Bridget is a long-time cat owner, cat sitter, and cat lover with years of feline research and hands-on experience.
What Does Cat Panting Look Like?
The most important thing to know is that cats pant too! However, panting in cats is not a typical cat behavior. It certainly can mean that the cat is stressed or excited, but it can also indicate that something is wrong. This is why it is so important to seek out the cause of the panting.
Panting is rapid, loud, open-mouthed breathing, similar to dog panting. This allows saliva to evaporate from the tongue of the cat so that they are better able to cool down.
What Are the Causes of Cat Panting?
There are a number of reasons that a cat may be panting:
- Stress. This is particularly likely on car rides, as many cats find them to be incredibly stressful. If this is the case, the panting will begin once the cat is in the carrier or the car, and will end once the cat has had some time to settle back in at home.
- Exertion. If your cat is playing hard, especially in the heat, they may be panting as a way to cool down. Usually, the cat will become tired and will lay down while panting ever-so-slightly. After a few minutes, the cat's breathing should regulate and go back to normal. If not, watch for signs of heat stroke.
- Upper Respiratory Tract Problem. An infection in the upper respiratory tract, or a cyst or blockage in the nose or throat may cause a cat to pant. This would likely come on slowly and will worsen over time.
- Lower Respiratory Tract Problem. Pulmonary edema, asthma, a growth in the chest or a diaphragmatic hernia could also all cause breathing problems for a cat, including panting. This also would be slow-onset and would worsen over time.
- Heart/Lung Problem. Heartworm or lungworm may cause panting in a cat due to inadequate oxygen, as may cardiovascular disease or heart failure. The cat could also have a ruptured thoracic duct.
- Other Miscellaneous Causes. These may include carbon monoxide poisoning, poisoning from an ingested chemical, FIP, anemia, pressure in the abdomen and chest caused by pregnancy, and more.
Because there are so many possible causes, it is important to seek out professional advice if a cat experiences new onset panting, especially if it happens often or over a long period of time.
If your panting cat is also hiding, drooling, crouching with shoulders and elbows back and head stretched out, has purple or blue gums, shallow breathing, loud breathing, won't move from its spot, or he/she is refusing food, find a cool place for the cat and seek help immediately! These may be signs of heat stroke!
How Can I Help My Panting Cat?
- Cooling measures are the first thing to try when a cat begins panting. Some cats enjoy playing with and licking ice cubes. You can also try encouraging the cat to rest in a cool, air-conditioned area or in a room with a fan. Cats who appear to be suffering from heat stroke may also benefit from a cool (but not cold) wet washcloth on their tummy.
- If the cat appears to be panting because of stress, attempt to remove the stressor and re-assess when the cat is in a calm, reassuring environment.
- If you believe that there may be a medical cause for the panting, or if it is not improving quite quickly, contact your vet immediately!
An Excellent Example of a Cat Panting
Overall, it is important to know that cats do pant, but it is not a typical behavior and it usually signals that something is awry. It is extremely important to keep an eye on the cat to ensure that the panting is short-lived and that his or her breathing normalizes quite quickly. Otherwise, seek medical care so that they can find a cause and do their best to ensure that your cat can continue to live a happy and healthy life!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2018 Bridget F
Bridget F (author) from USA on September 12, 2018:
FlourishAnyway, Awwww!!! I'm so sorry about Elmer! I'm glad that you were able to seek help for him, though, and to save him some suffering. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing!
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 11, 2018:
I had a sweet white cat named Elmer who was rapidly panting and doing open mouth breathing like he could not catch his breath. He was in the house with me and not at all hot, and there was no apparent cause leading to the incident. He was obviously in distress, scuttling from one location to under a bed, etc. I knew I needed to get Elmer to the emergency vet ASAP. He had unfortunately thrown a clot in his lungs, apparently as a result of a heart condition I didn’t know he had. He suffered a pulmonary thromboembolism according to the vet, and we had to euthanize him for his own peace and comfort. If in doubt, it’s definitely best to see a vet. So sad but I’m glad he didn’t die alone.