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Why is My Cat Panting: Causes and Effects of Panting in Cats

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Seeing your cat panting can cause significant anxiety. It is common for dogs to pant or breathe heavily in the summers or after a walk. However, panting in cats is not as common. 

Veterinarians can attest to the fact that cats generally do not breathe with their mouths open. 

When is it alright for cats to pant?

Panting in cats is acceptable and almost normal in only a few instances. Cats can pant when –

  • Anxious
  • Stressed
  • Overheated

So, if your kitty is panting after an intense session of playing or running about, it can be considered normal. However, if this happens, try to switch the AC on and allow your cat to rest. Give them plenty of cool water. 

Full mackerel kitten with almond shaped green eyes playing with a blue feather toy. Panting in cats and kittens is common on a hot day after an intense play session.

If you are still not sure why your cat is panting you should take them to a veterinarian near you without wasting any time. 

My cat is panting: Signs of emergency in cats

In most cases, panting in cats will be accompanied by at least one of the following symptoms –

  • Blue or purple-tinged gums
  • White or pale gums 
  • Noisy breathing 
  • Coughing 
  • Hiding 
  • Lethargy 
  • Complete loss of appetite
  • Excess drooling
  • Visibly blocked nostrils 
  • Holding the head above the body level at all times

If you notice even one of the signs and symptoms we have mentioned above, you should rush your cat to the pet clinic in your neighbourhood or a veterinary emergency care clinic near you. 

What are the possible causes of panting in cats?

Panting or open-mouthed breathing in cats is typically concerning. Here are the 5 most concerning reasons your cat can be panting. 

1. Upper respiratory tract infection in cats (URTI or URI)

Mackerel kitten wrapped in a baby blue blanket, only face, ears and two front paws visible. sleeping with a thermometer. fever is a common cause of panting in cats and kittens.

Upper respiratory tract infection is quite common among unvaccinated cats and it is highly contagious. Common URIs in cats are caused by the Rhinotracheitis virus or Calicivirus. 

Even vaccinated cats can catch the infection. However, they take a shorter time to recover and may experience milder symptoms as compared to feral or unvaccinated cats. Kittens are most susceptible to URIs. 

Other symptoms of a URI can include a high temperature. Your cat may pant with their tongue out and they may drool excessively. 

Do not try to treat your cat with antibiotics and fever medication at home. Always take them to a pet clinic near you that’s equipped with the necessary facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of URIs in cats.

2. Asthma in cats

Allergic asthma in cats is common. It is a treatable and manageable condition. 

When a cat is panting due to asthma they will also have a high respiratory rate along with dry coughing, wheezing and open-mouthed breathing. 

Do not try to give anti-allergic to your cat orally in this situation. You need to contact a vet doctor near you for proper treatment. Your cat may need injections of corticosteroids and nebulisation with bronchodilators.

You can remove indoor plants and install air purifiers at home to prevent similar allergic attacks from recurring. 

3. Heat stroke in catsOrange tabby outdoor kitten looking sad and sick. Kittens are often susceptible to parasitic diseases such as haemoprotozoa

Your cat may pant if they were in the heat or direct sun for too long. Sadly, heat strokes are serious and common in this tropical climate. 

Although cats cope better with heat as compared to dogs, they too can fall victim to the scorching sun and relentless humidity. 

If your cat is panting after coming back inside from the heat outside, first wet their abdomen, neck and head with normal cool water and then switch the AC and fan on. Offer them some veterinary ORS.

Next, call the nearest veterinary emergency and critical care clinic near you and rush them there. 

Without timely treatment a heat stroke can be lethal for cats and dogs.

4. Heartworm in cats

Heartworm disease is less common in India as compared to the US, especially in cats. Heartworm spreads from the bite of infected mosquitoes. 

Treating heartworm in cats is quite the challenge. Current treatment of heartworm in cats mainly consists of the use of corticosteroids to reduce internal inflammation. It mainly involves maintenance therapy to improve the cat’s quality of life. 

To keep your cat completely out of danger, clean your garden and yard, and install mosquito netting on your windows. That will also help you in cat-proofing your house. 

5. Heart Disease

Mackerel ticked cat laying on the rug with a small orange ball lying in front. Lethargy compounded by panting in cats can be a sign of a heart disease.

Heart diseases in cats can be congenital or due to age. The most common heart disease in cats is cardiomyopathy and it can cause open-mouthed breathing in cats. 

Does your cat pant after short bursts of running? Get them checked out by a veterinarian specialising in small animal cardiology. 

Congestive heart failure in cats is uncommon, but it can happen at any age. It typically affects middle-aged cats and the causes can vary significantly. 

So, if you notice that your cat is becoming lethargic, or their gums are becoming pale or bluish then you need to speak to an experienced vet. Take your cat to a nearby veterinary clinic with doctors well-versed in cat heart diseases.

Other possible causes of panting in cats

Close up of a kitten with a black head and face, but white neck and chest. Only up to the neck-chest area visible. the kitten has their eyes closed and mouth opened. panting in cats can be caused by excess stress, high temperature, pain and more.

There are numerous other reasons your cat can be panting and these include –

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating 
  • Trauma 
  • Anaemia

Why should you take panting in cats seriously?

Cats and humans are more alike than most of us think. Just as humans may require nebulisation and/or oxygen when we are experiencing respiratory distress, your cat might require emergency care too. 

Providing oxygen support and nebulisation of cats is not possible at home. You must take your cat to a veterinary clinic equipped with emergency care infrastructure without any delay. Ensure the place has 24/7 veterinary teams and advanced diagnostics. 

Depending on the cause, your veterinarian may advise you to take your cat home after treatment or recommend hospitalisation for better monitoring and immediate care.

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