If you are a dog owner, then you will have grown accustomed to them panting on a regular basis as they cool down. However, panting is not typical behavior for a cat to display and, in many cases, is an indication that emergency care is needed. In this post, you’ll learn about all the common causes and solutions for cat panting.
What Does Cat Panting Look And Sound Like?
While cat panting is not as common as it is in dogs, you will be able to quickly spot your cat panting by looking for specific symptoms.
As you might expect, your cat will have their mouth open and will be breathing at an increased rate; you may even notice that their tongue is hanging slightly from their mouth. If you are unable to tell if your cat’s breathing rate has increased just by looking, then you should be able to hear the forced shallow breaths. In more severe cases, you may even see or hear your cat coughing or find that they have lost their appetite.
In most situations, your cat or kitten will be lying down while panting, but do not be surprised to see them standing up, as this is expected behavior for a feline that is feeling stressed.
Why Is My Cat Panting? Common Causes
Although finding your cat panting is not common and could be an indication of a more serious underlying issue, this is not always the case. To give you a better understanding of this issue, we have provided all the common causes of why your furry feline may be panting.
Anxiety Or Stress
The most common cause of panting in cats is increased stress, or if your kitty is particularly anxious about a situation. Whenever a cat finds themself in a stressful situation, they will immediately try to get away. However, if your cat is trapped in a position that they consider stressful, which is when you may see them with their mouth open and beginning to pant. A typical scenario that causes cats stress is being packed into a carrier and traveling. So, it is likely that you may find your cat panting in the car on the way to the veterinarian.
Like dogs, cats also pant to release heat, even if it is a less common behavior. Usually, a cat will release heat by sweating through small glands found in its paws. However, this is not always enough to successfully regulate its heat, as its paws are very small, so they may also pant.
Unlike canines that love to run nonstop and are much more often panting to regulate their heat, cats use shelter and shaded areas to keep their internal heat regulated and are very well adapted to do this.
It is uncommon to find your cat overheated, so if you find your cat panting in hot weather or after playing and believe they are struggling to regulate their temperature, you should contact your vet immediately.
Like us humans, cats can also suffer from asthma. However, if your cat has asthma, you are more likely to notice them panting, or even coughing and wheezing. A variety of things can cause asthma, the most serious is heartworm disease which we discuss in the next section. Other than heartworm disease, asthma can also be caused by allergies and inflammation, which can commonly restrict the airflow through a cat's airways.
Veterinarians typically treat asthma in cats with medication, such as corticosteroids or bronchodilators. If you believe that your cat or kitten is suffering from asthma, contact your vet at as soon as possible for an exam and treatment to help relieve their symptoms.
Heartworm is a disease found in both cats and dogs that can cause breathing issues and even lead to death if left untreated. Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis, which is spread by mosquitoes. The life cycle of heartworms is complex, but once they reach the final stage of their lifecycle they can affect your cat's breathing by releasing microfilaria into the bloodstream.
Your vet can prescribe medication that helps prevent heartworm disease in your cat. There are also treatments such as corticosteroids and oxygen therapy for cats that already suffer from the disease.
Congestive Heart Failure
Unfortunately, heart problems can be a common occurrence in both cats and kittens. What's more worrying is that they can easily go unnoticed without early detection, often with symptoms emerging only once disease has become more advanced.
Congestive heart failure happens when a buildup of fluid surrounds a cat’s lungs. This fluid build-up directly impacts and reduces the cat's lung capacity and oxygen levels. Due to these adverse effects, you may find your cat panting or breathing at an increased rate, and it may even have pale gums. If you spot any of these symptoms, you should contact your vet immediately.
Another cause for your cat or kitten panting is if they have a respiratory infection. These bacterial infections can not always be avoided, but fortunately, they can be treated if needed by your veterinarian. Throat or lung infections of this type can be treated by a vet who would likely prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Anemia is the medical term that refers to a reduced amount of oxygen in red blood cells and can be caused by other health conditions. Red blood cells are tasked with the job of carrying oxygen around the body. Cats affected by anemia will have a reduced amount of oxygen in their blood, and will likely exhibit faster and heavier breathing, panting, or tiring easily.
Ingested Or Inhaled Object
Finding your cat panting does not always have to steer you toward believing that it has a medical condition, like infection or disease. However, in some circumstances, you may find that your cat has swallowed an object that has become lodged in its throat and is now causing difficulty breathing. If you are under the impression that your cat has an object stuck in its throat, you should contact your vet as soon as possible.
Pain Or Trauma
Although panting may not seem like a common symptom of pain or trauma, it can be pretty common. Cats, and animals in general, can be very good at disguising their pain, making it hard to spot an injury immediately. If you find your cat panting and then proceed to notice limited mobility, aggressive behavior, loss of appetite, or vocalization, then your cat is likely to be in pain and you should take them to see your veterinarian.
When To Be Concerned About Panting
Although you now know about all the most common causes of why your cat might be panting, it can be challenging to know when medical attention is required. As a general rule, if you know your cat has been running around, playing, or doing a lot of physical activity, then there is likely to be no reason to be worried, as some panting may be expected but should only last for a very short period of time.
An effective way to tell if your cat is suffering from a type of respiratory distress is to check if it is taking more than 40 breaths per minute. To do this, simply pay attention to the cat's belly and count how many times it inhales. If it is taking more than 40 breaths in a minute and proceeds to do so for more than five minutes, we advise contacting your vet immediately.
However, if you find your cat panting after doing no physical activity or see them panting for a longer period of time or the panting is accompanied by other symptoms, then your cat is likely to need medical attention. When in doubt, it is always best to consult with a vet.
How To Calm A Panting Cat
Keeping your cat calm is very important if it is currently going through a state of respiratory distress. Any sort of added stress to the cat can take things from bad to worse very quickly. Though consulting a veterinarian is always the best option for a distressed cat panting for a prolonged period, you can keep a few things in mind to help your cat and not add more stress:
- Too many people surrounding the cat will only add to the stress, so it's best to only have one person attending to the cat if possible.
- Provide the distressed cat with plenty of space so that it can position itself however it feels most comfortable.
- You can dampen or moisten the cat's paws with a wet towel if you believe your cat is overheating.
Now that you have a better understanding of the common causes and solutions surrounding cat panting, you can feel more in control with the knowledge of what to do if you ever find your cat in respiratory distress. With the help of our detailed list of common causes, you will be able to assess whether or not the breathing behavior of your cat is a serious issue that requires veterinary attention; however, it is always best to call your veterinarian to ask questions and see if your cat needs to be seen.
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