While panting is common for dogs, panting or heavy breathing in cats is rare. In fact, if your cat is breathing heavily it could be a sign of an underlying health concern. Here, our Stroudsburg vets share a few of the reasons why cats may breathe heavily or pant, and when it's time to head to the vet.

Heavy Breathing Cat

Since cats don't usually pant, heavy breathing can be an indication of a serious health concern that requires prompt veterinary care. 

If you notice that your cat is breathing heavily start by assessing the situation based on the criteria below. If you are at all concerned with your cat's heavy breathing or they are displaying any other troubling symptoms, it's best to err on the side of caution and head to the vet for emergency care right away. 

Times When Heavy Breathing is Normal for Cats

While uncommon, in some cases, panting is normal behavior for cats. Take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed their panting.

Cats, like dogs, may pant if they become overheated, anxious, or engage in an extremely taxing activity (such as being chased by a dog). If any of these conditions are causing your cat's heavy breathing, the panting should stop once the cat has had a chance to cool down, relax, or calm down.

As mentioned previously, panting and heavy breathing are much less common in our feline friends than it is in dogs. So if you're not entirely sure why your cat is panting, it’s worth a visit to your vet.

Possible Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats:

Concerned pet parents frequently ask our Stroudsburg veterinarians, "Why is my cat breathing heavily?" Here are a few possible reasons why your cat is panting or breathing heavily.


  • Asthma symptoms in cats include panting, wheezing, coughing, and an increased respiratory rate. Asthma in cats can be effectively treated with corticosteroids or bronchodilators, though it may not be completely cured.


  • Heartworms in cats can make it difficult for them to breathe. Supportive care with corticosteroids to lessen inflammation is part of the heartworm treatment, as is oxygen therapy in more serious circumstances. Our veterinarians advise that you keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication because heartworm disease is a very serious condition that can be fatal.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Deep, quick breathing, coughing, and panting are symptoms of the condition known as hydrothorax, which is where fluid builds up in and around the lungs. Draining the fluid and administering drugs to widen blood vessels, get rid of extra fluid, and make the heart beat more forcefully are all possible treatments.

Respiratory Infections

  • If your feline friend has developed a respiratory infection it may be difficult for them to breathe normally. Respiratory infections can lead to heavy breathing or panting in cats. These infections typically begin as viral infections, but often develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be required to treat your cat's condition so that it can breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat recovers.


  • Dyspnea in cats is characterized by significant difficulty inhaling and exhaling, also known as respiratory distress. This is sometimes manifested by panting and heavy breathing. Dyspnea is not a disease in and of itself, but rather a symptom of many different diseases.

Other Conditions Which Can Lead To Cats Breathing Heavy

  • Anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.

Caring For Your Cat's Long-Term Health

If you are concerned about your cat's breathing veterinary care is important. After all, when it comes to your cat's health it's always better to err on the side of caution. 

Additionally, it's critical to keep in mind that early diagnosis and treatment are key to a condition's prognosis for improvement. Early intervention could protect your cat's health and ultimately save you money.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Stroudsburg vets at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital right away if you are concerned about your cat's heavy breathing.