Cat Panting Stress

Cat Panting Stress

Is a cat’s panting an indicator of stress? Yes, it may indicate that a cat is stressed and anxious. A cat that is panting manifests an increased respiratory effort coupled with an accelerated heart rate. However, stress is not the only reason why a cat may be panting. It may also mean that she has asthma, heartworms, or congestive heart failure among other reasons. 

Is cat panting a stress indicator?

Yes, panting may be a clear manifestation of stress and anxiety in cats. A very stressed feline exhibits increased respiratory effort due to an accelerated pulse and heart rate. Normally, cats take 20 to 30 breaths per minute but when they manifest open-mouthed breathing along with panting it can be dangerous. If you notice your cat displaying these signs, you should bring her to the vet at once.

Aside from panting, these are the other common signs of a stressed cat:

  • your cat may experience excessive shedding of hair
  • excessive grooming including licking, biting, and scratching the body
  • your cat’s tail is in a low position and flicking back and forth
  • your cat may experience gastrointestinal upset including diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation 
  • your cat is always hiding under the bed or behind furniture 
  • your cat is aggressive to other pets and humans at your home
  • your cat is peeing outside her litter box 
  • she may be excessively vocalizing including meowing, hissing, growling, or high-pitched yowling
  • your cat may eat non-food items, a condition also called pica 
  • your cat may spray urine on furniture and other inappropriate places 
  • she may be scratching excessively on furniture 
  • your cat is lethargic and sleeping more than usual 
  • she may experience weight loss or weight gain
  • your cat may be unresponsiveness to the things around her 
  • she may become reluctant to play and interact 

If your cat is manifesting the above symptoms, bring her to the veterinarian at once for a thorough check-up.

Cat panting: What is normal and not?

Cats, like dogs, may pant when they are stressed, anxious, overheated, or when they just played hide and seek with other cats. However, unlike dogs, panting for any prolonged period is not a common behavior among felines. Normally a cat should stop panting after the cat has had the chance to cool down or rest. 

If your cat is panting for any prolonged period emergency veterinary care may be needed as it may be an indication of a serious health problem. 

Why do cats pant?

Why do cats pant
Image: / Nils Jacobi

Aside from feeling stressed, anxious, hot or overheated, or excited, there are many other reasons why cats pant:

Your cat may have congestive heart failure. 

The reason your cat is panting may be due to fluid accumulating in and around the lungs. This results in deep and rapid breathing, panting and coughing.  The treatment may include medication to dilate blood vessels as well as draining and getting rid of excess fluid. 

She may be infested with heartworms.

Heartworms may be fatal if it is not treated promptly.  Aside from panting and breathing difficulty, your cat may experience diarrhea, vomiting with blood, coughing, gagging, lethargy, and weight loss. The disease is treated with corticosteroids and oxygen therapy. 

Your cat may have asthma. 

An asthmatic cat may experience coughing, panting, wheezing, and increased respiratory rate.  Feline asthma is an allergic respiratory condition that affects at least one percent of adult cats around the world. While this progressive chronic illness has no cure it is treatable with the use of bronchodilators or corticosteroids. 

Your cat may be suffering from a respiratory infection. 

This type of infection is usually a viral one and aside from heavy breathing, other symptoms may include sneezing and nasal congestion. Humidifiers and steam may help loosen mucus but antibiotics may also be given if a bacterial infection develops. 

Your cat may also be suffering from other health conditions. 

Other health issues that may contribute to panting in cats may include anemia,  abdominal enlargement, neurologic disorders, obesity, and pain due to injury. 

Preventive tips for cat panting

With the exemption of medical conditions mentioned above, the causes of panting in cats are commonly preventable. If your cat tends to pant because she is overweight, you should make sure that she has the right diet and exercise. During hot and humid weather,  see to it that your cat has unlimited access to fresh and clean water and make sure that she does not get too hot. You should also take your cat to the vet regularly for a check-up and to ensure that vaccinations are up-to-date.