I didn't know kitties *could* pant
July 1, 2010 2:59 PM   Subscribe

My poor kitty is panting. Could it be the heat? or should I be really worried?

I've looked up feline panting on the internet and "they" say there's cause for concern, but I live in an 18' motor home with no electricity at the moment and it's hot and humid here in Mississippi so the poor thing could very well be... well... hot. I have to say that when we were in AZ I didn't see him much during the day so I don't know if he was panting there or not. I don't remember him doing so, but I worked most days, and we had electricity then so the AC was running on the hot days... and it didn't get as hot there as it is here because we were in the mountains.

I've tried to keep it as cool as possible in here, the curtains are drawn, I'm parked under a tree, I have a battery operated fan going, but it's still pretty warm. I'm sweating but not so hot that I can't breathe.

Mister was fine yesterday when it was overcast and slightly cooler, but he's been panting off and on for about a week now. It worries me because I didn't know cats *could* pant! I should mention, in case you missed my last post, that he's overweight (25 lbs! He's a big kitty!). That might have something to do with his discomfort? Maybe?

I have zero dollars for a vet at the moment and won't have anything resembling and income for a couple of weeks (when my job starts), so I cannot take him to be seen. Will the humane society take him away because I can't afford a vet right now if I try to have them look at him? Will the look at him? I'm really very concerned about him. I've grown quite attached to him these two months we've been together.
posted by patheral to Pets & Animals (47 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about kitty ailments that cause them to pant, however, mine have done so when they were perfectly well - but were super overheated. Not dangerously so, I don't think - just from running around like nuts. It doesn't happen all that often now that they are older, though, because they give up before that happens now and go 'eh, i'm not chasing that thing anymore.' When they were very young tho (1 year and under) they did it every once in a while.

Typically they disperse heat from their available exposed skin surfaces otherwise - you'll note that if they've had a bunch of exercise and are not panting, usually the pads of their feet and ears will be very warm.
posted by bitterkitten at 3:04 PM on July 1, 2010

Yes, it is probably the heat and yes, they shouldn't pant.

Do your best to keep him cool, but cats should not pant. Not much you can do without electricity, however.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:09 PM on July 1, 2010

My cat had this, and it was a long time before I realized it was serious. I took her to the vet and it turned out it was heart failure.

With treatment she lived much longer than expected after that. Unfortunately I don't know what veterinary treatments there are, if any, for people in your situation where you live. In the UK we have something called the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals), which is a charity and which my family resorted to a number of times when I was a kid.
posted by tel3path at 3:10 PM on July 1, 2010

Take the cat to the vet and explain your financial situation and ask them to defer payment until your job starts. Also ask if they could bill you in installments. I know it's a lot of money but your kitty needs help. Hopefully the vet will understand the situation you are in and work with you to provide the best care for the cat.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:14 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Key question: how hot is it when your cat is panting? Is there a correlation between his panting and the temperature? Does he ever pant, for example, first thing in the morning when it's cool?

It sounds like he just has Fat Guy Syndrome. Those of us who are ridiculously overweight tend to have a lot of trouble with hot weather. But it could be a serious problem indicating discomfort, breathing problems, fluid around the heart, etc.
posted by ErikaB at 3:15 PM on July 1, 2010

It might help to just call the vet and get their opinion. Mine always gives me their thoughts on whether something is a problem or not, and what to do (for my dog, but still). I'd find a local vet to call, and see if that helps you decide what to do.
posted by violetish at 3:18 PM on July 1, 2010

I am sorry to say that my cat began panting heavily and continually, and it was something serious, probably congestive heart failure, which she died of sadly within a few days of the onset of panting. There was nothing the vet could do, and I don't think any amount of money spent would have made a difference. I think it just marked the natural end of life of my old cat.

Of course I don't know if any of this applies to your cat.
posted by communicator at 3:18 PM on July 1, 2010

ErikaB he's actually quite active at night and in the early morning, which is why I think it might be the heat, but he's sooooo lethargic during the day (it's 90 degrees F today with high humidity) and couple that with panting, it just has me concerned. Probably because I've never - ever - seen a cat pant before.
posted by patheral at 3:19 PM on July 1, 2010

I am not a vet. I had a cat that was having breathing issues that were panting-like. My wife was sure he was just having hairballs he couldn't quite choke up. it seemed more breathing related to me. He seemed fine otherwise and was actually quite playful for a 14 year old cat. Turned out it was congestive heart failure, and it was too advanced to do anything.

