Panting In Cats – It May Not Be Normal

Author: Dr. Jason Nicholas

Published: June 7, 2022

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why is cat pantingWhat You Need to Know About Panting in Cats

People have asked us over the years whether it was normal for a cat to pant. Here’s the “skinny” on panting in cats.

Panting may be a normal response for a cat that has just exercised or exerted itself (think serious laser pointer session, or running around with another family pet). It may also be a normal response for a stressed cat (think car trip or a visit to the vet). And it may be a normal response for an overheated cat (think no air conditioner on a warm day).

You’ll notice that I’ve highlighted the word “may” here, and not by mistake. It’s because sometimes the panting can be occurring coincidentally at those times, and yet be the result of and a sign of a significant underlying disease or injury.

There are quite a few conditions that can be associated with panting in cats. If a cat’s panting happens often and isn’t always clearly associated with exercise/exertion, stress, or increased environmental temperatures, then there’s a far greater chance that the panting is a result of one of these conditions:

  • Pain
  • “Thyroid storm” associated with undiagnosed or uncontrolled hyperthyroidism
  • Congestive heart failure — hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is one of the most common types of heart disease in cats
  • Pyothorax — infection within the chest cavity, surrounding the lungs
  • Pleuritis — inflammation of the lungs
  • Fever/Hyperthermia — from an infection, cancer, or another problem
  • Central Nervous System (think “brain”) diseases can cause panting — including trauma, tumors, infections, and others.
  • Conditions resulting in “acid-base imbalances” — including diabetic ketoacidosis, and urinary obstruction (panting can result from the acid-base imbalance, as well as the pain and abnormal heart rhythms associated with a blocked urinary tract)

When you’re in doubt or concerned about your cat’s panting episodes, you should always check with a veterinarian. Many of the conditions listed above can deteriorate rapidly, and some can even be quickly fatal. Fortunately, several can be well managed when caught and treated early enough.

Cats Panting – Some Examples

Here's a cat that's panting during a good romp with a feather toy. He starts really panting about 50 seconds into the video.

 

Here's a cat panting from, most likely, the stress of being in the car and over-heating. (BTW: A cat being loose in the car is not something we recommend – it's not safe... for anyone!)

 

I hope this helps to answer a question that you may have been wondering about. If you're concerned please bring your cat to see your veterinarian.

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About the author

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Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Nicholas graduated with honors from The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and completed his Internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nicholas spent many years as an emergency and general practice veterinarian obsessed with keeping pets safe and healthy. He is the author of Preventive Vet’s 101 Essential Tips book series.

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