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Why is My Cat Panting? (10 Cat Panting Signs To Look Out For)

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: November 2, 2022 - Author: Sara Beth Redding
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: October 24, 2022  
Author:  Sara Beth Redding

Is your cat breathing panting or breathing this way? This may just be because they are hot, but there may be something medical, such as asthma, causing your cat to be breathing very heavily.

If your pets are ever having issues breathing, it is best to take them to your veterinarian right away. 

why is my cat panting

Just to make sure that there is not anything medical causing them to have issues breathing.

Causes of Cat Panting

These are some of the most common reasons that your cat may be breathing very heavily or experiencing breathing difficulties.

If you notice your cat breathing heavily, panting or rapid breathing assess the situation based on the criteria we have outlined below and if you are concerned seek medical care immediately.

1. Overheating

When your cat is hot, it may breathe heavily and pant. This is their way of cooling themselves down. For many cats who are hot, you can offer cool water, bring them into an air-conditioned room, or place them in front of a fan. 

This will allow them to cool off. 

If they have suffered from heatstroke, it would be best that your cat sees your vet for IV fluids to help them cool down.

Top tip: If you think your cat has overheated, moisten its feet, pads, and ears with a cool, wet towel.

These are major heat areas on a cat and will help enormously. 

2. Heart Disease

Some breeds of cats are prone to congestive heart failure or another genetic heart disease. If your

cat is breathing heavily and coughing, it may have heart disease. Your vet can listen to your

cat’s heart and lungs to see if they do have heart issues. They can start them on medication to

help their heart function much better, and help them breathe normally.

3. Pain or Neurological Issues

Pain conditions, neurologic disorders, abdominal enlargement, and anemia can also cause cats to display heavy breathing or panting. 

Remember, they are super clever at disguising sickness, so don't be fooled.

cat panting

4. Blockages

Cats are commonly getting into things that they should not and eating things such as small pieces of fabric, brittle bones or strings. 

These can easily get caught in their mouth causing a blockage and leading them to have issues breathing.

Many times if you open your cat’s mouth you can see a string or a foreign material stuck in its mouth. 

If you have  issues looking in your cat’s mouth your vet can help by sedating your cat a little and inspecting their airways properly.

5. Lung cancer

If your cat has cancer in their lungs or has any mass growing in its lungs or airway it can cause them to pant. 

This can cause your cat’s lungs to not be able to fully expand and take in the right amount of oxygen. 

Certain types of lung cancer can be treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

Your vet can discuss all the different treatment options for your cat with you.

6. Respiratory issue

If your cat has an upper respiratory issue, it may be breathing heavily. Cats with an upper respiratory infection may develop pneumonia. 

You would also notice that your cat is coughing or has a discharge coming from its nose or eyes. Your vet would be able to give your cat antibiotics to help treat this infection. 

These infections are typically viral making difficult for cats to breathe, causing heavy breathing. 

If a secondary bacterial infection develops, your cat may need to be treated with antibiotics.

Humidifiers can help loosen mucus and ease nasal breathing as your cat recovers. 

7. Asthma 

Is in humans, Asthma is a treatable condition. Asthma can cause cats to cough, pant and wheeze.

Medications such as bronchodilators or corticosteroids are often taken in the treatment of asthma in cats.

why is my cat panting with her mouth open

8. Overweight

If your cat is overweight, it may breathe heavily. The extra weight around their lungs and

body can make it harder for them to breathe especially if they have been partaking in strenuous exercise.

Their fat also acts as an insulation to their body and can make your cat hotter. If your cat is overweight, decrease the amount of cat food that you are feeding them by 25% and try to make them exercise a little more. 

Even 5 minutes cat play each day can help your cat lose weight.

9. Stress

Some cats can easily become stressed especially when introduced to a new setting or new people.

These cats may want to find a place to hide but are unable to locate a spot. Cats will commonly pant when they first get to a veterinary clinic from the stress of the car ride and the new

environment. Trying to keep your cat as stress-free as possible will help keep them from panting as much. Also providing them with calming supplements when you do have to take them into a

stressful environment.

10. Medication

Certain medications, like opioids, may also cause heavy panting. 

Breeds of cats like Himalayan, Persian, and Burmese cat breeds are prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome, which can cause inflammation and restrict their breathing, thus causing panting.

What is the Normal Breath Rate in Cats?

One way to tell if your cat is breathing heavily or experiencing rapid breathing is to count how many breaths, they should take in a minute.

Their respiratory rate should normally be about 15 to 20 breaths each minute.

You should also not hear your cat breathing. Their lung sounds should sound just like yours do when you breathe. 

If you notice any symptoms such as labored breathing, harsh sounds, or crackling when they are breathing, your cat has an issue with its lungs and you will need to see your vet.

Cat Panting: Treatment

If you just start to notice that your cat is heavy breathing or panting, you can try a few things at home to help, such as keeping them calm and cool and trying to prevent them from moving around toomuch.

If no matter what you do at home, your cat is still having issues it would be best for them to see your vet or the emergency vet right away.

It is also best not to delay seeing your vet for breathing heavily as some conditions can be life-threatening.

Your vet will want to examine your cat and take x-rays of its chest.

They may also want to run bloodwork to see if your cat also has any other underlying conditions.

Your vet can discuss with you all the different tests that they need to do to figure out why your cat is breathing heavily.

Why is My Cat Panting? Summary

Some cats will breathe heavily, and display cat panting when they are not sick. 

Other times this is an early sign of a medical issue. It is always best that your cat sees your vet if they are panting and breathing heavily without stopping. 

Your vet can help determine what is causing them to breathe heavily and start them on preventative medication or treatment to help them breathe better. 

Many times, it is best to not delay seeking veterinary care if your cat is breathing very heavily, as many health conditions can be life-threatening if treatment is not started quickly.

Seek emergency care when spotting serious cases of loss of appetite, lethargy behavior, or any type of trauma.

About the author

Sara Beth Redding (née Ochoa), graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (‘DVM’) from St. George’s University Veterinary School in 2015, and has since worked at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her home life, she cares for four ‘fur kids’; two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.