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Why Do Cats Pant in the Car?

Cats owners ask this question a lot, why do cats pant in the car?

The thing is, cats do not like travelling by car, and most times, they may become distressed and even aggressive during a car ride.

Expect a cat to hiss, scratch, yowl, and bolt, but what makes cats pant in the car, and how can one calm down a cat in the car?

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Reasons why cats pant in cars


Cats pants in vehicles because they are stressed, and their heart rate is aloft. Cats are anxious travelers, and they hate car rides. They are territorial and do not like to be trapped in a carrier, stuck onto an unfamiliar seat, and taken out of their territory to somewhere new.


Traveling by car for a long-distance can make cats develop nausea; that is why cats pants. Cats have sensitive inner ears, and because of the vibrations and sounds of a running vehicle, they get dizzy, nauseous, and disoriented.

Heat Stress

Cars can be hot at times, and cats prefer cooler temperatures if they are stressed. If you keep your car cool (not cold) and run the air conditioner, it can help your cat.


Like I earlier mentioned, cats do not like changing their environment and are afraid of changes in their routine. Long car rides with cats can make cats fear. If you move your cat out of its familiar territory into an unfamiliar moving environment (car), it can make your cat scared.

Underlying medical issues

If your cat is panting and it is not associated with anxiety or temperature, then it can be something more serious. When this happens, make an appointment to see your veterinarian immediately. The heavy breathing might be a sign that your cat is in oxygen deprivation because of a heart arrhythmia, brought by stress. Other medical conditions can also cause panting. If your cat pants when he is angry, then take her to the veterinarian.

How to calm down a cat in the car

You can help calm your cat down in the vehicle by selecting the right carrier for your cat. The haulier should be big enough so that your cat can stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably.

There exist two common cat carrier- hard and soft carrier.

Do not get an over sized carrier for your cat because cats like to confine themselves in small spaces. Go for one that is suitable for your cat’s weight and length rather than one with extra space.

Before travelling, bring out the carrier and put it in a place where your cat will see and get used to it. Cats are curious by nature, and it will like to venture into it to smell. The more your cat uses the carrier, the more it will get used to its smell, and this will make her more comfortable during the ride.

Try introducing your cat to the vehicle before the trip. It will help. It depends if your cat is an outdoor or indoor cat and also whether you can get your cat into a harness or not. Letting your cat explore on its terms should make its return visit (when in the carrier) less stressful even though she sees it through the holes of her carrier. The car should be stationary, but at times, turn on the ignition and the engine roll so your cat can get used to its sound.

You can also buy medicine to calm your cat down when travelling. Get medication like Benadryl, but contact your veterinarian if you want to go for this method.

To calm a cat down in the car, you can get sprays like Feliway. Feliway is human-made pheromones replicate scent that cats naturally leave on surfaces and people. It can help calm your cat. Spray it inside the carrier before the trip. You can as well buy a Rescue Remedy for pets containing a floral remedy that helps reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness in animals.

Other causes of cat panting

Veterinarians are the only people that can explain to you what is wrong medically with your cat. There could be other reasons why cat pants and they are;

  • Respiratory infection
  • Asthma
  • Heart-Worm
  • Throat Blockage
  • Congestive heart failure.


The reasons above clearly explain why cats pants in the car when travelling or going on a short trip. Fear and nausea are the most likely causes why cats pant during car rides.

However, if your cat has not seen a veterinarian for a very long time, then make an appointment and let the veterinarian know why your cat is panting.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I calm my cat in the car?

Ans: There are different ways you can calm your cat in the car, and they are:

  • You can calm your cat in the car by putting the carrier in the place where your cat stays before the trip. Put a soft blanket or an old piece of your cloth that is most loved by your cat inside the carrier to make the space smell familiar. •You can also put treats inside the carrier for your cat to find. This way, she will get used to the carrier, and even though he is unfamiliar with the moving car, she will feel comfortable in the carrier. •You can calm your cat in the car by talking to her. It makes her feel loved. •Touch your cat while in the car. This effort will make her feel safe and secure.

2.What does it mean when cats pant?

Ans: Cats pants whenever they are excited or hot. Some pants when they are stressed or afraid.

3.Why do cats hate being in the car?

Ans: Generally, cats do not like car rides and don’t enjoy the experience like dogs. They hate being in the car because the place is unfamiliar to them. Being confined in a cage and stuck in a different moving environment that smells strange can make cats pant.

4.Why does my cat pant when he plays?

Ans: Cats pants when they play because they are over-excited. They also breathe slowly to cool off when playing during hot weather.


Featured image credit : www.reddit.com

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