This is probably not that, but GO TO THE VET.
posted by quarterframer at 3:25 PM on July 1, 2010

You may like to try cooling him off with some water to see if that helps the panting. If it doesn't, I would definitely take him to the vet.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:32 PM on July 1, 2010

I've had cats pant before, by that point I knew they were way too hot. Make sure he has a cool(er) place to lay - on linoleum or tile or other smooth surface, not a rug or blanket. With mine, I would wet my hands, then pet the cat, repeating until the cat was dampish (not soaking wet by any means).

Agree it's a good idea to call the vet for recommendations. Explain your financial situation. They may see him and defer payment, or may at least have other suggestions.
posted by dorey_oh at 3:35 PM on July 1, 2010

As a cat owner, I have found this chart very helpful: The Cat Clinic of Norman--Is It An Emergency? Unfortunately, according to the chart, even if panting is the only symptom, the cat should be taken to the vet immediately.

You sound worried. I would be worried too. Call the vet and ask what they think you should do.

I worked out payment plans with my vet when I was a student and couldn't afford to pay a big chunk at once. I know there are many vets who are willing to do this. It's in your favour that you know you'll be starting a new job in 2 weeks and will have income then--you just don't have it right now.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:38 PM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

A cat will pant when it's over 90 degrees because it cannot sweat. So, it could be heat, or it could be heart failure. If you truly have no option for a vet, the best you can do is try to cool the cat down. Put an ice cube in his water bowl, and wet the cat in a cool bath. You don't want to stress him out, but you can probably stand him in an inch or two of cool water without freaking his shit out.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:39 PM on July 1, 2010

I emailed my daughter to see which vet she used to take him to, perhaps the vet will work something out if he's a repeat patient? I dunno.

It's nearly six here so everything's closed. I'll try too call the vet tomorrow and see what I can do. I *hope* it's just the heat...
posted by patheral at 3:43 PM on July 1, 2010

To get the cat wet without freaking his shit out:

1) wet a towel (probably like a hand towel - nothing huge)
2) drape the wet towel over the kitty
3) slowly poor lukewarm/cool water over the towel

For some reason, this seems to work with my kitties. Don't know what it is, but they don't freak out when I use this method of cat-wetting.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:45 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

question... will wetting him down work in a humid environment? It doesn't work for me... Moving air works for me, but I would think adding *more* water into an already humid environment (it's supposed to be 84% humidity tomorrow, and it was nearly 90% today!) would make the problem worse? Which is why I haven't tried it.
posted by patheral at 3:49 PM on July 1, 2010

What about a fan? You could probably find one for $5 or less pretty much anywhere.
posted by rhizome at 3:52 PM on July 1, 2010

Hmm. Good point about the water. Do you have clippers? You could always shave him. I do this with my Maine Coon cat in the summer and he loves it (or at least, he seems to love it).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:52 PM on July 1, 2010

Don't be afraid to call the after-hours line at your local clinic. Most clinics have one with a real live vet you can talk to with your concerns. I've used mine several times and it has never been a case of "you called us = you are now obligated to bring your cat in for an expensive emergency appointment." The vet is not anxious to come in after-hours to see a cat who doesn't need it, and is usually able to just answer your questions and give you good advice on how to keep your kitty comfortable until you can bring him in.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:55 PM on July 1, 2010

I have a battery operated fan going now that seems to move the air about. It's pretty small but it's better than nothing. I have two actually but don't want to run them both because I need one for when the batteries run out in the other.

