Why is My Cat Panting?

Have you ever seen a cat pant? While it’s more common for dogs to pant in hot weather to cool themselves down, cats can also pant for various reasons, ranging from mild causes like overheating to life-threatening conditions such as heart failure. Seeing your feline friend panting can be worrisome, but understanding the different reasons why cats pant and the associated signs can help you take appropriate action and seek veterinary attention if necessary.

What Cat Panting Looks And Sounds Like

Panting in cats is characterized by rapid, open-mouth respiration, similar to how humans breathe after intense exercise or during a panic attack. A panting cat will exhibit similar behaviors to a panting dog, with their mouth open, taking quick shallow breaths, and their tongue sometimes out, moving back and forth with each breath.

Reasons Your Cat Is Panting

It’s essential to observe your cat’s behavior while panting, as it can provide clues about the underlying cause. If your cat is panting due to overheating or exhaustion, they may lie on the floor to cool off. However, if your cat appears frantic and alert while panting, it could be a sign of stress. Other more serious causes of panting in cats include asthma, anemia, respiratory infections, heartworm infection, pain, fluid in the chest, or heart failure.

Reasons why cats pant

Your cat is overheating

The most common and least concerning cause of cat panting is overheating. Just like dogs, cats may pant to cool themselves down. Panting helps expel hot breath and brings in cool air, which evaporates water from internal body surfaces. While overheating is easy to identify, providing your cat with a cool spot and water to rehydrate can help alleviate their discomfort.

Your cat is stressed

Stress can also cause cats to pant. If your cat is panting due to stress, they may exhibit other stress-related behaviors such as shaking, hiding, over or under-eating, uncontrollable urination or defecation, hissing, scratching furniture, excessive meowing, or vomiting. It’s important to identify and remove the trigger of your cat’s stress as soon as possible.

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Your cat has a respiratory infection

Panting can be a symptom of a respiratory infection in cats, similar to a human cold. Difficulty breathing can lead to panting as a compensatory mechanism. Look for accompanying symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or wheezing. If your cat’s condition doesn’t improve, it’s best to seek assistance from a veterinarian.

Your cat has asthma

Asthma affects approximately 1 to 5 percent of cats and is caused by inhaled allergens. When cats with asthma inhale allergens, their immune system reacts, leading to inflammation and restricted airways. This can result in labored breathing, coughing, wheezing, and sometimes vomiting. If your cat shows signs of asthma, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Your cat is anemic

Panting could indicate anemia in your cat, characterized by a lack of sufficient red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, and their deficiency can cause fatigue, leading your cat to pant in an attempt to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Look for accompanying symptoms such as lethargy, pale gums, increased respiratory and heart rates, weakness, and seek veterinary assistance if anemia is suspected.

Your cat is in pain

Panting may be a sign that your cat is in pain. Cats are skilled at masking long-term pain, so it can be challenging to detect. Aside from panting, watch for reduced appetite, hiding, reduced interest in play or socializing, irritability, frequent vocalization, decreased grooming, or excessive grooming of a specific spot on their body.

Your cat has a heartworm

Panting can also indicate a heartworm infection in cats, although it is rare. Heartworm infection occurs when a cat is bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. Over time, the larvae grow and interfere with blood flow, putting strain on the heart. Symptoms may include panting, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Consult a vet to confirm the diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment.

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Your cat has fluid in their chest

Having fluid in the chest, known as hydrothorax, is a life-threatening condition. It can occur due to various medical conditions, with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) being one of the most common causes. FIP is a viral disease that results in fluid accumulating in the chest and abdomen. Look out for symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, and blue gums. Immediate veterinary assistance is necessary.

Your cat has heart failure

Panting can also be a sign of heart failure in cats. By the time panting becomes apparent, the condition has likely progressed. Heart failure can lead to fluid buildup in the chest, reducing lung capacity. If you suspect heart failure in your cat, it’s important to seek veterinary attention promptly.

Accumulated fluid in your cat’s lung is a life-threatening emergency

When Does Cat Panting Need Veterinary Attention?

If your cat pants after spending time in the sun, it may resolve on its own as they cool down. However, if your cat displays panting or labored breathing without hot weather, observe them for any other signs of discomfort. It’s not common for cats to pant, so if you’re unsure or notice other health issues, it’s advisable to take your cat to the vet for a check-up. Veterinary attention is recommended if:

  • Your cat starts panting suddenly.
  • Your cat’s panting is intense and doesn’t subside.
  • Your cat seems to be in pain.
  • Your cat’s panting is accompanied by other signs of illness.

Situations in which you should seek veterinary attention for your cat’s panting

Cat Panting: Diagnosis & Treatment

The diagnosis and treatment of panting in cats depend on the underlying cause. When you take your cat to the veterinarian, they will likely start by providing oxygen support and conducting a thorough physical examination. It’s essential to communicate any relevant information about your cat’s recent activities or any unusual observations.

The veterinarian will assess your cat’s heart and lungs, and may order x-rays for a clearer view. If fluid buildup is confirmed, the vet may remove as much fluid as possible with a needle. Hospitalization may be necessary until your cat can eat and drink independently. During this time, they may receive IV fluids, diuretics, and other necessary medications. Additional tests such as bloodwork and a chest ultrasound might be recommended.

Final Notes

If you want to learn more about breathing issues in cats, including difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, consider consulting a licensed vet. Dutch is a reliable resource for pet owners, providing comprehensive information on various aspects of pet care, from nutrition to allergies. Remember to prioritize your cat’s well-being and seek professional advice when in doubt.

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