Cat Panting – What You Need to Know

cat panting

If you have ever been a dog parent before, you probably know that in this species, panting is somewhat of a normal occurrence. Dogs use panting to regulate their body temperature, so they resort to it when they’re too hot.

Cats, on the other hand, do not rely on panting for the same reasons. This means that our feline friends should almost never pant unless they’ve been engaging in extremely strenuous exercise.

But what else can cause cats to pant? When should you be worried? When should you go to the animal hospital? We’re answering all of these questions and more in today’s article.

Why Do Cats Pant?

Panting is not a physiological behavior in cats, which means that something is wrong in some way or the other.

Unfortunately, it is a symptom that tends to affect geriatric cats rather than adults and kittens, and it almost always appears in potentially life-threatening health complications.

Pain

If your cat has recently sustained trauma, has gone through surgery, or something else might have caused her to be in pain, she might use panting as a way of soothing herself.

More often than not, though, cats will use purring to try to decrease their pain levels rather than resorting to panting instead. If you didn’t know, some frequencies of purring can have healing properties.

Stress

Feline panting can usually be a result of stress or anxiety, which can happen in a myriad of situations. From taking your feline friend to the vet clinic to adding another cat or dog to your family, there are lots of things that can stress your pet out.

However, in most of these situations, your cat will pant for a limited amount of time — until the stress-inducing factor is eliminated. Some other signs that you might be able to notice in a stressed cat can be withdrawal, appetite changes, or inappropriate marking.

Respiratory Infections

Any respiratory infection, whether it affects the upper or lower respiratory tract, can lead to panting — this phenomenon is a way that cats use to try to increase their breathing capacity.

Respiratory infections can be caused by anything from viruses to bacteria (and even fungi, in some cases). Other symptoms you might be able to notice if your pet is suffering from a respiratory infection are coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy, loss of appetite, and wheezing. Take your cat to the vet as soon as you see any of these signs.

Heartworm

If you didn’t know, cats can also get heartworm, and it can cause heaps of symptoms, some of which can be quite worrying. Cats that have heartworm will pant, cough, and generally have difficulty breathing, so they have to be taken to the animal hospital as soon as possible.

Since treating this disease in cats can be very challenging, if not impossible, we suggest taking your pet to the vet for two check-ups a year and having a talk with your veterinarian about what monthly dewormers you can give your cat for prevention.

Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure tends to affect a variety of cats, sometimes regardless of their age, gender, or health status. Senior pets are much more likely to develop it, especially if they don’t receive the appropriate care and if they are continuously fed a homemade diet of scraps (containing salt, for example).

There’s also a predisposition in terms of breeds, as some studies have found that Maine Coons are more likely to suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Almost all cardiac health issues are also associated with respiratory changes, so cats are likely to pant, cough, and have a much harder time breathing on the whole if they have heart problems.

Asthma

Cats can suffer from asthma just as much as humans can. It’s estimated that around 1% to 5% of all cats are going to develop or be born with feline asthma or at least a form of asthmatic bronchitis.

Cats that are getting close to an asthma attack are going to pant, cough, strain to breathe, and even vomit in an attempt to inhale the air they need. Unfortunately, asthma can be life-threatening when not treated as soon as possible, so if you see your cat exhibiting such worrying respiratory symptoms, get veterinary assistance right away.

Can Panting in Cats Be Considered ‘normal’?

Although panting is not usually a physiological mechanism that cats can use similarly to dogs, it might occur in some situations where your pet is just not sick. For example, if your cat is a bit older and slightly overweight, she might pant after a particularly heavy play session.

The same goes for stressful circumstances where you have to take her to the vet clinic, board her when you go on vacation, or clean your home.

Some cats might breathe with their mouths open but not pant, and they usually do this to better feel the smell of something.

When to Go to the Vet

If you know for sure that the reason for your cat’s panting is either overheating or a too heavy play session, you can just do your best to calm and cool her down. Take your pet to a cool room and give her some water. You can even place cool compresses on her ears.

If your cat is showing any worrying symptoms, such as having shallow breathing, wheezing, weird colors of the visible mucous membranes (such as blue gums), and she also vomits when trying to pant heavily, you have to go to the emergency vet clinic right away.

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