Summer means hot weather, which many people with an air conditioner can deal with. But if you don’t have an air conditioner and you also happen to own a furry cat, you must be wondering how they don’t overheat.
We found that there are four ways that cats can cool themselves off, so read on to learn how they accomplish this rather miraculous feat!
How Do Cats Cool Down?
While it might seem unfathomable to us that you can cool off while wearing a heavy fur coat, it is quite possible. Cats originated in hot climates like Arabia and Africa, so they can handle the heat and even enjoy it to a certain degree. But they have also developed a few methods to cool themselves down.
If you’re a cat parent, you already know how often cats groom themselves. They actually spend about 30% to 50% 1 of their time grooming every day! This keeps them clean and unmatted and helps cool them off.
You might notice your cat stepping up their grooming game over the summer. The saliva that they deposit over their coats evaporates, which helps keep them cooler.
However, if you notice your cat overgrooming, usually indicated by inflamed skin and bald patches, this is an issue that needs a veterinarian.
Cats have sweat glands on the hairless parts of their bodies, including around the anus, the lips, the chin, and paw pads, all of which will sweat when a cat gets too hot.
This isn’t actually the most effective way for cats to cool down, as these areas are just too small. But when cats are stressed, they are also likely to sweat from these areas, so don’t be surprised to see wet pawprints when your cat is too hot.
3. Finding a Cool Place
Outdoor cats will find a cool, shady bush to sleep under, while indoor cats will gravitate to cooler rooms, like the kitchen or bathroom.
Your cat will also stretch out on the floor, a common sleeping pose that they will take on in the summer. In the winter, you’ll notice your cat curling up, which is how they conserve heat.
Cats have been known to pant when overheated, but this isn’t a typical response. A panting domestic cat can indicate that they are too hot or very stressed. Panting can also be related to a health condition involving the lungs or heart.
If you suspect that your cat is getting hot, ensure that they have cool water to drink, and move them to the coldest part of your home. But if the panting continues and they aren’t behaving normally, wet them with cool (not cold) water, and place them near a fan. Make plans to take them to your veterinarian immediately, as it might be a heatstroke. 2
When Is It Too Hot for Cats?
The average cat’s normal temperature range is 101–102.5°F (38.3–39°C). Cats will become uncomfortable if the environmental temperature goes above 90°F (32°C).
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the ideal temperature range for cats is above 50°F (10°C) and below 80°F (26.6°C).
Signs of an Overheated Cat
Panting and sweaty paws are indications that your cat is overheated, but there are other signs that you should be aware of:
These signs of an overheated cat will continue to progress if they’re unable to cool themselves off. If your cat exhibits any of the following signs, they need medical help immediately!
Treating an Overheated Cat
If your cat has signs of heatstroke and is still conscious, get them to a cooler environment, and soak them in cool (but not cold) water. Ensure that they also have cool drinking water, and take them to your vet or closest emergency clinic.
If your cat is unconscious, soak them in cool (not cold) water. Grab a bag of frozen vegetables from your freezer, wrap it in a towel, place it between their legs, and take them straight to your vet or emergency clinic.
If it’s hot in your place and your cat is behaving unusually, try to get them cooled off straight away and seek medical help. You can start by calling the clinic and going over your cat’s signs. The staff will let you know if you should bring in your cat or will give advice on the best at-home treatment.
What Not to Do
You shouldn’t use cold water on your cat because it will cause your cat’s body temperature to decrease too rapidly.
You should also never cover a cat in wet towels, use rubbing alcohol, or shave your cat, regardless of how heavy their coat is. Their coats help protect them against injuries and sunburn and even keeps them cooler.
10 Ways to Keep Your Cat Cooler in Hot Weather
If your home has air conditioning, you won’t have to worry about this too much. However, if your house is prone to getting super hot in the summer, here are a few tips to help keep your cat comfortable.
1. Wet Food
Wet food provides your cat with more water than dry food does, up to 70% more! Feeding your cat more wet food will help keep them hydrated, and it has fewer carbohydrates than dry food, so it can also help cats that need to lose weight.
2. Cat Water Fountain
Investing in a cat water fountain is an effective way to ensure that your cat is getting enough water. Most cats would rather drink from running water, and switching over from a water bowl to a fountain can increase their water intake.
You know that shaving your cat is a bad idea, but giving them extra brushing time will help remove excess hair. Most excess hair can lead to matting, which can trap heat, so brushing your cat frequently in the summer is recommended.
If you have an outdoor cat, you should ensure that your garden has shady parts, like bushes or trees. You can also consider rigging some kind of awning if you prefer.
5. Indoor Cool Retreat
You should have somewhere for your indoor cat to hang out to keep cool. Keep the bathroom door open so your cat can stretch out inside the shower or bathtub.
You can also try lying a cardboard box on its side and lining it with a soft cotton towel. Put it somewhere quiet, like behind a piece of furniture, or near the air conditioner and fan. While cats don’t like fans blowing on them, you can find a way for them to enjoy indirect fan exposure.
6. Damp Towels
If it’s excessively hot inside, dampen a few towels or washcloths, and gently wipe your cat with them. Focus on their tummies, paw pads, armpits, chin, and the outside of their ears, since these are typically the warmest areas on your cat.
7. Frozen Treats
Try freezing a few of your cat’s favorite treats, especially lickable treats. You can even fill ice cube trays with cat-safe bone broth (prepared without onion or garlic) or just plain water.
8. Cooling Bed
Consider purchasing a cooling bed for your cat, which uses materials like micro-gel beads that help absorb the cat’s body heat.
9. Avoiding Overexertion
Avoid vigorous play with your cat during the hottest part of the day. This will only make them heat up, so encourage your cat to be more relaxed and calmer at these times.
Do what you always do on hot days. Keep the shades or curtains closed during the day, and break out the fans. Watch the temperature indoors, and open the windows if it’s cooler outside than in.
When the temperature is forecast to be dangerously high, you might want to consider staying in a cat-friendly and air-conditioned hotel.
Cats are good at keeping themselves cool down—all of that conscientious grooming and stretching out their bodies in a cool area can be quite effective!
Just ensure that you keep an eye on your cat on particularly hot days if you don’t have air conditioning. If you notice that your cat seems to be struggling, give them access to the freshest place in your home, and provide them with cool water. Check in with your vet, and try to follow these tips for the rest of the summer.
Featured Image Credit: Fayzulin Serg, Shutterstock