Grey cat panting
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Why is my cat panting?

By Alice Lang Copywriter

Updated on the

“Why is my cat panting?” seems like a scary question to have to ask - after all, panting is just for dogs, right? Actually, cat panting is fairly common and has a variety of causes. Here’s everything you need to know

If you’ve had pets for most of your life, you’re probably familiar with dog panting. But when it comes to cats? Not so much. It can feel pretty alarming to suddenly spot your kitty is panting away in the corner.

Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that cats can and do sometimes pant. More often than not, cat panting is completely normal behaviour and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

But unfortunately, cat panting can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as heart failure or asthma. For this reason, it’s important to understand the causes of cat panting and know when it’s time to see the vet.

With that being said, let’s go - here’s everything you need to know about panting in cats:

Normal cat panting causes

They’re too hot

The sun is shining, you’ve smothered in suncream, the BBQ is sizzling - yep, pure summertime bliss! But suddenly, you notice your kitty is panting away in the shade and the question “why is my cat panting?!” is whirling round and round your head in fear.

If it’s a particularly hot day, your cat is probably just hot - it’s that simple! Dogs pant to cool themselves down, and although it’s not as common in cats, it’s not unheard of. 

Make sure your feline friend has access to water and add an ice cube to their bowl every couple of hours to keep it cool. You should also encourage your kitty to rest in the cool, dark room. If it’s sizzling and your kitty seems particularly uncomfortable, provide a cold, damp towel and rub an ice cube gently over their fur for relief.

They’re worn out

What happens to your breathing if you’ve been running around or have been taking part in a vigorous workout? It gets faster and deeper, and it’s completely normal. See what we’re getting at here?

Just like us, cats might pant after strenuous exercise or extended playtime. They simply require more oxygen and begin breathing rapidly to achieve this. If you notice cat panting after playing or exercise, just ensure that the panting stops shortly after your kitty begins to rest.

They’re stressed or anxious

Taken your kitty to the vets, to a cattery or out of their normal environment and noticed cat panting? Your kitty was probably just stressed.

Cats are creatures of routine. They like things to be the same, remain in their normal environment, and see the same people day in, day out. Any slight changes to this can cause significant stress - and in these cases, a little bit of panting is normal.

Your kitty’s breathing should go back to normal shortly after things settle down. You can try to ease kitty anxiety by easing them into new situations gradually, introducing them to any new family members or pets slowly, and keeping their feeding routine consistent.

Abnormal cat panting causes

They’ve got asthma

Asthma in cats can cause all sorts of breathing changes - from panting and coughing to wheezing. During an asthma attack, the passageways to a cat’s lungs thicken. It becomes difficult to take a deep breath, leading to prolonged panting.

If you suspect your cat’s panting is due to asthma, you should head to the vet as soon as you can for treatment. Symptoms of asthma in cats include coughing, rapid breathing, gasping, blue lips and gums, weakness and of course, panting.

They’ve got congestive heart failure

Sadly, heart failure is common in cats and often isn’t detected until the last minute. Feline heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to deliver sufficient amounts of blood to the body, leading to a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Symptoms of heart failure in cats include loss of appetite, tiredness, collapse, blue or grey gums and difficulty breathing. However, panting or gasping for air is another commonly reported symptom. Therefore, if there’s no visible cause for cat panting such as vigorous exercise or heat, it’s essential to seek help immediately.

They’ve got an upper respiratory infection

If you’ve noticed sniffles, sneezes, nose or eye discharge, cough and weakness alongside cat panting, your kitty might be suffering from an upper respiratory infection. 

The cause could be viral, though respiratory infections in cats often develop into a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics. If you suspect your kitty has an infection but still has an appetite and is otherwise well, give it a few days and see if it clears up on its own. Humidifiers might help to ease breathing difficulties.

If it doesn’t clear up naturally, get to the vet as your kitty might need medication to help shift it. At the same time, if at any time your cat appears lethargic and refuses to eat, seek help promptly.

Cat panting: what to do

As we’ve mentioned, cat panting has a range of causes - some normal and some more serious. If it’s obvious that your cat’s panting is due to exercise, stress, heat or playing but their breathing returns to normal quickly, there’s no need to worry.

If there’s no clear cause for the panting or if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms, we’d recommend heading to the vet as soon as you can:

  • Extremely loud, raspy, prolonged or rapid panting
  • Severe exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding away
  • Discoloured gums or tongue

If you’re unsure, it’s always best to ask your vet for advice - even if that’s just a quick phone call - rather than doing nothing. They’ll be happy to help you out and ensure your kitty isn’t suffering from anything suspicious.

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