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Why is my cat panting? Should I take her to the vet?

Why is my cat panting? Should I take her to the vet?

While cats may pant or breath heavily sometimes it is unusual and may be an indication of an underlying health issue. Here are a few of the reasons why your cat may be having difficulties breathing, and when an emergency trip to the vet might be necessary.

Do cats pant sometimes?

Panting or heavy breathing is sometimes seen in heathy cat's but it is very unusual. More often panting or labored breathing is an indication that your cat may be suffering from an underlying health issue. If your kitty is experiencing breathing difficulties, take a few moments to assess the situation using the information below. 

Is some panting normal for cats?

Even healthy cats may begin to pant following strenuous exercise (being chased for example) or if they become overheated, or anxious. Nonetheless, panting is very rare in healthy cats. If your feline friend is panting due to stress, overheating or physical exhaustion, it should gradually resolve itself once your cat has had a chance to relax, calm down, or cool down.

 If your cat is struggling to catch their breath, or if their breathing is labored, take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing right before you noticed their breathing. If you aren't sure why your cat is panting, it’s certainly worth a trip to the vet to check it out. 

Why is my cat panting and breathing heavily?

If your cat is panting but isn't hot, stressed, or tired from exercise, it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue that requires treatment.

If you think that your pet may be suffering from any of the conditions below, a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital may be needed!

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections in cats can lead to labored breathing or panting. In cats these infections will often start out as viral infections, then develop into secondary bacterial infections. Your pet may require antibiotics to treat the infection so that they breathe normally again.


Shortness of breath, panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate are all common signs of asthma in cats. Although the treatment for asthma in cats may not be curative, asthma can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators. With treatment many cats with asthma go on to live long and happy lives.


Breathing difficulties in cats can be a sign of heartworm disease. The treatment for heartworm disease includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation combined with oxygen therapy in more serious cases. Heartworm disease can be fatal, that's why our vets recommend keeping your cat on monthly heartworm prevention.


Hydrothoraxis is a condition characterized by the buildup of fluid in and around your cat's lungs. Symptoms of hydrothorax can include deep, rapid breathing, panting and coughing. Treatment for this condition can include draining the fluid, as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make heart contractions stronger.

Other Conditions That Could Cause Your Cat to Pant

Pain, anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, and abdominal enlargement could also cause your cat to pant or experience difficulties breathing. If your cat is struggling to breathe, early diagnosis and treatment could help get your kitty back to normal before the condition becomes more severe. When it comes to your cat's breathing, it's always best to err on the side of caution and have your cat examined by a veterinarian.

If your cat is panting or appears to be having difficulties breathing visit our emergency veterinary team at Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital in Plains. Our emergency vets are here 24/7 to care for pets in the Wilkes-Barre and Northeast Pennsylvania area and beyond. 

From Happy Pet Owners

  • Dr. Hassinger and his staff are beyond reproach in their services. Their compassion, professionalism and expertise have benefited our pets many times over the years.
    David K.

Contact (570) 208-8877