Why Do Cats Huff And Are They In Trouble?

Last updated on February 26th, 2023 at 12:59 am

Why do cats huff? Because your cat is trying to look for something or showing his frustration and annoyance.
Image Credit: Benjamin Ferren/Pexels

Cats are known to be friendly pets to keep at home, and sometimes as a pet owner, you might be unable to understand what your cat wants or what it’s going through, and this can be frustrating, especially for first-time cat owners. Because cats cannot communicate verbally, they have ways of expressing themselves. One of the most common ways cats communicate is through meowing to express hunger or tiredness. But do you know that cats also communicate through huffing?

Huffing can be scary for first-time cat owners who might not know how to interpret the signal, but that is nothing to worry about. Cats huff to express frustration, tiredness and many other things. Are you a cat owner wondering why your cat is huffing? Here we will tell you exactly why your cat is huffing and what could be the possible solution for that.

What is Cat Huffing? 

Cats huffing is a form of vocalization and is usually a sign of contentment or pleasure. It’s similar to purring and can be seen when a cat is relaxed and happy. The sound is often heard when a cat is being petted or when playing with their toys. Sometimes cats will huff when greeting their owners or when being cuddled. Huffing can also be a sign of frustration or anxiety. If a cat is huffing, it could mean that they are feeling uncomfortable or distressed. The huffing sound may be accompanied by other physical cues such as tail twitching, ears flattening, and pupils dilating. In most cases, huffing is not a sign that a cat is in trouble. It’s usually just a way for cats to communicate their feelings. However, if a cat’s huffing is accompanied by other signs of distress, such as excessive vocalization, scratching, or hiding, then it may be time to take a closer look at the situation. A vet visit may be necessary if the huffing is accompanied by other physical symptoms.

What your cat could be doing is not huffing

Huffing in cats can be confused with other signs that a cat might be making to signal something. As a cat owner, you shouldn’t confuse cat huffing with the following symptoms.


Cats are different from human beings. Hence you can’t conclude that a cat sighing is the same as a human sigh. Also, the cat sighing might sound like huffing since, in both cases, the cat is producing a sound while exhaling. But both huffing and sighing can symbolize different meanings. When humans sigh, it’s mostly because they are tired, frustrated or annoyed, but when a cat sighs, it’s a symbol that the cat is at peace, comfortable and feeling at home. A cat’s sigh is a very audible exhaling sound. Therefore, don’t be scared when your cat sighs and confuse it for huffing. The cat is happy and comfortable.


Panting is mainly confused with huffing and can be scary for first-time pet owners. Unlike huffing, panting is a severe condition which might even require a visit to the veterinarian for a checkup. When a cat is panting, it mostly experiences difficulty breathing, and sometimes it can cough loudly. Panting can also be seen when a cat plays too much for too long. Hence it gets shortness of breath for a while but returns to normal. Panting can indicate a severe respiratory condition like fever which should be treated immediately.

Reasons for huffing in cats

Cats huff due to a variety of reasons. Most of the time, cats huff to signal their feelings and emotions, which might include the following;


Cats also get angry, mainly when a stranger gets close to them and they sense something wrong or when another cat or animal invades their territory. Since cats cannot speak up like humans, they will huff to show anger. Sometimes you might anger your cat, and it will express its anger by huffing at you. You can quickly tell that your cat is angry if it’s huffing while clutching its teeth tightly and they are staring at one particular part. When a cat is huffing in anger, you shouldn’t ignore the signal since there could be a problem that needs fixing.


Cats also huff when they are frustrated about something. Like human, we kick the table or scream when frustrated, cats do the same. Your cat might be discouraged if it has been searching for something that was not fruitful. It can also get frustrating if you refuse to give it something it badly wants. Cats quickly get frustrated when things don’t go their way. Hence, they will communicate their dissatisfaction by huffing. Sometimes not giving your cat everything is a good idea since you will train it on good behavior. Therefore, it’s most likely to provide you with an easier time in the long run.


Cats may huff to show their presence or make their presence known to other cats or animals in the area. This is especially true of cats that are in groups or live in multi-cat households.


