Why Is My Cat Panting?

Seeing your cat panting might leave you feeling confused–since it’s a behavior normally associated with dogs. However, cats pant under certain conditions and not all of those circumstances are cause for alarm. Below are the most common reasons that answer the question, “Why is my cat panting?”

cat panting


The main causes of cat panting are listed below:

Stress and Anxiety

A cat may pant if they are experiencing a high level of stress or anxiety. While their circumstances might not seem dire to a human, they can feel stressful for your feline. Although this is not a common stress response, some cats pant when faced with unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations.

What could spur such a reaction? Below are a few common scenarios.

Car Rides

Many felines tolerate car rides, while others simply can’t stand them. The stress of being inside a moving vehicle can cause some to pant. Ensure your cat’s carrier is well-ventilated if this is a typical reaction for them.

Trips to the Vet

Most pets find a trip to the vet’s office nerve-racking to some degree. Some felines find it so stressful that they’ll pant through the entire visit. Consult your vet for recommended calming treats or medication if it becomes concerning.

A Big Move

Moving is stressful for most people, and it’s especially anxiety-inducing for cats. If your feline is suddenly panting during a big move, consider that your cue to make them as comfortable as possible to calm them down. Have a plan ready if that’s their usual reaction­–such as making sure they have their favorite blankets, water, food and a quiet space away from the noise.

Planning ahead can minimize the stress and anxiety your fur baby feels and make them less likely to pant for long. Their favorite comforts are a big help and can be easily included in your action plan.

Heat Exhaustion

Cats are not as efficient at cooling off as other animals. They have fewer sweat glands and a dense fur coat that makes it more difficult to stay cool in hot weather. Heat exhaustion can cause them to pant in an effort to regulate their body temperature.

Panting during hot weather isn’t a warning sign on its own–but if your cat looks lethargic and disoriented as they are panting, it could be a sign of heat stroke. To avoid such complications, keep your feline indoors during hot days and have fresh, cool water accessible at all times.

Rigorous Play or Exercise

Your furry friend may have chased their siblings too fast or may have overestimated their fitness level. Panting after rigorous play or exercise is a way for cats to bring their body temperature back down.

This is usually not cause for alarm as long as this behavior is not accompanied by other symptoms. Access to fresh water can help them hydrate and cool off faster. Sometimes, new toys cause cats to overexert themselves due to excitement and novelty. If your cat starts panting during playtime with you, take a break and give them time to catch their breath.

Respiratory Issues

Panting can be a sign of respiratory issues that require medical care. For example, cats experiencing asthma may pant because of narrowed airways. Not getting enough oxygen can cause permanent damage and may lead to death–which is why this condition needs to be regulated.

After consulting with your vet about treatment, you can do your part by keeping your home clean and free of allergens like dust or mold.


When a cat is injured, they may pant as a stress response to pain and discomfort. Pay attention to additional symptoms that could indicate your feline is in pain. Below are a few common symptoms that an injured cat may exhibit.

More Vocal Than Usual

Cats that are meowing, hissing, yowling, or growling more than usual may be trying to communicate that they are in pain.

Changes in Eating Habits

If your feline has a change in their appetite, this can indicate discomfort. Changes can include a loss of appetite or overeating.

Differences in Behavior

Notable differences in behavior–like a feline who is normally affectionate suddenly withdrawing–can be a sign that they are experiencing pain.

Decreased Physical Activity

Cats are masters at hiding physical pain. Fortunately, this telltale sign can help you determine if they are injured or have a medical condition. Decreased physical activity–or avoiding certain activities they used to partake in regularly–is a good indicator that something has changed. While it could simply be boredom with their old routine, it could also be a hidden injury. Not all injuries are life-threatening, but it’s best to catch them early. You can do this by noting behavioral changes in your feline and consulting a vet.

Excess Weight

Obesity can cause faster overexertion, which can lead to panting. Since cats with excess weight are more prone to health problems, they need your help with weight management.

Some good practices for feline weight management include:

Portion Control

If your cat is prone to overeating, limiting access to food can help them lose weight. An automatic pet feeder can help you achieve this.

Treat Limitations

Many cats don’t know how to say no to more treats. Because of this, it’s up to you to limit their daily treat intake.

More Exercise

Scheduling regular playtime with your feline not only strengthens your bond with them but also helps them get more exercise. This additional physical activity will help them lose weight. Once your feline is at a healthier weight, they may be able to handle more exercise without panting. Consult your vet for a tailored weight loss plan.

Contact a Veterinarian if You Are Concerned About Your Cat’s Panting

While panting is not normal behavior for your feline, it can often be managed by addressing the root cause. Paying attention to patterns in your cat’s behavior can help you understand their usual stress responses versus a more serious condition.

After all, your fur baby depends on you to keep them healthy and safe–and being mindful of their breathing patterns is one way to do just that. For more information, or if you would like to speak to a veterinarian, contact Veterinary Medical Center of St. Lucie by calling (772) 337-8570. Your pet’s health and well-being is very important to us.