Just as with dogs, certain feline breeds with short, broad heads have been bred for cuteness. But those same endearing features can make it very difficult for them to breathe.
The term brachycephalic [brā-kē-cef-A-lic] refers to any short-snouted, flat-faced animal. Feline breeds in this category include Persians, Himalayans and Exotic Shorthairs. Many of them have anatomic abnormalities that cause airway obstruction, including narrow nostrils, a long soft palate and a small trachea.
Signs that often accompany the struggle to breathe include noisy inhalation, rapid respiration and gagging. Problems worsen in hot, humid weather, when affected cats may be lethargic and even collapse.
Cats showing these signs aren’t being cute — they need help. Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do for your brachycephalic buddy.