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Why Do Cats Pant? 8 Reasons

We often see dogs panting and don’t assume that it is a cause for concern. However, cats don’t tend to pant often. So what does it mean when they do? And is there anything you can do to calm your cat down when it happens?

Why do Cats Pant? 8 Reasons

Cats typically don’t breathe through their mouths. A cat’s normal breathing rhythm should be quite smooth with a normal rate being 15 to 30 breaths per minute on average. Panting means that your cat is putting quite a bit of effort into getting back to normal.

So if your cat is panting it is best to take a look at why this might be the case and then figure out if you need to act.

white cat with mouth open

1. They are excited

Kittens can pant more than older cats. This is because they are learning to regulate their behaviour so may over exert themselves with excitement and then need to pant to calm down.

Cute kitten playing red clew of thread on artificial green grass

2. They’re hot

Outdoor cats in particular can use panting to cool down if it is hot outside. To cool down cats will sweat a little through their paw pads, lick their fur, get somewhere shady or find somewhere cool to lie down.

Closeup shot of a short-haired white cat with black spots in the pyramids of Egypt

However, cats can suffer from heatstroke so if it is a particularly warm day try to move your cat to a cooler location. If they are also restless, lethargic or drooling it is worth checking in with your vet to see if they have overheated.

3. Stress or Anxiety

Cats can pant when they visit the vet. This could be because they associate the vet with pain or because the way they have gotten to the vet is stressful eg in a carrier or carrier and a car if they don’t often leave the house.

vet puts grey cat on scales

Cats may also become stressed if strangers visit your home or if there is a new pet in the house. Any major changes to your cat’s home environment could cause stress and trigger panting.

4. Breathing Issues

Does your cat cough as well as pant? They may have respiratory issues such as cat asthma or some form of bronchitis. Up to 5% of cats are thought to suffer from feline asthma. Like humans, cat asthma can be controlled but major attacks can be life-threatening.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heart

5. Heart Problems

If your older cat is panting, this can be a sign of congestive heart failure. Heart disease in cats often goes undetected until disaster strikes.

6. Heartworm

Heartworm in cats can cause panting and other breathing issues. This is a disease that is more associated with dogs than cats but cats can still develop the illness. Even indoor cats may be bitten by mosquitos if near an open window. My cat loves to lie in windowsills and this is another place where they may be bitten.

Unrecognizable veterinarian cleaning ears of a cat with cotton buds.

Heartworm can be fatal so do see your vat quickly for treatment.

7. Other Medical Conditions

Panting in cats can also be a sign of anemia, trauma, neurologic disease or a distended abdomen.

8. Breed

Some cat breeds are known to pant more often than others. Long-haired breeds are the most likely to pant particularly Persians (narrow nostrils), Maine Coons, and Himalayans.

white maine coon cat

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Maine Coons are also more prone to be affected by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Panting can be one of the signs of this condition.

How much Cat Panting is too much?

If your cat pants infrequently and/or after a serious play session this is generally not something to worry about. The panting to watch out for is the type that stays for a while. If your cat’s panting is persistent it is time to seek professional help.

tabby siberian with mouth open why do cats pant

Do check for common sense explanations. If your cat has been chasing a fly across the room or you have had a vigorous workout with a feather toy then it is normal for it to pant. The same goes for if it is a hot day. However, normal panting won’t last very long in cats.

If the panting is combined with other unusual symptoms such as lack of appetite, lethargy, or anything else that isn’t typical then definitely seek professional help quickly.

How Can I stop my Cat from Panting?

The most common standard reason that cats pant is they are too warm. The first thing to do is to move your cat. If you’re outdoors move them to a cooler location or into the shade. If they’re inside then move them to a cooler part of the house or where there is an air conditioner or fan.

tabby cat in shower

Ideally, your cat would then drink some water but many cats don’t like to drink much water. If this is the case with your cat soak some type of tissue/towel/scarf in cold water and apply it to your cats ears, neck and paws. Add a few drops to their head.

If you’re away from home this may be the time to head home. But do be careful as of course most cars will become hot in warm weather. Make sure you get the air conditioning working, windows down and a cooler temperature before you let your cat get in.

cat with head out car window

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If you think your cat is panting because it has overexerted itself, follow the same tips to cool it down. If you are out and about and your cat has had too much make sure you have a cat carrier or backpack on hand so that they can get in and relax.

If you’re not sure why your cat is panting, try to remove them from the situation they are in. Many cats don’t like big open spaces – this is why it is important to have some type of carrier or backpack on hand so that they can get into an area where they feel safe.

Cat looks out of blue cat carrier

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Other FAQs around Cat Panting

1. Why is my cat panting with her mouth open?

This can be a sign that your cat is extremely hot, very stressed, or that they are ill.

2. Is panting a sign of pain in cats?

A cat in pain may breathe in a more shallow way or faster when they are in pain and this may become a pant. Cats tend to behave in ways that are out of the norm for them when they are in pain. This can range from lots of meowing to loss of appetite to obsessive grooming – and of course panting.

cat tongue licking up close

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Do remember that your cat can’t tell you when and where it is in pain so it is always best to seek out a vet if you have any doubts.

3. Why do cats dislike panting noises?

Panting is generally a sign of nervousness. If your cat sees you panting it may take this as a sign that you are going to challenge it. If your cat believes this it will react aggressively.

tabby cat growling

Cat Panting in Conclusion

Most of the time a panting cat isn’t a cause for concern. As an owner the key thing to look at is what could be causing this behaviour and use common sense. Remove your cat from the stressful situation or help it to cool down. If the panting persists then it is time to contact your vet.

Cat in a veterinary clinic hairdresser doing beauty care

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