Cat Panting: Causes and When it’s an Emergency

Medical Contributor:

Dr. Michael Rodgers

Dec 9, 2021

Call & Speak with a doctor Open 24/7, Even Holidays!

Walk in today for:




Point-of-Care Ultrasound


Urgent Care




Diagnostics + Testing


End-of-Life Care




Treatment + Hospitalization

Have you ever seen your cat panting? Panting is not a common behavior in most cats, so when it does happen, it can be very alarming to cat owners. Sometimes, there’s very little to be worried about when your cat pants, but other times, it can be an indication of a serious underlying problem.

In the article below, you’ll find out some of the potential causes of panting in cats. You can use this information to determine when your cat’s panting might be something that is more serious, and when you should consider taking her to the emergency vet. Read on to learn more.

6 Common Causes of Cat Panting

6 causes of cat panting include, but aren’t limited to:


Heat is the most common cause of panting in cats. However, cats do not pant as easily as dogs on a hot day, so if your cat is panting, you need to help her cool down as soon as possible.

A panting cat is likely already very overheated. Move her to a dark, cool room in your home with an air conditioner, a fan, or both. Let your cat rest and try to cool down. If you notice any signs of heatstroke (e.g. difficult or rapid breathing), do not wait to take her to the emergency vet, as this can be a fatal condition.


If a cat is in pain from any underlying cause, she may pant. Panting from pain is common in animals. Think of the last time you were in pain—you probably got sweaty, and your heart rate increased, right? Cats are the same way, but since they cannot sweat, they must pant instead.

If you notice your cat panting suddenly without a recognizable cause, look for signs that she might be in pain. Check her body thoroughly and take note of any areas she seems to be guarding or defensive about. Pay attention to her body language and behavior, too.

Respiratory Illness

Many respiratory illnesses and infections can cause cats to pant. Respiratory illness causes a stuffy nose, wheezing, coughing, and a variety of other symptoms similar to those found in colds or flus in humans. These symptoms can all make it difficult for your cat to breathe, which can lead to panting.

If you suspect your cat has a respiratory infection, you can take her to the regular vet instead of the emergency vet as long as she is not struggling too badly to breathe or showing other signs of severe distress. The vet will likely give her medication to clear up the infection.


Asthma is a surprisingly common illness in cats. It causes frequent lung inflammation and can lead to bouts of severe coughing that are difficult for cats to deal with. When they begin coughing this hard, cats may also pant as they try to breathe between the coughs.

If your cat is having an asthma attack and has never had one before, take her to the emergency vet. If she has diagnosed asthma, follow your vet’s guidance for treating and managing flare-ups.

Heart Failure

Cats who suffer from congestive heart failure may pant as the disease progresses. With a worsening of congestive heart failure, fluid builds up around the heart and lungs, making it harder for cats to breathe. They may also pant because they are in pain during the final stages of this illness.

Heart failure can come in other forms, too, and can sometimes be related to heartworm disease. If your cat is panting suddenly and does not have a diagnosis yet, take her to the emergency vet.

Ingested or Inhaled Object

If your cat happens to swallow or inhale a foreign object, such as a piece of a toy or an item from around the home, it could become lodged in the airways and could lead to panting. If it becomes stuck in your cat’s throat but your cat is still somewhat able to breathe, she will pant as a result of the object’s presence.

This is an emergency situation and requires a trip to the emergency vet.

Call VEG Right Away for Your Cat’s Panting

Based on this information, it’s easy to tell just how concerning panting can sometimes be in cats. Depending on the situation and your cat’s other symptoms, there’s a chance she could be at risk for a serious health problem if she is panting. However, there is also a chance there isn’t anything too severe going on, and only a vet can tell you for sure.

If your cat is panting and seems to be showing any other signs of distress as well, take her to the emergency vet right away. The sooner you respond to emergency situations with your cat, the more likely she will be to recover fully.

At VEG, we have compassionate and experienced team members available around the clock to help guide you in the best direction and provide the best care for your pet. When you call any of our locations, you’ll speak directly with an emergency veterinarian who’s just as concerned about your cat as you are. If you’re concerned about your pet’s health, or have any questions about cat panting, call us right away so we can help.