Cat Panting

"Cat panting can have many underlying causes. Panting can be a normal behavior in dogs, since they have to control internal body temperature, but in cats panting and exhibition of symptoms like shallow breathing and systemic disturbances such as cough, lethargy, intolerance etc is never a normal condition. This represents a serious underlying condition, related to the respiratory, cardiovascular, hematological or nervous system. A spectrum of conditions of these physiological systems may leave a cat with panting and shallow breathing. Difficulty breathing is the most common symptom noticed in panting cats, other symptoms such as cough, lethargy, intolerance, respiratory stress and other systemic signs are clinical representations of the involvement of a specific system of the body. Diagnosis is made through taking a history, clinical examination and detailed laboratory tests such as blood biochemical profiling, chest X-Rays, urinalysis and electrocardiogram. Treatment is always done specifically; any underlying cause should be treated properly otherwise cat panting can turn fatal in most cases."

Causes of Cat Panting:

Cats usually do not pant, except in cases of excessive exercises, but that too is rare. In most of the cases, feline panting is considered to be abnormal and treated as a medical emergency because of a possibly fatal underlying systemic reason.

Feline panting is most commonly caused by anxiety, fear, or a hot temperature, however, cat panting from these causes are usually not accompanied by other serious signs such as cough and shallow breathing.

Serious signs of panting in cats is a representation of a cat that is suffering from respiratory, hematological (blood related), cardiovascular or nervous system disorders. Similarly, anemic and poisoned (Carbon monoxide) cats also show symptoms such as panting.

Some of the systemic reasons for panting in cats include:

Symptomatic Representation of Cat Panting:

Cats may pant as the result of anxiety, fever, hot weather or excessive exercise, but that is rare. In such cases, a cat usually returns to normal after some time and does not require any medical attention. But, if cat panting is accompanied by unusual symptoms, such as cough, shallow breathing, persistent fever, lethargy, intolerance and progressive loss of body condition, this represents a serious underlying respiratory, cardiovascular or neurological health disorder. Such cats should immediately be referred to a veterinarian for detailed examination. Most of these underlying conditions cannot be confirmed with clinical examination only; detailed laboratory tests should be conducted for confirmation and elimination of clinical possibilities.

Diagnosis of Cat Panting:

Clinical examination and history is an initial step toward diagnosis. A veterinarian may suggest detailed laboratory testing after making an initial hypothesis about any underlying disease. Blood count, biochemical profiling, urinalysis, detection of anemia, Carbon monoxide poisoning, chest X-Rays, ultrasound and an electrocardiogram may be needed for confirmation of any underlying condition.

Not all, but some of these tests are performed, depending upon the initial clinical observations. In idiopathic (having an unknown cause) or more complicated cases of cat panting, a veterinarian may suggest more specific tests, i.e. heartworm test, endocrinal examination and detection/elimination of fluid from the chest and/or abdomen.

Treatment of Cat Panting:

Panting is a symptom itself; symptomatic therapies may reduce its severity, but complete elimination requires specific treatment of any confirmed underlying disease. Symptoms such as cat panting, cough, lethargy, intolerance or progressive loss of condition (weight loss, fever, loss of appetite etc) are treated even before the confirmed diagnosis is made.

Dehydrated cats (with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea) are administered electrolytes, and anemic cats are treated with a blood transfusion.

Specific drugs such as anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics or anti-parasitic drugs are only prescribed after reaching a confirmed diagnosis. These drugs treat underlying causes and thus over time, the symptoms of panting and other signs are resolved.

It is always recommended that supportive treatment should be used along with specific treatment. Supportive supplements and natural remedies not only support overall body physiology during periods of disease, but also enhance recovery.

Specific remedies that can help include:

Cats confirmed with some serious underlying disease should be treated specifically; regular monitoring, follow up examination and evaluation of any condition is required, usually every 1 – 3 months.


Merck Veterinary Manual (Merck & Co)


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