As we already know, dogs pant frequently, whether it’s to regulate their body temperature or after a long run. This reaction is called thermoregulation, and it is essential for dogs to cool down and thus prevent their body from reaching high temperatures.
It is a natural mechanism in the dog that also makes it easier for oxygen to reach the blood. Unless it is a constant and chronic panting, in which case we could be facing a health problem, in the vast majority of cases the fact that a dog is panting is perfectly normal and is even a sign of health.
However, it is curious to think that if your cat starts panting, you will probably worry or at least be more alert. Panting occurs when the cat breathes rapidly and with its mouth open since normally its breathing does not usually present itself in this way.
In any case, panting in cats is not always the result of a health problem, but on some occasions, it can become normal behavior. Here are a number of situations in which the fact that your cat is panting should not worry you, and others in which it may be an indicator that your cat requires veterinary attention.
Why Is My Cat Panting?
Your cat can pant for various reasons. Some are normal and are no cause for concern. Others, you need to be concerned about.
When There is No Need for Worry
1. Physical effort
If your cat exerts excessive physical effort, either playing or chasing a small animal, it may be that its breathing accelerates. This can happen especially in cases of young cats that are playful or move around a lot. In these cases, the cat may need extra oxygen, so it will pant for a while until it returns to its normal breathing rhythm.
2. Stressful situation
In case your cat is subjected to a stressful situation, it can also gasp promptly. For example, if it is afraid during a certain situation (for example, when crossing with another animal), when it has to get in the car or when you take it to the vet.
These are all examples of situations in which the cat may suffer an episode of stress, which is normal and should not alarm you.
Likewise, your cat may react in this way to changes in the environment. This feeling of stress can cause your cat to pant but, as we said, it must be punctual or, at least, it must be evident that the cause is the stress that a particular situation produces. A clue to know if the panting is normal is to pay attention to whether it is a type of breathing that gradually returns to calm.
3. Hot weather
Another of the cases in which a cat can end up panting is if it goes outside when it is very hot. Panting would fulfill one of the functions like in the case of dogs, which is the fact that it keeps their body from getting too hot.
Thus, panting also helps cats to self-regulate their body temperature and to cool down in situations where they are very hot. For this reason, as cats suffer from the heat, it is better to keep the cat indoors on very hot days and that the interior temperature is comfortable.
In any case, we must also take into account what was stated in the previous point: this panting will not be a sign of an anomaly in your cat’s health as long as it is punctual and ends when your cat’s body temperature drops.
Another important thing to keep in mind on hot days is that cats should be able to take shelter in the shade and have access to fresh water.
When Should I Be Concerned?
Outside of the situations discussed above, when a cat is panting persistently and you do not know how to attribute a specific cause to this panting, it is recommended that you go to the vet.
Panting, which is characterized by being constant in cases in which the cat is not experiencing heat or is under any of the situations that, under common sense, can accelerate a cat’s breathing, can be a sign of various health anomalies.
Among them, a cat panting in this manner may be suffering from an upper respiratory infection, congestive heart failure, pain from a medical condition or injury, feline asthma, pleural effusion, or hyperthermia.
All these diseases require urgent medical attention, so you should take your cat to the vet to rule out abnormalities or determine the condition of your cat.
We describe some of these anomalies in more detail below:
1. Heart failure
Heart failure is most often caused by an abnormality called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM. This disease can be common among cats and mostly affects the middle-aged.
HCM occurs when the cat’s heart fail to pump enough blood to the rest of the body and, as a consequence, this fluid accumulates in the lungs. When this happens, the ventricles and walls of the heart thicken and can become hypertrophic. In addition to age, genetics is also relevant since it tends to affect the following breeds to a greater extent :
A curious and important fact is that some cats that suffer from HCM do not seem to show any symptoms of the disease. However, other cats may have one or some of the classic signs of HCM, such as shortness of breath, breathing too fast, or panting. Panting occurs when the cat breathes rapidly and with its mouth open. This type of breathing is produced by the accumulation of fluid in or in the lungs.
