Cats unfortunately cannot sweat like humans can and will feel the heat in hot weather. Here are our top tips for keeping your cat a cool cat!
Because cats don’t sweat like humans do, they find it hard to regulate their temperature. Heatstroke in cats results from a sudden rise in body temperature. This is called hyperthermia and occurs when an animal is no longer able to self-regulate their temperature. Heat stroke can be fatal for a pet, so it is important to recognise the early signs in order to seek medical help as soon as possible. Signs of heatstroke can include the following symptoms:
- rapid and heavy panting
- weakness or collapse
- loss of appetite
- increased temperature and feeling hot to the touch
- drooling and dribbling
- dark red or purple gums and tongue
Other symptoms can include distress, which could be vocalisation or miowing, restlessness, excessive thirst and drinking, glassy eyes, a racing heart, unconsciousness or seizure.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heatstroke, you should move them immediately to a cool and shaded area and contact your vet immediately. You can also cool your pet’s body with a fan. Cool their body and head by wetting with tepid water and if you are travelling to the vet, continue to do this. Do not use or immerse your pet in very cold water as this can cause their body temperature to drop rapidly which is harmful. Offer your pet a small amount of cool water to drink. Be careful that they do not gulp down excessive amounts as this can cause vomiting which leads to further dehydration.
Most insect bits cause minor irritation and can be treated by you at home. Cats can play with insects and bees, our Dolly certainly chases them round the garden!
If an insect bites your cat, apply either a cold, damp towel or ice pack wrapped in a clean towel to the bite area. This reduces pain and swelling. It is best that you monitor your cat for any signs of an allergic reaction to the bite or sting. An allergic reaction/s can include swelling, difficulty in breathing, disorientation, collapse and/or sickness. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your vet straight away.
If a bee stings your cat you can remove the stinger by scraping a credit card edge or similar plastic card over the affected area. Avoid using tweezers as this can result in more venom being released into the body. Wasps don’t leave stingers behind. You can then then wash and bathe the area to neutralise the sting with bicarbonate of soda mixed with a small amount of water.
For wasp stings, use vinegar and apply with cotton wool as well as apply an ice pack or cold, damp towel to the affected area.
If your pet has been stung in the throat or mouth, multiple times and/or is showing signs of an allergic reaction after being stung, then contact your vet immediately. If you cat is stung, monitor your cat for 24 hours after as reactions can be delayed. Do not give your cat antihistamines unless your vet has prescribed them and has instructed you to do so.
Indoors or outdoors?
There is some advice out there to keep your cat indoors between 11am – 3pm, but you try keeping a cat indoors, especially when it is hot and humid! A cat will rarely sit in the blazing sun anyhow and will find a cool spot to snooze and rest. As long as your cat can keep cool and has access to shady and cool places out of the sun, that is all that matters. On hot days, keep an eye on your cat to ensure they are not being affected by the heat.
Make sure that there is plenty of fresh drinking water for your cat so that your cat can have a drink when he/she needs to. Keep plenty of bowls of water indoors and outdoors in the garden. Cat fountains are great because it keeps the water flowing to give fresher water and encourages cats to drink more. It’s important to leave water for your cat at all times during the year, not just in hot weather. Older cats can be vulnerable to dehydration, so make sure you cat is drinking regularly.
Dehydration in cats
It’s worth finding out a bit more about keeping cats hydrated. Cats are made up of approximately 80% water and a loss of 10% of a cat body’s water can have serious consequences in hotter weather. According to a PetSafe® survey where 500 dogs and cats were surveyed, 60% of cat owners are unsure of the amount of water to give their cats to drink. It also hilights that owners would not necessarily know the signs of hydration. For instance, the survey revealed that 40% thought that panting was a sign of dehydration when it is actually a sign that a cat is anxious and may have an underlying health issue. Signs of dehydration include lethargy, dry and sticky gums, depression, appetite loss and sunken eyes. Dehydration in cats can cause serious health issues such as urinary tract infections and kidney disease. Do not give your cat milk to drink as this can cause diarrhoea and stomach problems. When it is warm and hot, keep an eye on your cat or kitten and if you are in any doubt, contact your vet immediately.
Provide shady areas
Cats will often disappear in hot weather and heatwaves to find a nice, cool and shady spot outside or inside.
Make sure that there are cool, shady areas in the garden where your cat can rest out of the sun. You can rearrange plants and pots to create a cool spot, or move garden ornaments around to create shady parts. Cats prefer cool earth, wood or grass to lie on rather than tarmac, stone or cement which heats up and can get very hot in the sun.
For an indoor cool space, you can draw the curtains in your coolest room in the house to make the room more cool and block out the sun. Cats like a breeze, so open a window, but please read our paragraph below about open windows that are high up. You could also place a small fan in the room to create a gentle breeze, if you cat doesn’t mind a fan blowing!
Replace any blankets or warm material bedding with a cool sheet, preferably cotton, so that their bedding is not too hot. Some cats like a wet towel to lie on, but check what your cat prefers. One of our cats loves to lie on paper or newspaper in hot weather, so you could even try that!
You can put a small fan on for your cats with a wet towel near to the fan that will help to cool the air down as it blows. You can also buy cooling pads for cats (they are also available for dogs). A cooling mat has an inner gel lining that keeps the mat surface temperature cool in hot weather and is an ideal way to reduce your cat’s body temperature. Make sure that you buy a large enough cool pad for your cat to sit and lie down on and wipe it clean regularly.
Grooming is important for cats, especially for those with long hair and extra fur. A cat will groom itself to keep itself cool, although this isn’t a very efficient cooling mechanism. A cat’s fur acts as insulation and keeps him or her from overheating. A coat that is smooth and tangle-free will help to protect your cat’s delicate skin and keep them cool. Give your cat a regular daily groom with a grooming brush so that their fur is smooth during the hot weather.
Pale and white cats and sun damage
Cats that are pale and white in colour are extremely vulnerable to sunburn, particularly on their noses, ears and where they don’t have much fur to protect them. Other cats may have lighter and white parts, such as on their ears and snouts. Sun burn can lead to skin cancer in cats which may result in surgery, or in extreme cases, amputation. When your cat is outdoors, use a non-toxic, pet specific sun block on your cat’s areas that are exposed to sun burn and check and apply regularly. Do not use human sun creams as some include ingredients such as salicylates, propylene glycol and zinc oxide which are toxic to pets.
If you cat does get burned, then use a cold flannel to soothe the burned area. If your cat’s skin looks burned, sore, crusty or with pus, then contact your vet immediately for advice.
Kittens are active most times during the day, but it’s best not to over-exert your kitten in the hot weather. Rather than play with them during the day when it is hotter, play with them in the early morning and evening when cool.
Cats and open windows
Cats love a cool breeze and fresh air. If you have an indoor cat, then be very careful when opening windows in hot weather. Cats will jump from high windows and can seriously hurt themselves and in fact this is quite common during hot weather. Thousands of cats with serious injuries are treated every year after falling from heights when their owners open the windows. Sadly some do not survive their injuries.
To prevent cats from danger and jumping from open windows you can consider installing tip and tilt windows that allow air into a room but not cats to get out. Alternatively a cheaper option is to secure a screen across the windows when they are open to prevent cats escaping. Make sure that the screen is properly fixed and secure. When windows are open, you should regularly check your cat is not trying to get out and paw at the screen or window. Avoid netting or any material as a window screen as this could cause your cat to get their claws stuck.
When opening windows and doors in summer, make sure that you wedge something in to keep it open, as if there is a cool breeze or wind, the window or door could quickly snap shut and potentially harm your cat or kitten if it gets caught when walking or stepping through.