Cat Panting — Why Do Cats Pant and What to Do About Cats Panting
Why do cats pant? If you’ve even seen your cat panting, you may be wondering whether or not it’s normal. Wheezing is a common way for dogs to cool off, but cats usually don’t wheeze. “We don’t usually see it, but there are some circumstances in which it can be perfectly normal,” says Aimee Simpson, VMD, the medical director of VCA Cat Hospital in Philadelphia. Why do cats pant? Read on to find out if a panting or breathing cat is a cause for concern.
Some cats gasp when excited or hot.
Like dogs, some cats can gasp after intense exercise or to cool off. “We will see strenuous wheezing especially in young kittens,” explains Dr. Simpson. “Sometimes after running around like crazy, they gasp for a very short time. I’ve heard that outside cats can use their wheezing as a cooling mechanism when it’s very warm outside. “If you suspect that your cat is panting or breathing heavily because he is overheated, help him cool off with the air conditioner or fan. You can also give him a cool, damp towel to lie on.
Cats can gasp when they are stressed or anxious.
“I’ve seen a lot of cats [pant] when they come to the vet for their examination, ”says Dr. Simpson. “They’ve been in the hot car and when they’re here they usually gasp until they ease their anxiety a little.”
Persistent wheezing in the cat may indicate a breathing problem or a heart problem.
Heavy breathing is another reason a cat may wheeze or breathe heavily. “Once they are gasping, they are short of breath and it doesn’t really go away until we address the underlying cause,” says Dr. Simpson. “When I see older cats panting, I am more concerned about heart failure. The other time we see cats gasp is with breathing problems like allergic bronchitis or kitty asthma. Usually these cats have a history of coughing. “
How long the wheezing lasts can tell you whether it’s problematic or not.
If your cat gasps infrequently (for example, a kitten that gasps for a few minutes after running and playing) then it is probably not a cause for concern. But cats wheezing that doesn’t go away is a problem. “If it’s something that is ephemeral and goes away on its own, it’s less of a concern than something that is persistent,” says Dr. Simpson. “Anything that is so persistent always worries us a lot. These cats should come in immediately, especially if it looks like they are sluggish, or not eating, or something else is inconsistent with their behavior. “
Your veterinarian will carefully examine a panting cat’s lungs and heart.
“I always recommend that you come for an exam so we can listen to your heart and lungs and make sure we don’t hear a heart murmur or anything abnormal in your lungs that would cause us concern,” said Dr. Simpson. If something unusual occurs on the first exam, your veterinarian may want to get chest x-rays or an echocardiogram, which is a special ultrasound of the heart. These tests help the vet look for an enlarged heart, abnormal heart function, or fluid in the chest cavity.
When in doubt, take a panting cat for an exam.
“I always tell people it’s better to go to the vet and have the pet checked out, and it’s nothing more than not coming in and wishing you had it,” says Dr. Simpson.
Tell us: What do you think? Have you ever seen your cat gasp? What was causing your cat to breathe heavily? Tell us in the comments!
Thumbnail: Photography by GlobalP / Thinkstock.
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