing and a potential medical problem with your cat.

The occasional huff or sigh, connected with a noticeable action or situation, is not a cause for concern. Huffing after an exceptionally vigorous play session is normal for cats, especially cats out of shape or unaccustomed to exercise.

If your cat is huffing regularly and has other symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, it may indicate that your cat is suffering from a disease or breathing condition. 

Audible breathing, in conjunction with vomiting, can indicate a severe problem. If you notice these symptoms coupled together in your cat, you should seek immediate veterinary attention.

Related Questions

What does it mean if my cat snorts?

Cats can make a wide range of sounds used for communication, and snorting is common.

Usually, snorts occur when your cat is purring. In this situation, a snort means your cat is happy with the situation and is praising the attention it is receiving.

Alternatively, a snort combined with a hiss or growl could indicate that your cat is unhappy and would like to be left alone.

What does a cat sigh mean?

Sighing in cats, much like people, can show that your cat is happy, content, and relaxed. Usually, a sigh consists of a long, deep breath that helps the cat relax.

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A sigh is a good sign and shows that your cat is happy, secure, and highly comfortable with its current situation. A cat that sighs while sleeping is very comfortable and trusting of its owner.

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