No clippers (and no electricity). I do comb him every day though and he sheds *a lot*...
posted by patheral at 3:56 PM on July 1, 2010

Your cat has fur, not exposed skin like you do, so evaporative cooling (getting wet) will not work as well as it does for you. Having the cat stay cool and dry will be more comfortable for him. Here is what you do:

With a little effort and less than $10, you can make him a little "cold nest" to lay down in during the day. First, you need to get access to a freezer nearby- ask friends and neighbors. Buy a couple of the hard plastic re-freezable ice packs, not the thin plastic kind because your cat might accidentally puncture those. Get several cardboard boxes that are a good size for your cat and cut them to make a little bed. The best would be several boxes of slightly different sizes nested one inside the other for extra insulation. Put the frozen cold packs in the bottom of the boxes, and line it a towel or blanket or an old shirt. Your cat can lay in the "cold nest" during the day to regulate his body temp. Take the cold packs back to your neighbor's freezer overnight and reassemble the nest in the morning with the freshly frozen cold packs.

This is only to keep the cat comfy if it's just heat; I still encourage you to call a vet.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:05 PM on July 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Cats pant when they are stressed out. My wife IS a vet and it IS cause for concern. Vets offer care credit. Use it! If you cannot afford to go to the vet, you CANNOT AFFORD A CAT and shouldn't have one.

It could be a host of other things though, but cats don't pant because it's hot out. You need to have him checked out, or give him to someone who can afford to have him checked out.
posted by TheBones at 4:11 PM on July 1, 2010

If you cannot afford to go to the vet, you CANNOT AFFORD A CAT and shouldn't have one.

This is harsh. Things happen, and people end up without the money they thought they had. Frequently, these days. There aren't enough homes for animals already; if everyone gave away their pets every time their income dropped, there'd be a lot more euthanization.

OP's situation is *temporary*. Get a grip.
posted by galadriel at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

TheBones, my financial difficulties are temporary... jeez. Cut me some slack. I never gave my kids away just because I found myself on hard times temporarily and they all grew up to be healthy adults. The difference being, they could tell me where it hurt, so I didn't have to go online to ask what's what and be lectured by people who have it all.

I had a job when I took over the care of the kitty, I find myself without one now, but I'll have one in two weeks. In today's economy, that's not unusual.
posted by patheral at 4:19 PM on July 1, 2010

"It's nearly six here so everything's closed. I'll try too call the vet tomorrow and see what I can do. I *hope* it's just the heat..."

It's not just the heat (IANAV but Mrs. TheBones is). There are emergency vets who will see you out of hours.
posted by tel3path at 4:21 PM on July 1, 2010

That is why I suggested care credit. Go and sign up for it, it's more credit card debt, but your cat could have a number of issues, all of which aren't as simple as heat and should be addressed.

You mention having kids and liken your cat to your kids. If your kids were sick, would you have put it off because of financial difficulty?

My point is that it could be a host of issues, most of which are not because the cat is hot.
posted by TheBones at 4:24 PM on July 1, 2010

You mention having kids and liken your cat to your kids. If your kids were sick, would you have put it off because of financial difficulty?

I didn't "put off" going to the doctor if I thought something might be seriously wrong, I didn't rush my kids to the doctor every time they were sick either. When you're poor as dirt you have to sometimes take a "wait and see" approach to things. And since my kids could tell me where it hurts and I know more about the human anatomy than I do about feline anatomy then, yeah, I could make better choices with them.

But Mister can't tell me where it hurts, so I have to come online and ask. I'm not being blase about this. I'm really concerned. And while getting this information, I've already left messages at the local clinics and am waiting for them to call me back.
posted by patheral at 4:32 PM on July 1, 2010

Cats have a higher tolerance for heat than humans, so I doubt that heat's behind it.

I had one cat that panted when we broke down in an un-airconditioned car on a 108° day, and never on any other occasion. I have another cat who pants occasionally when she's over-excited; I've mentioned that to my vet, who hasn't figured out what's behind it, but says it's "not normal."
posted by adamrice at 4:39 PM on July 1, 2010

The OP is doing the best he can with the cards he's been dealt in a tough situation. He's aware an emergency vet and care credit are options, and he's made calls to after hours clinics. Cut him some slack - or perhaps cut a new meta.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:55 PM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

More anecdotal evidence: one of my cats started panting about a week before dying of an abdominal tumour. So maybe it's just the heat, but maybe it isn't.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:02 PM on July 1, 2010

And yet more anecdotes: We had a really hot day here a couple of summers ago, and one of our cats had been running around outside. She came home panting; we were concerned, so it was a trip to emergency for her. $1000 later, she had just gotten overheated and needed to cool down.