Cats love playing a lot, and you might have noticed that after a long day of playing in the yard, the cat tends to breathe heavily and loudly. This is very normal since your cat is just tired and needs a little bit of rest. You must limit your cat’s playtime by sometimes just holding it and petting it while it lays on your lap. Ensure that you provide a good place for your cat to rest soundly. Sometimes cats bigger than the standard size tends to huff a lot since they get tired quite quickly. Therefore, you must indulge your cat in exercises to help it cut weight. At the same time, you should limit the amount of food you are feeding your cat so that it can lose weight fast and not get tired that fast.

Health condition

Huffing could also be an indication of respiratory illness. Cats’ wheezing and panting, mainly due to respiratory infections like asthma, can be seen through huffing. Huffing that continues daily and sometimes increases during certain times of the day or night when temperatures are pretty low should not be ignored. Be on the lookout for huffing accompanied by coughing and very loud wheezing. Prolonged huffing should be taken seriously, and the cat should be taken to the veterinary for treatment.

Comfortable and happy

At times, it’s good to sit down and observe your cat for a while and not worry too much. Sometimes cats huff because they are expressing their feelings of happiness and comfort. Joy in cats can mostly be seen when they turn and roll on the ground or jump up and down. All this is normal, and it shouldn’t worry you. When your cat is comfortable, you will notice that it stays in one place and sleeps or watches what other people in the room are doing easily. Therefore, huffing should not be something that you should worry about, but take time and observe your cat.

Is huffing normal?

Yes, huffing is very regular in most cases. As described above, huffing is a way for cats to express their feelings of frustration, anger, happiness or many other emotions. Because cats cannot communicate verbally, huffing is their only way of communicating their feelings. When you notice your cat huffing, please do not jump to conclusions immediately but watch the environment it’s in and what it’s doing to determine the reason behind the huff. As a cat owner, you should be on the lookout for other accompanied situations of huffing, including meowing and tail wagging. This can help you determine the reason for huffing. Otherwise, in general, huffing in cats is very typical.

How to handle a huffing cat

1. Veterinary

Sometimes huffing could be a sign of an underlying condition in cats that, if left untreated, can lead to severe health problems. Huffing accompanied by wheezing, heavy panting, and probably less cat activity should be taken seriously. A loud huffing sound that lasts for days could indicate asthma or a severe respiratory condition that needs immediate treatment. Therefore, you must take your cat to the veterinarian for further treatment.

2. Reduce playtime

As a cat owner, I am sure that you have noticed that sometimes cats can play the whole day without stopping, which can lead to huffing and underlying health conditions. Limiting your cat’s playtime will help reduce huffing in cats. Sometimes just put the cat on your lap, pat it, and comb its hair. You can also take the cat out for a short walk or take it for drives around the block. This will significantly reduce its huffing.

3. Satisfy the cat’s needs

Cats need to be taken care of just like how human beings take care of each other. You must satisfy the cat’s needs by providing a safe and comfortable place for the cat to lie at night. Ensure that you feed the cat correctly and that it has enough toys to play with. When a cat is not lacking in anything, it will not huff at you, unlike if it’s deprived of some essential things.

4. Help your cat lose weight

Overweight cats tend to experience huffing very frequently. You must engage your overweight cat in various exercises daily to help it lose weight. You can also talk to the veterinarian to help determine which foods are best for cats to lose weight. When the cat loses weight, it will have a lesser time moving. Hence it can breathe correctly, and huffing will generally reduce.

5. Be kind

It is usual for humans to get angry quickly, but that energy should not be directed at animals. Whenever your cat does something terrible, avoid yelling or punishing the cat since yelling at the cat will only make the cat angry and frustrated. If you are planning to be a cat owner, you should know that cats are not like humans, so you can’t control their minds all the time; sometimes, you will have to allow the cat to be a little naughty, which is quite okay. Always treat and handle the cat with lots of kindness if you wish to help it reduce huffing.


Cat huffing is primarily regular and shouldn’t worry you much. A cat huffing is just a way for them to communicate to you as the owner that they need something or are dissatisfied with something. Huffing that goes on for days or weeks and it’s accompanied by heavy wheezing and inactivity should be taken seriously, and a veterinarian should see the cat. Otherwise, a cat’s huff is a normal thing that should help you understand what your cat wants.