If you have a very active cat, chances are you have seen her pant a time or two. But cats don’t pant the way that dogs do, so you might be wondering “why do cats pant?” and “should I be worried about this?”
Here’s what you should know about panting in cats.
Why Do Cats Pant?
For the average cat, the most common time for panting to occur is after strenuous activity. Cats can also pant when experiencing severe anxiety or stress. You may notice it on the car ride to the vet, after a loud party at your house or a night of fireworks. Depending on the sensitivity of your cat, you may see this behavior a little more or a little less.
When you notice your cat panting out of fear or distress it’s best to remove them from the situation and get them somewhere they feel safe. Vet visits are important trips, so you may not always be able to get your cat somewhere calm, but do your best. One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to make sure your cat is habituated to the carrier well before that first vet visit.
If your cat isn’t stressed or tired from exercise and is just sprawled out on the sofa panting for no reason, that’s a serious matter that could indicate an underlying medical condition.
When Your Cat’s Panting Is a Problem
If your cat is panting for no discernible reason, bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. They’ll likely want to do some diagnostics, such as a full blood work panel that checks organ functions and thyroid levels. Even if your cat’s blood work comes back perfect, you will still benefit from knowing what her normal values are so that when she gets sick in the future you will have a good baseline.
Your vet will likely also want to test for diseases like FIV, feline leukemia and heartworm disease. While heartworm disease is considered rare in cats, it is a possible diagnosis and a large infestation could lead to pulmonary distress and panting.
Radiographs are another diagnostic test your veterinarian may want to perform. Growths, heart failure or pneumonia in the lungs can cause panting and should be visible in radiographs. A radiograph of the stomach may also be helpful as well, as severe stomach pain can cause panting.
If none of these tests reveal the cause of your cat’s panting, your vet may recommend that you visit a specialist to have an ultrasound of the heart and the abdomen. Though radiographs can usually pick up tumors, they can’t always detect heart disease which can be found inside of the heart itself.
While your vet is working to determine the cause of the panting, he or she may want to begin treatment for the other symptoms. If your cat has been panting for a very long time, she may not be eating or drinking very much either. Your vet may want to start your cat on fluids, antibiotics, diuretics or even give her a blood transfusion depending on what the results of the diagnostic tests have been and what they feel might be wrong with your feline friend.
Don’t worry if you aren’t able to get an immediate diagnosis; your vet will work with you to figure out exactly what is ailing your cat. And in the meantime, make sure that your furry partner is getting the appropriate nutrition, medication and has a suitable environment with enrichment for her age and health.