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Why Is My Cat Panting in the Car? (5 Possible Reasons)

Written by: Patricia Dickson

Last Updated on February 2, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat with head out car window travel

Why Is My Cat Panting in the Car? (5 Possible Reasons)


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Unlike dogs, most cats do not like to travel with you in the car. Whether it’s the fear of the unknown or the tight space, cats can do some weird things when riding down the road.

Your cat might meow, drool, yowl loudly, or try to scratch and claw its way out of the carrier to get out of the car. Some cats also pant when they are in the car. While a panting dog is normal, a cat who is panting is not and could be a cause for concern.

In this article, we’ll give you a few reasons why your cat pants in the car and a bit more.

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Why Is My Cat Panting in the Car?

1. Nausea

Being in the car and riding down the road could cause your feline to be nauseous. Cats have sensitive inner ears, and the vibrations, movements, and sounds a car makes going down the road can easily make your feline friend sick to its stomach. Nausea makes the cat pant to control the need to throw up. If you think this is why your cat is panting when you go somewhere, talk to your vet about medication to help your cat tolerate the trip without being nauseous.

2. The Heat

Your cat may have become overheated from being in the car. Cats prefer cooler temperatures, especially when they’re stressed. The heat can cause the cat to pant and even become sick.

Try switching on the air conditioner in your car and keeping it cool, not cold, to see if that helps your cat stop panting. However, don’t make it too cold in the car, as cats don’t like the cold either.

cat on a front passenger seat of a car
Image by: Raindom, Pixabay

3. Fear

Cats don’t like change, and being shoved into a carrier and taken on the road in a car is definitely a change for your pet. The cat could be panting before it is afraid. Moving your cat out of its environment and into unfamiliar territory can cause fear and rapid breathing.

Before you head out on your trip, talk to your vet and see what you can give your cat to calm it during the ride.

4. Stress

Cats become stressed easily, so putting your cat in the car could cause extreme anxiety for your feline friend. Your cat’s heart rate could be soaring, which causes it to start panting. Cats are also territorial creatures, and you’re putting them in unfamiliar territory. Speaking to your vet before you leave on your trip for tips and calming supplements is the best way to handle this. Never give your cat anything over the counter or a person’s medicine.

maine coon in car cat carrier
Image by: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

5. Underlying Medical Problems

If you find that none of the issues above is the problem with your cat panting when it’s in the car, your cat may have an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. The heavy breathing could be because of oxygen deprivation from an underlying disease, which we’ll explore next.

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A Few Other Reasons Cats Pant

Cats panting is not just limited to being in a car. There are some other situations when a cat could pant—and most of these are emergencies!

Rapid breathing could be caused by one of these health issues:
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory infection
  • Heartworms
  • Congestive heart failure
  • A blockage in his throat

If you feel that your cat is panting excessively or when they are not in the car, it’s best to contact your vet for an appointment.

Devon Rex cat is travelling on owners lap in a car
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

How to Keep Your Cat Calm in the Car

Providing a comfortable crate blanket, keeping the volume low on the stereo, and ensuring your cat does not get too hot or cold can help it feel more at ease during road trips.

If you’re unsure of the best way to calm your cat down, it’s best to contact your vet. The vet can examine your pet and prescribe something safe for your cat to take so it can rest during the long ride.

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These are a few of the top reasons that cats pant when they’re in the car. Cats are solitary creatures that don’t like change. Snatching your cat up and putting it in a cat carrier, sticking it in a car, and taking off down the road can be terrifying for your cat.

You can keep the car cool, talk to your cat calmly, and if all else fails, contact your vet to get medication to help your cat cope during the ride.

Featured Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

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