We rarely associate panting with cats since this isn’t a trait commonly shown by felines. So, when you see your cat panting, you could be wondering if it’s normal behavior or not?
Well, it’s not really!
Below I’ll explain why cats pant and what it means.
Do Cats Pant?
Panting in cats is never normal, it’s normal for dogs, as that’s how they usually cool down, but your cat does not cool down like them. If you see a cat panting, that means there’s something more serious behind it that needs to be investigated.
Unlike dogs, cats shouldn’t pant after playing. Dogs will actively pant to cool off after exercise but, it’s a different story for cats.
Cats pant in an outwardly similar way to dogs-they will open their mouths and protrude their tongues to make more noise than normal when breathing.
Why Do Cats Pant?
There are a few reasons why you might see a cat panting such as during stressful events like car rides or visits to the veterinarian.
Maybe he’s overweight and has too much fat around his heart surrounding his lungs and that causes him to defecate. That’s going to be a big trigger.
Secondly, we can see panting in cats that have underlying heart disease. It’s known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is where the heart wall itself enlarges and thickens.
Heart disease in our cats can be a primary change that causes panting, where the heart muscle is thickened and no longer beats effectively, so there can be respiratory distress.
Panting can also be secondary to thromboembolism or a blood clot, which is not uncommon in cats with underlying heart disease.
The third possible cause of cat panting is primary lung disease also known as feline asthma which disrupts their normal breathing rhythm.
Veterinarians think it’s an immune-mediated or allergic disease where there are inflammatory cells in the primary airways that can lead to fluid and inflammation.
Panting could be a sign your cat could have a disease that produces fluid in the lungs themselves.
On the very odd occasion, your cat could be panting after some serious play or strenuous exercise. If this is your cat then this is a sign that they could have underlying health issues.
To determine if your cat is panting due to a “normal” or “abnormal” cause, you must assess the entire situation.
Cats may pant for several reasons, including:
- Recent excessive playing
- An addition to the family, such as a houseguest or new pet, could be a stressor
- Travel-related anxiety
- Excessive heating
In any scenario in which your cat is panting, it is important to intervene immediately and allow your cat to rest and, cool down.
If your cat continues to pant for an extended period of time and won’t settle, you should seek veterinary care right away.
Cats have an extremely efficient body, and they rarely exhibit heavy breathing through their mouths.
With that said, some breeds of cats are more susceptible to panting than others, either because of their physiology or because of the texture of their fur.
Cat breeds with flatter faces and narrower nostrils, such as Himalayans and Persians, and Selkirk Rex are among the breeds susceptible to panting.
To determine if your cat is panting due to a “normal” or “abnormal” cause, you must assess the entire situation.
Medical Conditions Can Cause Cats Panting
Below are some examples of a medical issue that could be causing your cat to pant.
- Illness of the respiratory system, respiratory distress
- Having cat asthma, rapid breathing
- Congestive heart failure
- Disease caused by heartworms
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- An injury or trauma
- Neurological disorders
- An abdominal distension
- Anxiety and pain
- Bacterial infection
Normal panting is triggered by something or someone, but abnormal panting typically begins spontaneously.
This condition also isn’t resolved rapidly with rest or by removing the stressor or heat and is typically accompanied by coughing, lethargy, or, excess fluid discharge.
It is possible to observe abnormal panting in all ages of cats, but kittens and seniors are more susceptible.
Common Causes of Abnormal Cat Panting
The cause of excessive panting and other worrisome behaviors is often related to underlying health issues.
The fact that this common human disease can affect our feline friends as well is shocking to many cat parents! It’s thought that feline asthma is caused by the body’s allergic reaction to inhaled particles from the environment, resulting in constriction of the lungs’ airways. It affects anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of all cats.
It is not uncommon for asthmatic cats to cough, wheeze, pant, or breathe much faster than normal, as well as vomit.
As in people, cats can suffer from asthma attacks of various severity levels, however, just like people, this can be lethal.
The good news is, cats’ asthma can be well managed through the use of inhalers to deliver steroids to their lungs and also bronchodilators to help them breathe.
Congestive Heart Failure
The presence of fluid accumulation around the lungs, as well as fluid backup in and around the heart, is one of the key findings of congestive heart failure, which is very similar to dogs and people.
In advanced cases, cats suffering from this condition may have difficulty breathing, panting, coughing, weight loss, decreased appetite, and the risk of blood clots forming and traveling throughout the body.
In an emergency, oxygen therapy, diuretics (medications to remove fluid from the lungs), medications to slow down the heartbeats and allow more efficient heartbeats, aspirin to prevent blood clots, and other life-saving measures are used.
In addition to respiratory infections within the nasal passages, cats can also contract bacterial, fungal, and viral infections within their lungs and nasal passages. An infected respiratory tract produces a large inflammatory response by the body’s immunity to fight the disease, which creates an asthmatic-like situation.
Cats suffering from inflammation may have difficulty breathing (either too quickly or too forcefully), cough, pant, and be very lethargic.
If their nasal passages are blocked, treatment with oxygen therapy, antibiotics, and humidifiers or steam therapy will be used. Young kittens without aggressive support can be particularly vulnerable to upper respiratory viral infections, such as herpes and calicivirus.
