Cats Panting in Car – Reasons and How to Help your Cat

Cats Panting in Car

Unlike dogs, cats do not generally enjoy car rides. Quite the opposite, it is usual for them to hate car rides and get stressed if they have to endure one. They may show it by loud meowing, pacing, and drooling. They may also pant in the car if they get really stressed or anxious. While panting is normal for dogs but for cats, it is not normal and may be a cause for concern.

Why do cats pant in the car?

Because cats do not perspire, they will pant when their heartbeat is elevated. Cats often get stressed and anxious on car rides because of the sudden change in environment. They do not like change and often see other places they have never been as unnerving. The good news is that any panting caused by a car ride should subside once the cat calms down.

Hot temperature inside the car can also cause a cat to overheat and result in panting. Usually, cats do not have issues regulating their body temperature by finding cool spots in your home. But if they are stuck in their carrier in the car, it will be difficult for them to cool down.

What should you do if your cat is panting?

The first thing that you should do when your cat pants in the car is to understand the cause. On a typical hot day, your cat can get very hot also, which is not ideal for a cat. Before getting in your car with the cat, open up the windows and start the air conditioning with the air venting in. When it starts to cool down, close the windows and start recirculating the air so your car stays cool. When it is comfortably cool, it is time for you and your cat to get in.

Some cats pant due to stress. When this happens, the stress has to be reduced as soon as possible. Staying calm is a head start. Cats may feel the stress of their owners, so staying calm can prevent adding more stress to them. Reassure your cat that it is safe.

How to avoid your cat panting in the car?

Panting can be avoided by preparing the cat for the ride. You can follow the tips below for a stress-free ride for your cat:

Pick the right carrier for your cat.

Pick the right carrier for your cat.
Image: / Lightspruch

Select the appropriate carrier for your cat. It should be right enough for the cat to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably. Do not choose to get an oversized carrier because cats tend to like smaller spaces. Choose a carrier that is built for the cat’s weight and length rather than one that is more spacious. They may grow weary with the extra space when they are nervous.

Make your cat familiar with the carrier before traveling.

Place it in the area where your cat usually spends most of its time days or weeks before the trip. This will make the cat more comfortable with the carrier. It is encouraged to put the cat’s blanket, toys, and treats inside the carrier. When the carrier becomes familiar with the cat, it will start to see it as a safe place.

Introduce your cat to the vehicle before the trip.

Allow your feline to explore your car with the engine off. Do this repeatedly until you can try it again with the engine on so it can get used to the sound. When it tolerates well, try taking your pet on short trips and give it a reward after.

Buy medicine to calm your cat when traveling.

There are medicines available to calm cats when traveling. Just make sure to consult first with your veterinarian.

Try using cat-calming products.

Man-made pheromone sprays like the Feliway Spray are popular for calming a cat. They mimic the natural feline pheromones that make cats feel calm and relieve anxiety. There are also flower essences you can use. They help relieve stress which may help the cat feel more peaceful.

What are other causes of cat panting?

There are also a number of health problems that could lead to panting in cats in the car. With these following conditions, a consultation with the vet is essential.


Asthma occurs when a cat breathes in particles that stimulate an allergic reaction. This can cause panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate. 

Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infections make it difficult for cats to breathe which causes panting. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier.

Congestive Heart Failure

Fluid retention in specific parts of the body of a cat due to having congestive heart failure can cause deep, rapid breaths, coughing, and panting. 


Although this is more commonly associated with dogs, cats can get heartworm which causes breathing difficulties. As heartworm disease can be fatal, it is essential to keep all cats on monthly heartworm prevention.

Other Conditions

Panting in cats can also be caused by other health conditions like anemia, trauma, neurologic disorder, abdominal enlargement, and extreme pain.