Wet towel is the suggestion I've heard. I also used to rub ice cubes in a petting motion on one of my other cats and she seemed to appreciate it.

If you can get some kind of payment plan/credit situation, it probably would be good to take Mister in. But I hope keeping cool is all he needs.

Good luck!
posted by waitangi at 5:36 PM on July 1, 2010

I'll just add that our long-haired young cat pants when it's very hot and humid out and he's been running around, but then recovers fine once he's rested in the shade.

However, some of the above posts got me a little worried...though, I can't understand why a cat "should never pant"--seems like all mammals do this after over-exertion.
posted by Jon44 at 5:50 PM on July 1, 2010

My cat--who looks almost exactly like yours!--has panted in the summer before when it's really hot. The part that sounds worrisome is you say Mister has been panting for a few days.

Definitely talk to your vet about payment options. You may not even have to apply for Care Credit, like people have mentioned above. Maybe you could post-date a check? Vets are people and animal lovers too, and will probably be understanding of your situation.

I hope he's okay! Poor boo.
posted by apricot at 5:55 PM on July 1, 2010

Okay, I just got off the phone with the vet, and *he* said that if Mister has been panting for over a week and (to be blunt) what's making him pant hasn't killed him, then it's probably not an emergency and to bring him in to the clinic in the morning. So, I will be bringing him to the clinic in the morning.

Thanks for the answers everyone. I truly appreciate your good thoughts and information. Now I just have to figure out how I'm gonna pay the vet if my credit isn't good enough... *sigh*
posted by patheral at 6:00 PM on July 1, 2010

Good luck. Hope Mister (who looks very much like Pointycat!) is feeling better. Please keep us posted.
posted by pointystick at 6:03 PM on July 1, 2010

A quicker, cheaper (but temporary) version of slow graffiti's most excellent cold nest idea:

Buy a bag of ice, lay a towel over it, and lay kitty over that.

The one time I had to deal with an overheated, panting cat (on a road trip on a hot day with broken AC - in retrospect, not a good day to travel), I did this and it seemed to work, as kitty did not die of heatstroke or any other ailment on my watch.

Good luck, and please keep us posted on Mister's condition.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:06 PM on July 1, 2010

Anecdata: At my last place in L.A., before we put in air conditioning, the three perfectly healthy cats would occasionally pant when the loft got really hot during the summer. Their panting was actually what motivated me to install the A/C.

Mister is very cute and please do try some of the cooling options above.
posted by bedhead at 10:49 PM on July 1, 2010

I'm glad you were able to connect with the vet...good luck to you and Mister, and please do keep us updated. I hope all turns out well.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:58 PM on July 1, 2010

I'm interested to see how your vet visit goes! Please keep us updated.
posted by autoclavicle at 12:04 AM on July 2, 2010

Mister passed his exam with flying colors! The vet said he appears to be a very healthy - but rather large - kitty. His heart sounds fine, his lungs sound fine... He's just hot. I have relatives in a nearby town, so I will probably ask them to care for him until it cools down. I don't want to, because they are not fond of cats, but its going to get hotter before it cools down. *sigh*
posted by patheral at 6:55 PM on July 2, 2010

Yay! I'm so glad it wasn't anything serious!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:58 PM on July 2, 2010

Thanks for updating us! I am glad your kitty got a clean bill of health.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:59 PM on July 2, 2010

I hope your vet visit goes well. Another anecdote- one of our cats used to pant quite often when it was hot outside and he'd been running around. He was always fine after he rested for a little while. So I'm voting your kitty's just overheated.
posted by mrstrotsky at 7:08 PM on July 2, 2010

Hurray for him being OK. He's a handsome devil! I hope the relatives will keep him safe if need be until he can chill with his mama.
posted by pointystick at 7:11 PM on July 2, 2010

Thanks for the update! I'm glad Mister is okay.
posted by apricot at 9:23 PM on July 2, 2010

I'm so glad to hear he's okay.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:51 AM on July 3, 2010

thanks for the update!!!
glad kitty is ok.
but... did you try the 'cold nest' grafitti suggested?
posted by saragoodman3 at 4:28 PM on July 28, 2010

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