Cats are vulnerable to infections of the upper respiratory tract, suffering what is often described as cat ‘flu. Frequently caused by viruses, these can be serious, so it is important to ensure that your pet is protected by vaccination. Any infection in the nose is likely to affect the cat’s sense of smell as well, and this in turn will reduce its appetite. Upper respiratory tract infections can progress into the lungs, especially in weak individuals, causing pneumonia.
An efficient respiratory system is vital to your cat’s well being, as it is via the respiratory system that oxygen enters the blood stream. This carries important nutrients all around the body.
How fast should my cat breathe?
Most cats will take between 30 and 50 breaths per minute, although this is likely to rise after a period of activity, or if the cat is distressed. Slow, laboured breathing accompanied by wheezing may be a sign of congestion in the lungs, often arising as the result of pneumonia.
How long can a cat survive without breathing ?
If a cat stops breathing for more than four minutes, it is likely to suffer brain damage. In an emergency, one of the most effective ways of encouraging a cat to start breathing again, having checked that there is no obstruction at the back of the throat, is to hold its hind legs and swing it from side to side. This also drains fluid out of the lungs if, for example, the cat has just been rescued from drowning. The respiratory system provides the pathway for air to move into and out of the lungs. When the cat breathes in, so air is drawn through the nasal openings, up through the chambers of the nose where there is a fine network of bones, called the turbinates. These have a good blood supply, so that the air is warmed as it passes up through here, and is also filtered to remove dust particles.
The nasal cavities extend back above the mouth, being separated by a structure known as the hard palate. These then open into the pharynx, which in turn links with the laryngeal area.
Lower Respiratory Tract
Air passes down into the lungs through the trachea, the opening of which can be seen right at the back of the cat’s throat. The trachea consists of a series of cartilaginous rings, which keep it rigid. It divides into smaller tubes called bronchi on entering the lungs, and these continue to branch into bronchioles and then alveoli, where the gaseous exchange actually occurs.
- The actual act of breathing is brought about by the respiratory muscles, rather than the lungs themselves. Disorders affecting these muscles will affect the respiratory system, as well as respiratory infections.
- Food is normally prevented from entering the trachea by the epiglottis, a flap of cartilage which forms part of the larynx and extends over this opening.
- At birth, the lungs of kittens inflate with air. This provides a means for a vet to tell at a postmortem whether or not a kitten actually breathed, since up until this point, its lung tissue is so dense that it sinks in a container of water, rather than floating.
- The bright pink colour of healthy lungs is the result of their blood supply.