Why Do Cats Pant

No cat parent ever wants to worry about their kitty. But there are some signs and symptoms that just can’t ever be safely ignored.

Many first-time cat owners don’t even know if cats pant. Most people associate panting with dogs, not cats.

Even experienced cat owners may wonder if what they are seeing is cat panting and if they should worry.

In this article, we define what cat panting is, why cats do it, what it means and what you should do if you see your cat panting.

Why Do Cats Pant

As Greencross Veterinary Clinic highlights, cat panting is a sign that something is wrong with your cat.

This means you should always consult a qualified feline veterinarian if your cat starts panting.

Learn About Cat Panting from a Feline Veterinarian

In this YouTube video, a feline veterinarian explains why it is important not to overlook cat panting.

Cats that start panting may be suffering from a wide variety of different issues. Read on to learn about common reasons why cats pant and what to do.

What Is Cat Panting

If you have never seen a cat pant before, you may not be sure what you are looking at the first time your cat does it.

When dogs pant, often it is just their way of keeping cool. But cats don’t usually cool themselves off by panting as dogs do.

When cats pant, the most common reason is that they are having trouble breathing.

Cat panting looks a lot like a dog panting, where the mouth is partially open and tongue is partially extended and breathing is shallow. So if you could easily see a dog doing what you see your cat doing, it is probably cat panting.

Since cats often lay down while panting, if your cat is laying down it is even more likely to be panting you are seeing.

However, to be sure, always take your cat to the veterinarian for a medical diagnosis.

What Is the Difference Between Normal and Abnormal Cat Panting

Memphis Animal Emergency Center explains that occasionally cats will pant simply to cool down after becoming overheated.

However, this is very, very rare.

PetMD explains that cats have also been seen to pant in cases of severe anxiety or stress. However, this is also rare.

If the panting you are seeing does not resolve quickly or keeps recurring even when your cat is not overheated, it is much less likely to be related to body temperature or stress alone.

The Most Common Reasons Why Cats Will Pant

So if there is something amiss with your cat and they are panting, what could be causing it?

In this section, we will identify and briefly explain the most common reasons why cats will pant. However, there may be additional reasons why your cat pants, and only a feline veterinarian can diagnose the exact cause.


Trudell Animal Health clinic points out that asthma is actually fairly common in cats today.

Asthma impacts the lining of the lungs. As the lining gets inflamed, it causes wheezing, coughing, and panting.


Another sadly common cause of cat panting is heartworm. In serious cases, a cat may develop Heartworm Association Respiratory Disease (HARD), which causes coughing, wheezing, and panting.

Respiratory infection (cat flu)

Cats, like people, can get the flu. But in cats, this means an infection of the upper respiratory system.

Infection of the respiratory system may result from viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.

Coughing, wheezing, panting, and sneezing are all warning signs of cat flu.

Dyspnea or tachypnea

As Small Door Veterinary clinic explains, cats can develop difficulty breathing or rapid breathing for a variety of reasons.

Both can result in cat panting as the cat struggles to control their respiration and take insufficient oxygen.

Congestive heart failure and pleural effusion

Feline congestive heart failure causes the area inside the lungs to fill with fluid. Pleural effusion causes the area around the lungs to fill with fluid.

Coughing, panting, wheezing and rapid breathing are all possible symptoms associated with congestive heart failure.


There are times when trauma to the chest or face may cause cat panting. While there is no doubt that most cats are incredible athletes, cats are still quite capable of sustaining injury while exploring, climbing, or leaping up and down.


As VCA Animal Hospital points out, abdominal enlargement or bloat can cause cats to pant.

There are a number of potential triggers for abdominal bloating or dissension ranging from fluid buildup to parasites to adrenal disease.

Brachycephalic muzzle shape

Some cat breeds – most notably the ones with a “smushed in” facial appearance – can struggle to breathe easily throughout life.

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, or BOAS, affects many animals with the shortened muzzle shape that causes crowding of the airways and trouble breathing.

Cat panting in brachycephalic cat breeds may be more common while drinking and eating.

What To Do If You Think Your Cat Is Panting

As you now know, cat panting can develop due to a wide variety of environmental and systemic health issues.

Your cat may begin panting due to overheating, stress or anxiety, or underlying health issues.

But what should you do if you see your cat start to pant?

The one thing you should not do is panic. It is important for you to stay calm. The first thing you want to do is take immediate measures to keep your cat calm and comfortable.

Help your cat cool down

If you think your cat is panting due to overheating, immediately bring your cat to a cool shady area to rest. You can offer water and tie a chilled bandanna around their neck or lay it across their body.

You can also wet your cat’s head, lips, or paw pads with cool water to help them cool down faster through evaporation.

Look for any signs of severe distress

While feline abdominal bloating is relatively rare, it is always urgent. Be sure to gently palpate your cat’s abdomen to look for signs of bloating.

If you find any evidence of abdominal distension, rush your cat to the nearest veterinary urgent care.

Make an appointment with your feline veterinarian

The most common health-related causes for cat panting range from environmental to emotional to physical health issues.

It is important to consider what was going on just before your cat started panting.

Keeping a journal of panting episodes and what happened just prior to your cat starting to pant may help you isolate the possible causes.

Cats that are scared of their cat carrier, car rides, or veterinary exams might pant more often in these types of environmental situations.

A cat with a short muzzle type might start panting after playing vigorously, drinking water, or eating dinner.

And as Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine highlights, a cat with feline asthma may be more likely to pant during times of high seasonal pollen counts.

Since there are so many possible triggers for cat panting, it is vital to have your feline veterinarian examine your cat to make an accurate diagnosis.

There are many veterinary treatments that can potentially be effective for respiratory symptoms management even if there is no way to cure your cat of the underlying cause of cat panting.

Why Do Cats Pant