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Cats and Panting

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A white kitten lies on their back panting on a blue carpet

Dogs pant all the time, but did you know cats pant, too? Although canines and felines exhibit the same behavior, it can be for different reasons. So, why do cats pant?

What Does It Mean When a Cat Pants?

There are various underlying reasons why a cat may be panting, including body temperature regulation, stress or nervousness, heart issues, respiratory disease, or overexertion. Excessive, long-term panting in felines usually signifies a noteworthy problem, and it’s recommended that you seek medical attention.

Is It Normal for Cats to Pant?

Unlike dogs who pant all the time, with cats, panting is not considered to be normal. For some felines, it can even be uncomfortable or distressing having to breath out of their mouth instead of their nose. In some instances, such as your cat trying to catch their breath after playing, a short period of panting is OK but should cease in only a handful of minutes.

Do Cats Pant When They’re Stressed?

Out of all the reasons cats pant, stress may be the most common cause. Cats can become stressed for any number of reasons, including:

  • A new pet or baby in the home
  • The family going on vacation
  • Major changes to the house
  • Storms or bad weather passing over
  • Having to ride in their carrier
  • Visiting the veterinarian

Not to mention, if you have a fastidious feline, the list of items that can be bothersome to your friend can become extensive.

If you’re wondering how to know when your cat is panting due to anxiety and not another reason, you can look at their comprehensive body language. Anxiety-related cues include:

  • Hair standing up
  • Tail flicking
  • Holding tail tight to body
  • Ears flat against head
  • Aggression
  • Crouched body
  • Quickened breathing
  • Trying to run and hide or freezing in place

If you notice these signs, it’s important to quickly remove your cat from the stressful situation or remove the item triggering your cat’s anxiety.

Why Do Cats Pant in the Car?

Whether it be their dislike of being in their carrier, motion sickness, or knowing that car rides mean a trip to the veterinarian, many felines don’t enjoy riding in cars. This is why it’s not unusual for cats to pant in cars—they’re in a situation they aren’t fond of and one that stresses them out.

To help reduce the chances of your cat panting excessively, cool down your car by parking it in the shade, putting the windows down, or turning the air conditioning on before your cat gets in.Whenever your cat is in the vehicle, be sure to turn the air vents so that they’re directed toward your cat’s carrier, guaranteeing that they are getting cool air circulation.

If you have a longer drive to your veterinarian’s office or believe your cat’s symptoms in the car are not getting better (they start drooling or appear weak), talk with your veterinarian about options to help. These could include a pheromone spray, calming or motion sickness treats, or prescription medication.

Do Cats Pant When They’re Happy?

Cats typically do not pant when they’re happy. That said, overexertion, which can happen after playing with their feline or canine siblings or after a zoomie, can cause your cat to pant. This is usually more common in kittens. Your pal may take a sudden break in the middle of a play session, catch their breath, and then continue romping around. However, you should always keep an eye on your young pet to ensure they aren’t overdoing it.

This behavior is nothing to worry about as long as your cat returns to normal breathing after just a few minutes. If heavy breathing and panting continue for an extended period and are accompanied by other symptoms, such as staggered walking, you should contact your veterinarian for medical advice.

How Do You Calm a Cat Down from Panting?

To calm your cat down from panting, determine what is causing them to pant in the first place. Once the underlying issue is determined, you can begin working to help make your cat feel better.

  • Overexertion from running or playing
    • If your cat doesn’t naturally take a break, encourage them to rest for a minute or two or place them in a quiet room away from their four-legged playmates. Think of this as a kitty quiet time.

  • Overheating
    • Cats can’t sweat like people when they need to cool down and regulate their temperature. Panting allows them to lower their body heat. To help, make sure your cat always has clean drinking water, shady spots to rest, and either air conditioning or a fan when temperatures are high. Heatstroke can affect a cat of any breed or age, and it’s crucial to take preventive measures.

  • Asthma
    • Cats can get asthma—just like people. This pulmonary disease can cause various breathing-related symptoms such as wheezing, rapid or difficulty breathing, coughing, mouth breathing, and panting. Feline asthma requires an official medical diagnosis, but treatment options exist.

  • Anxiety
    • As mentioned previously, there are any number of scenarios (and items!) that can cause stress to a feline. When your cat begins showing the corresponding body language of no longer being relaxed and happy, try to remove the stressor or your cat from the environment.

  • Pain
    • There are a few reasons why your feline could be experiencing pain, like an injury. Whenever this occurs, your cat will show irregular signs such as a lowered appetite, changes in mobility, excessive vocalization, increased pulse, and panting. If your cat is experiencing a combination of any of these symptoms, it’s crucial that you take them to get a check-up as soon as possible.

  • Sickness
    • Various illnesses, infections, diseases, or even cancers could lead your cat to pant. Similar to any injury, if you suspect that your best pal is being affected by an underlying health condition, it’s essential that you contact your veterinarian.

  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome
    • Brachycephalic cats are those that have flat, smooshed faces. Some of these breeds include Persian, Himalayan, Burmese, British Shorthair, and Exotic Shorthair cats. Due to abnormalities in their nasal and airway structures, these felines get tired and out of breath quickly. It can also result in them overheating faster, needing to breathe out of their mouth instead of their nose, and naturally panting more frequently.

Although cats pant for many reasons, it’s essential to know when the situation becomes concerning. For instance, if panting continues past a handful of minutes and your cat’s breathing hasn’t returned to normal, you may want to monitor for other worrisome signs or symptoms. You’ll want to pay attention if your feline friend appears to have difficulty breathing in general. You can better monitor this by watching your cat’s belly as it moves with the airflow.

You’ll also want to keep a keen eye out for any discoloration (blue or purple) of their tongue or, if they’re lying down, refusing to move for an extended period. These all justify contacting your veterinarian or local emergency animal clinic.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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