Why is My Cat Panting and Should I Be Worried?

Seeing your cat panting might not be something that cat owners have experienced. While we associate it with dogs, a panting cat is also relatively common.

Some of the reasons cats pant are the same as dogs, while others are different. Understanding these and what steps you might need to take is a good idea if you encounter the situation.

Grab the Puuurrr-fect Planner to keep track of your cat’s health and well-being ON SALE NOW!

Let’s examine why your cat is panting and whether you should be worried about it.

Why is My Cat Panting?

Cats exchange heat in their bodies differently than humans because they don’t sweat from pores all over their bodies.

Instead, they sweat through small pads on the bottom of their paws. Sometimes when their body temperature is high, they need to release more heat than they can achieve with their paw pads.

Cat sitting against a rock panting with greenery around it

This is the primary reason a cat pants, which you may see on a hot day, although not as common as with dogs.

The other main reason your cat may pant is that they are stressed. Stress can cause them to heat up and pant, so if your cat is panting in specific situations, this may be the problem.

For example, if you have them in a cat carrier and they get stressed during the car ride to the vet, you may see panting. Removing them from the stressful situation as quickly as possible is essential to avoid complications.

Sometimes cats can pant because they have overexerted themselves. This is most common in kittens and young cats, where they have run around for a while, play with toys or other physical activities, and sit still.

In this situation, the cat’s heavy breathing is perfectly normal and should stop within a short time once they have caught its breath. If the panting is paired with staggering or weakness, then this may require emergency care from your vet.

Abnormal Breathing and Panting

There are a few other reasons cats pant, which can be more worrying and a sign that your feline friend has a medical condition. Abnormal breathing is called dyspnea and usually involves rapid breathing.

Four main conditions could include this, and all of them mean you should get your pet to see a vet as soon as possible. If you notice panting lasting for 5 minutes or more after a stressful event has finished, then it is time to seek out your vet.

Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections can make breathing hard for a cat, leading to heavy breathing or panting. Most of the time, these are connected to viral infections that lead to secondary bacterial infections.

Your vet often gives them antibiotics to treat the conditions and return their breathing to normal.

Sometimes chest X-rays may be needed to see what’s happening, and the vet may need to reduce any fluid buildup in the lungs as the first thing before other treatment of the respiratory issues can take place.


Feline asthma is something that cats can suffer from and usually involves respiratory rate increases, panting, coughing, and wheezing.

Cat in the middle of a sneeze

It may happen after strenuous exercise or if they are stressed, so it is similar to these medical conditions in humans.

While there’s no cure for it, once diagnosed, your vet can recommend supportive care to make the condition easier for your cat and mean that if they have an asthma attack, you know what to do, and there’s a treatment plan in place if needed.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart disease is a very serious condition involving a build-up of excess fluid in and around the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing and respiratory distress. It is most common in older cats.

Panting, coughing, and rapid breathing are common signs of these medical issues. Vets can often use medication to help manage heart problems. Certain cat breeds are more prone to this kind of condition, including Maine Coon, Ragdoll, British Shorthair, Persian, and Sphynx.


Heartworm disease can lead to panting and heavy breathing. This can be fatal for cats, so preventative medicine is always good to give your cat each month and reduce the chances of infection.

It is usually treated with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, but oxygen therapy may be required in more severe cases.

Other reasons that can lead to abnormal or excessive panting include anemia, neurologic disorders, abdominal enlargement, pain, trauma, and injury. 

What Should I Do With a Panting Cat?

A panting cat doesn’t always mean a trip to the vet, but it is worth being aware of the difference between normal panting and serious health issues.

If the cat is struggling to breathe, lying down and not moving a lot, or forcing the air by moving their stomach muscles, monitor their breathing rate. If it is more than 40 breaths a minute, this is respiratory distress and should be seen by an emergency vet if it continues for 5 minutes or more.

If they pant for a shorter time and then stop, this behavior is likely triggered by something they have been doing.

Final Thoughts on Why Is My Cat Panting?

Most of the time, panting for cats is normal behavior, and nothing that indicates any underlying conditions. However, there can be times when a cat’s panting means something more serious is happening, and you must take a trip to the vet’s office for further medical advice. 

Understanding the type of panting can help you spot these issues along with conditions such as hot weather making them overheat or the stress of something around the house.

Once you know what sort of panting your cat is experiencing, you can better decide if you need help.

Grab the Puuurrr-fect Planner to keep track of your cat’s health and well-being ON SALE NOW!