HCM can also be triggered by a thyroid abnormality, in cases where the cat suffers from high blood pressure, birth defects, or other conditions. As is well known, it can be difficult to tell that a cat is suffering from a disease of this type, since they do not cough or have many of the signs of heart failure typical of people.
Signs to watch for are panting and open-mouthed breathing, but it is also important to pay attention to whether the cat is lazier or is lethargic or difficult to move. In addition, it is also an indication that the cat becomes excessively tired with minimal effort, such as getting up or crossing a room at a calm pace. In cases where the disease is more advanced, they may show signs of paralysis in the legs due to the formation of blood clots. These obstructions occur most often in the hind limbs.
2. Feline asthma
One of the symptoms that a cat can present when suffering from feline asthma is panting. This disease usually occurs in cats with recurrent inflammation of the airways and lungs and is also called bronchitis.
Bronchitis can be chronic or allergic. In addition to panting, cats with feline asthma may have asthma attacks, during which they may have a severe, dry cough. These episodes can also be recognized by the cat’s posture since they tend to bend their shoulders and extend their neck to try to breathe through their mouth. In addition, the cat’s lips may turn somewhat blue since in these cases it will most likely present difficulties breathing, so it may lack oxygen.
Feline asthma can occur when a cat is subjected to stressful situations, such as being around a lot of smoke or being in contact with or near household chemicals. It can also occur in some cats with dust from cat litter. The cats most likely to suffer from this anomaly are cats that present obesity, heart conditions, or cats with a parasite, although it can affect any cat of any age and breed.
As in the case of dogs and many animals, hyperthermia can also cause your cat to pant. Hyperthermia occurs when your cat reaches higher body temperatures than usual, for example, as a result of heatstroke. In these situations, if your cat is in a humid, very warm, and poorly ventilated environment, it may start to pant.
These symptoms are an indication that the cat is suffering. The problem with these anomalies is that, if it is not acted on in time, the insolation can increase and cause great damage to the cat, both at the level of its internal organs and even brain damage.
In these situations, what happens to the cat that suffers from it is that its body temperature increases faster than its ability to lose heat and cool itself. This situation can occur even if the cat has been outdoors in very hot weather for too long.
In these cases, if the cat begins to pant sharply, take it indoors under cover from the sun and seek veterinary attention. Hyperthermia can have very serious consequences for cats, so you have to act immediately as soon as you become aware of the situation.
What usually happens is that we do not realize how harmful excess sun and heat are for animals, especially dogs and cats. They are extremely sensitive to this type of environmental state, although it does not seem so at first glance. The habit of leaving your dog or cat in the car on a midsummer day can cause serious damage and damage to their health enormously, so you should find another way to keep your cat or dog during that time.
It must be taken into account that in these situations, the cat does not have enough oxygen or ventilation and they cannot escape because they are locked in the vehicle. This carries a very high risk of serious damage to the cat’s health. The temperature that a car can reach under the sun is more than 40 degrees, so you have to be well aware of and avoid these harmful situations.
Conclusion – Why is My Cat Panting?
In most situations, when a cat is panting it is advisable to stay alert and watch it for the next several hours. Panting can be an indication that your cat is in pain.
Taking into account the above, panting in cats can be a sign that something is wrong or a natural reflection of their body. What is recommended is to use common sense and spend some time observing your cat and thinking if there is a very obvious cause of panting. As we have explained above, some of these causes can be exertion, excitement, stress, having remained in an environment that is too hot, etc.
The bottom line is this: If you notice your cat panting for no apparent reason, for example from exertion, stress, excitement, or extremely brief exposure to outside heat, see the vet as soon as possible.
Felines can have a multitude of potential medical problems at all stages of their life, so an early diagnosis of a condition in which panting is a sign is critical to successful treatment and healing.