As temperatures rise, pet parents need to be vigilant when it comes to keeping pets cool, both indoors and out. Risk of heatstroke and heat exhaustion rises in the warmer months, especially for cats who have flattened faces or spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun! Here’s what you need to know about heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and how to make sure your kitty stays chill and safe during the summer.
The Difference Between Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion
Unlike heat exhaustion, heatstroke is always a medical emergency. Heatstroke is categorized by a body temperature of 104°F or higher, extreme mental confusion, and possible loss of consciousness. Heat exhaustion, while still serious, does not put your pet in immediate medical danger (an animal may be disoriented, but is able to walk, drink water, and recover relatively quickly from heat exhaustion).
Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention. Do not attempt to treat a cat with heatstroke on your own.
Some cats are predisposed to heatstroke, such as brachycephalic breeds (cats with flattened faces), like the Persian. Cats with respiratory illnesses and obese and overweight cats are also at risk. Heatstroke is determined by a telltale sign of an extremely high body temperature (over 104°F or higher).
Symptoms of Heatstroke Include:
- Breathing problems
- Bright red tongue
- Muscle tremors
- Collapsing/ inability to stand/sit properly
If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms, seek emergency medical care right away.
Heat exhaustion, a more mild form of heatstroke, can have serious effects on your fur-baby. Heat exhaustion is common, but preventable. Be conscious of symptoms and make sure to plan and accommodate your pet in the warmer months. Consult your veterinarian for professional advice and specific care instructions.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Cats
The following are common signs of feline heat exhaustion:
- Panting or trouble breathing
- Increased body temperature
- Sweating from paw pads
- Dark red or pale gums
- Excessive drooling
If your cat is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, watch closely and follow the guidance below to help relieve the symptoms. If your cat is vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, seek immediate medical care as they may be suffering from heatstroke.
What to Do if your Cat Shows Signs of Heat Exhaustion
If a cat is experiencing heat exhaustion, quickly move them into a calm, shaded, and cool environment. Cats are deeply affected by stress, so a quiet environment with limited stimuli would be most helpful.
Do NOT submerge your cat in water. You may pat your cat with a cool compress, instead of splashing them with water. The goal is to reduce body heat at a gentle pace, so be sure not to shock their system. If air conditioning or a fan is available, your cat's temperature will regulate faster.
Tips to Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke in Cats
Without adequate hydration, your cat will become tired, irritable, and possibly ill. Make multiple water stations available to your kitty, if possible. Many cats prefer their water bowls to be located away from their food. Choose a couple cozy corners of your home and keep their water in the shade. If you don’t have the space to set up multiple water stations, pay extra attention to your feline and replace water frequently. Add ice cubes to water to cool the bowl faster.
This may be difficult, but we recommend keeping your kitty away from their favorite sunny spots. Cats can get sunburned just like us from prolonged time in the sun! Did you know hairless cats and cats with white fur are more prone to getting sunburned?
It’s okay if your cat enjoys some time in a sunny spot, but consider closing your shades or blinds for a portion of the day – particularly during mid-day when the sun is strongest – to ensure your cat doesn’t overheat. A cool and shady area is preferable for your fur-baby to relax. Cooling mats and other aids can also make your pet comfier.
Brushing your cat frequently can be helpful in the summertime. This helps reduce your cat’s overall body temperature.
Regular grooming appointments help keep your cat healthy. No need to completely shave your cat—our feline friends have naturally insulating fur which protects them from extreme temperatures. Full grooms combined with a regular brush-out schedule will reduce matting and shedding fur, to help your kitty stay cool.
4. Play Later
Cats can get overheated easily, so avoid playing with your cat during the hottest parts of the day. An evening playtime sesh means you can still spend time with your fur-baby, but don’t have to worry about heat exhaustion. Make sure to exercise their mind, too! Check out our top enrichment toy recommendations from our staff. If your cat spends time outdoors, consider avoiding peak heat hours (from 10am-3pm), or walk your cat with a harness and leash to keep a closer eye on them.