How to Keep Your Cat Cool and Prevent Heat-stroke · The Wildest

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How to Keep Your Cat Cool and Prevent Heat-Stroke

Summer safety is vital for cats

by Ro Elfberg
28 May 2024
DimaBerlin / Shutterstock

With summer (potentially) approaching and the news filled with warnings of impending heatwaves, it’s important to ensure your cat stays cool for their health and comfort. Although cats were domesticated from desert species on warmer continents like Asia and Africa and do enjoy sunshine and heat (if you have a cat who always seeks out sun puddles, you’ll know what we mean), too much sun or heat exposure can lead to serious problems such as heat-stroke or even sunburn. Discover our tips on how to keep your kitty cool this summer.

How hot is too hot for cats?

Some cats love the sun and can generally cope with hot weather better than dogs. But a temperature above 37C is too hot for cats and they will generally prefer a temperature of around 25C. Any hotter than this and your cat can start to run the risk of overheating and may develop heat-stroke.

What is heat-stroke in cats?

Heat-stroke is a state of hyperthermia (elevated core body temperature above the normal range) resulting in heat injury to tissues. Heat-stroke occurs when heat generation exceeds your cat’s ability to lose heat. Heat-stroke is a very serious and life-threatening condition that can cause damage to your cat’s internal organs. It requires urgent veterinary treatment. There are a number of signs of heat-stroke and you should contact your vet immediately if you spot them.

  • Panting: while cats don’t use panting to cool off in the same way that dogs do, if your cat’s mouth is open, tongue slightly out, and they’re taking short, shallow, audible breaths, this qualifies as panting for cats and can be a sign that they are overheating.

  • Drooling: although cats drool for many reasons, which can range from pleasure to illness, if your cat is drooling in hot temperatures it can be a sign of heat exhaustion as their bodies become overheated and unable to regulate their temperature. 

  • Drinking a lot more water than usual: cats are notoriously not huge fans of lapping up large quantities of water from their bowl, so if you see this change of behaviour in your cat it could be a sign that they are too hot or suffering from heat-stroke.

You should also look out for:

  • body temperature over 40C

  • fast heartbeat

  • dark red or gums or tongue

  • restlessness

  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea

  • muscle tremors

  • lethargy

  • dizziness and staggering

  • sweaty paws

  • collapsing and lying down

  • little to no urine production

  • coma

Which cats are more at risk of heat-stroke?

Some cats are more at risk of heat-stroke than others, these include:

  • senior cats

  • overweight cats

  • flat-faced breeds such as Persians or Himalayans

  • long-haired breeds such as Maine Coon or Ragdolls

  • cats with existing respiratory or heart disease

What to do if you think your cat has heat-stroke

If you suspect your cat has heat-stroke, contact your vet immediately. Initial emergency treatment at home should aim to normalise body temperature before you get to the vet. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Remove your cat from the hot environment immediately if possible.

  • Apply or spray tepid/cool water on to your cat’s fur and skin. Then fan them to maximise heat loss. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this may worsen the problem.

  • Then take your cat to the nearest veterinarian immediately.

Even if your cat looks like they may be recovering or you just suspect they might have heat-stroke, they should still always be checked by a vet.

Ways to keep your cat cool and prevent heat-stroke

Cats are usually very smart about what they need to do to cool off in hot weather. They might seek out cold, tiled surfaces to lie on; groom themselves (after licking their fur, the saliva then evaporates and will cool them down, in exactly the same way sweating cools us down); drink more water to stay hydrated; and take more naps – cats know that they need to save their energy when the weather is hot so during the hottest part of the day you may find that your cat is snoozing in a cool spot in your home.

There are lots of ways you can lend a helping hand to ensure your cat stays cool and does not develop heat-stroke.

Avoid heat and provide shade

Keep your house as cool and well ventilated as possible. If you have the space, you can also create a dedicated ‘cool room’ for your cat where you have drawn the curtains and created ventilation with fans and an open window. Just make sure the window is secured with a screen or netting so you cat doesn’t head out into the heat.

Keep your cat inside – preferably in that aforementioned well-ventilated space rather than in a room that typically gets hot – during the hottest part of the day (between 11am–3pm) so they are not exposed to direct sunlight and they’re not making contact with hot pavement or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade. If your cat does go outside in the cooler hours of the day, it’s important to ensure they still have access to a shady spot.

You should also make sure your cat stays out of greenhouses, conservatories, sheds, porches and cars in warm weather as these locations are likely to heat up more. Always check before you close hot rooms – if your cat is trapped with nowhere to cool down, it’s likely to result in a serious case of heat-stroke.

Keep them hydrated

Make sure your cat has plenty of fresh clean drinking water, both indoors and outdoors, at all times and that the water bowl is in a shady spot. Some cats prefer to drink from running water, so try offering them a drink from your tap or a water fountain to encourage them. You can also put ice cubes in their water bowl to keep it cooler.

Frozen treats

Ice lollies are a great way to keep your cat entertained and cool, just freeze some spring water from a can of tuna into an ice lolly mould. You can also put ice cubes on a hard floor for your cat to push around and play with (especially helpful if you have a bored kitty on your hands who can’t go outside because it’s too hot). This will help cool their paws, which is where cats absorb and lose heat.

Cooling devices

Cooling mat s are a relatively cheap solution to help your cat stay cool. They are filled with a non-toxic gel that absorbs and dissipates your cat’s body heat. They don’t require electricity and can be recharged by allowing them to rest in a cool area.

Grooming

Grooming your cat’s excess fur can help them stay cool as fur traps heat. While your cat will do a lot of their grooming themselves, you can help by grooming them daily to remove dead hair, which will make them feel more comfortable during a heatwave. On particularly hot days, you can also consider stroking your pet with wet hands to provide relief from the heat.

Use sunscreen

Although fur is a great sun barrier, cats can still get sunburnt especially on areas such as the ears and nose. Cats that are hairless, such as Sphynx cats, or light in colour such as ginger or white cats, are especially at risk. Arm yourself with some cat sunscreen if your cat falls in to any of those categories and they’re going to be outside, even if it’s during cooler times of the day.

So while it may not be a hot girl summer for your feline, keeping your cat cool is extremely important for their health. But with a cool mat, an ice cube tray and knowledge of how to spot heat-stroke, you should be able to make the season a breeze for you and your kitty.

Ro Elfberg

Ro Elfberg

Ro is The Wildest UK’s Senior Editor. She has previously written and copy-edited for British Vogue, Glamour and DICE. When she’s not being manipulated into dishing out Dreamies to Kobe the cat, she spends her free time trying to convince her snake, Butters, to wear a tiny hat.

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