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Cat panting in car: What should you do?

It is widespread to see a dog panting, so much so that when we see that gesture, we automatically know that he is probably just hot or relaxed, but what happens when we notice that our little cat is panting in the car? What does it mean?

As in most cases, much depends on the context. Perhaps if it is hot, the cat is panting to try to regulate its temperature as a dog would do. But what happens, for example, when you decide to take your cat for a walk, and halfway in the car, he starts panting excessively? Has it ever happened to you? If you have found yourself in that scenario and didn’t know what to do, here I explain the two main reasons that lead a cat to pant while riding in the car.

Why is my cat panting in the car?

The main reason that leads a cat to pant while going on a car ride is the stress and anxiety caused by being in an environment very different from the one it is used to. Cats are routine animals that get stressed if something in their environment changes slightly, be it something physical or even a smell. Remember that cats’ sense of smell is up to 14 times more developed than that of humans.

cat panting in car - smell safe place

And the second reason is a bit more obvious, but you have to be careful because another cause of your cat panting while riding in the car is the extreme heat. Although cats are perfectly comfortable in high temperatures because they like the heat, they can suffer a heat stroke if they exceed their limit.

Among the list of things that stress and make a cat anxious in the car:

  • The car doesn’t smell like them! If you have a cat, you probably already know that they are very territorial and that to demonstrate their presence, they resort to marking everything with their scent, rolling everywhere and marking everything, including you. It’s no wonder that when they are in a new place, for example, a car, they feel insecure because it smells like everything but them, which causes them fear and stress.
  • The cat is usually on the flat, static ground, even when on a tree branch, and when they are in a moving car, they don’t know how to act or what to expect, so they tend to get stressed.
  • Cats don’t like new sounds. For your cat, everything is a threatening noise, from the sound of driving on the road to the car’s horn, the sound of the engine, or the radio. All of them can cause anxiety to your routinary friend.
  • The fact that there is no place to escape and hide in a car can cause a frightened cat to quickly go from mild disorientation to tremendous anxiety because it will feel that it has no tools to self-regulate its emotions.

The list is long and can go on, but fortunately for you, many possible solutions will help you mitigate the stress and anxiety your cat feels when you take him in the car, especially when it’s a long trip.

cat panting in car - anxious

First of all, if you notice that your cat is angry about being locked in a car and is panting, you can stop for a moment and let him out (with harness and leash) to calm down a bit, giving him short breaks during the trip to make the journey less tiring. We recommend placing your cat in a carrier to prevent it from bouncing from one side to the other every time you brake and turn.

Remember that the carrier must be suitable for your cat’s size, adjusted so that he feels protected but not so small that he cannot stand up and turn around to be comfortable. Here the infallible advice is to introduce the carrier with enough time for the cat to become familiar with it and feel it as a safe place.

And another tip that will help keep your cat from panting in the car and on many other occasions is always to have a calming spray or pheromone collar in hand, which are great for helping your cat relax. You can even spray your car with the pheromones before you start your trip, so the cat won’t feel so unfamiliar, and don’t worry, we humans don’t sense that aroma.

About overheating

And the second reason why a cat would pant in the car is that they overheat. Yes, just as you read it, in addition to being routine, they are sensitive to environmental changes, especially sudden temperature changes.

cat panting in car - overheating

If you have the windows up and it’s a little hot, your cat is probably panting with its mouth open because he’s hot, so before he suffers a heat stroke, which can be dangerous, I’ll tell you how to prevent your little friend from suffering.

Before setting off, roll down the windows to let the car air out and, once the accumulated heat is gone, turn on the air conditioning to keep the temperature cool and comfortable for you and your pets.

Cat panting in car: Footnote

These two are the main reasons why a healthy cat would pant inside a car, and now you know what to do to prevent it and make your cat have a much more pleasant trip. Who knows, maybe you can even find your new adventure partner.

Now, suppose you notice that after arriving at your destination, your cat continues panting or panting every so often. In that case, you must analyze well if any other symptom is out of the ordinary. A cat panting for no apparent reason may present a significant medical problem. The following are the most common diseases that have intermittent panting as a symptom.

  • Asthma
  • Respiratory blockage
  • Heart failure
  • Heartworms
  • Acute pain

Don’t think twice about the problem and go to the vet. Have you ever had to deal with your cat panting in the car? How did you solve it? Let us know in the comments!

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