Most of us associate heartworm disease with dogs, but cats can also get infected with heartworm after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Coughing and panting may be a sign of heartworm infection in cats. This disease is often fatal for cats because there is no definitive cure. There are attempts to reduce inflammation caused by this parasite by administering oxygen therapy and steroids to cats.
You can prevent heartworm disease in your pet’s furry family member by talking to your veterinarian about the heartworm preventatives available for cats.
Normal feline panting can be caused by anxiety in cats, but if it persists within the home or when traveling, it can become abnormal. Ask your veterinarian about available anti-anxiety techniques if your cat shows other signs of stress along with hissing, hiding, and overgrooming as well as inappropriate urination.
Some of these solutions may include behavioral modifications, hormone therapy as well as anxiety medications, and calming products.
Cats who pant suddenly need immediate medical attention if the situation does not resolve in a short period. A vet should be notified as soon as possible if your cat is having difficulty breathing, coughing, and/or lethargy.
Make sure your cat is in a secure, travel-safe carrier you can easily see through when you take it to the veterinarian or the emergency clinic. You should maintain a cool temperature in the car keep your energy calm.
For them to be prepared with oxygen therapy and other life-saving measures if necessary, you should call the practice before you arrive.
Is My Cat Panting Because It’s Stressed?
While rare, panting in cats is normal if it experiences overheating, anxiety, physical exhaustion, and stress.
Panting should subside when you’ve returned them to a place they’re familiar with or they no longer feel stressed. For instance, switching vets may be stress-inducing to cats. Not only would they need to travel by car with their owner, but they’d also be in an unfamiliar place.
External stimuli may also trigger anxiety and stress in your pet. High-frequency sounds like whistling tea kettles can cause anxiety. Thunderstorms and fireworks will commonly make a cat panic and sometimes pant. Sometimes, even other animals may cause stress to your cat.
Strong aromas such as citrus and peppermint, while pleasant to us humans, can also stress out felines given that their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours.
How Long Is It Okay For My Cat To Pant?
Always pay attention to how long your cat pants. If your pet pants quite infrequently, say, only a few minutes then you probably have nothing to worry about.
Certain cat breeds are known to pant longer than others. These include long-haired breeds such as Himalayans, Persians, Maine Coon, and the like.
Again, if it’s transient and simply goes away on its own, there is little to be concerned about.
If the pet remains stressed for too long, it might likewise take longer for them to compose themselves. Inconsistent huffing and puffing in cats are completely normal under stress.
Should I Take My Panting Cat To The Vet?
Transient, inconsistent panting is not at all unhealthy for your cat. Similar to other animals like dogs, panting is a natural way for the cat to adapt its bodily functions to its physical environment.
If your cat pants for an excessive period, it may be a cause for concern or at least some attention. Anything persistent is something to be worried about.
If your cat is exposed to heat, strong smells, high-frequency sounds, and other external stimuli, make sure to move the cat away from the stimuli.
If the cat is showing stress, make sure to bring it back to a place it’s familiar with.
Should your pet continue to pant over a long duration of time, and should they exhibit excessive sleepiness, lack of appetite, or anything else that is off, then maybe it’s time to call or go to the nearest vet to have them checked.
Do Cats Pant After Exercise?
Healthy cats shouldn’t pant after play. If your cat pants after strenuous play then they could be overweight or have other serious health conditions.
If you suspect your cat to be overweight, I would suggest getting them off a dry cat food that is loaded with carbohydrates and switch to wet food.
Switching to canned food which is primarily an animal protein, is usually enough of a change that your cat will start to lose weight.
Panting can on rare occasions be a way for the cat’s body to adjust to physical changes. In other words, the cat may just be huffing and puffing to restore its breath.
Young kittens, on the other hand, show more exertional panting. They would chase small objects or simply run around like crazy, making them plant for a short period.
What Does Cat Panting Look And Sound Like?
Panting in cats looks very similar to how a dog pants.
Your cat or kitten will open their mouth and stick their tongue partially out. They will then be taking short shallow breaths in and out. Your cat will usually look distressed when panting.
Generally, panting isn’t normal for cats and could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Some breeds are more susceptible to panting than others.
Panting is a natural way for them to adjust to stress, anxiety, heat, and other physical stimuli. It is even common for energetic kittens after vigorous play.
However, if your cat’s panting doesn’t subside over a short period, something else may be going on.
Sudden labored breathing may be a symptom of cat ailments that need veterinary attention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my cat panting with her mouth open?
Cats, like other animals, pant to catch up on breath and keep cool. An open mouth enables the cat to release more heat each time she exhales through her mouth.
As blood flows through the feline’s mouth, the inflow of air cools the blood. This helps your pet restore oxygen in its body.
How can I calm my cat from panting?
When your cat is panting, stay calm and remove them from the situation causing them to pant and offer them some water. Make sure that she is in a relaxing, cool place to restore her breath.
Is cat panting dangerous?
Cat panting helps felines adapt to bodily and environmental changes. Inconsistent and transient panting is not at all an issue.
However, prolonged and unexplained panting may signal some cat ailments that deserve a pet owner’s attention.
These ailments include heart problems, respiratory issues, and parasitic presence. Go to a vet immediately to make sure that your pet is safe from any of these ailments.