Your cat may live a pretty cushy domesticated life, but her long-lost relatives—lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards—all come from warm climates such as grasslands and savannas. One sure sign that they’re related is their love of snoozing in sunny spots.
How do those big cats keep themselves from getting heat stroke on an exceptionally hot day? How does your kitty stay cool in the warm summer months? Read on to learn how to keep your cat cool this summer.
Do Cats Sweat?
As humans, we have millions of sweat glands on our bodies which help to regulate our body temperature. When the sweat evaporates, it cools us off.
Similarly, cats also sweat—though it’s not much, and usually not noticeable. Cats have sweat glands on their paw pads and other hairless areas such as their noses and lips. On a particularly hot day, you may notice your cat leaving a trail of tiny damp paw prints.
Sweat can also be caused by stress; this may be seen in the form of tiny wet footprints on the exam table at a vet visit.
If your cat is leaving sweaty footprints in a cool or seemingly stress-free environment, though, talk to your vet to rule out stress and anxiety or other health issues.
Do Cats Pant?
Panting is typical dog behavior, as it helps to circulate air through the body as a canine cooling technique.
However, panting is not an effective cooling method in cats, and is therefore not normal. If you notice your cat panting, she may be too hot or stressed out, and/or having trouble breathing. If your cat is panting, bring her to a cool, calm area with plenty of shade and water.
Panting may also be a sign of an underlying health issue, so call a virtual vet clinic or your regular vet to determine next steps or rule out more serious health conditions.
Other Ways Your Cat Stays Cool
Because your kitty’s toe beans—er, paw pads—are so tiny, their cooling effects are minimal and cannot be solely relied on to regulate your cat’s temperature.
Other feline methods of keeping cool include:
Grooming. Saliva cools the skin as it evaporates (similar to sweat), so you may find your cat licking herself more than usual during the warm summer months. Unless you see signs of over grooming such as bald spots or irritated skin, excess grooming during the summer months generally isn’t a cause for concern.
Seeking out shade and napping during the hottest time of the day. Cats tend to spend a lot of their day snoozing, so it makes sense that they would stay out of the heat when it’s at its peak. After all, as any cat owner knows, cats are more active (and mischievous) at night.
- Stretching out on a cool surface. The cold tile or shady patio may not look like the comfiest spot for a nap, but lying on a cool spot helps to decrease body heat.
- Drinking water. Like us, cats need to stay hydrated to keep cool. Be sure your cat has plenty of cool water to drink throughout the day, and she’ll follow her instincts to quench her thirst.
Keeping Your Cat Cool
Cats are generally pretty independent and self-sufficient, but as a pet owner it never hurts to take some extra steps to ensure your kitty’s safety.
As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that if it’s too hot for you to be comfortable lounging outside in the sun, it’s probably too hot for your cat, too.
If you have an outdoor cat, be sure to provide plenty of accessible shade and water so she can cool off and stay hydrated throughout the day.
Outdoor cats aren’t the only ones at risk of heat stroke, though. If your home isn’t getting enough airflow, your indoor cat can still be at risk of overheating. If you have screens, open your windows for some added ventilation or turn on the AC. Or, use a fan—you may even want to point it directly at your cat for a nice breeze.
When you leave the house on hot days, leave the AC on for any furry friends staying home.
If it’s not too traumatic of an experience, you can even try rinsing your cat off with cool (but not cold) water to cool her off; she may also enjoy playing with some ice cubes if you don’t mind a bit of a mess.
For white cats especially, limit sun exposure in general. As an added precaution, you may also want to consider putting a pet-safe sunscreen on the tips of your kitty’s ears if she’s going to be spending a significant amount of time outside.
Signs of Heat Stroke in Cats
While normal body temperature for a cat is between 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not always feasible to take your cat’s temperature. Instead, be aware of any symptoms of heat stroke.
Signs of an overheated cat include:
- Rapid pulse
- Bright red tongue
- Dark red or pale gums
- Stumbling and clumsiness
- Vocalizing/meowing more than usual
Cats with a higher risk of heat stroke include:
- Pregnant and nursing cats
- Cats with underlying health conditions
- Brachycephalic breeds, such as Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese cats
- Long-haired cats
If you notice any signs of heat stroke, bring your cat to a cool, shady area and contact your vet as soon as possible.
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