They definitely don’t do well in super hot conditions.
Although they are originally desert animals, house cats aren't built to withstand extreme heat for long periods of time. Like people, cats are also vulnerable to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Scary, right? So, it’s important to watch out for signs your cat is overheated, especially during the summer months as temps rise. When you know that to look for, you can make sure Fluffy stays nice and chill.
In general, overheating is a serious condition in cats. “In spite of their reputation as desert animals, cats do not tolerate heat any better than people,” Dr. Adam Christman, veterinarian and board member of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA), tells Romper. “Cats only pant or sweat through their foot pads in order to get rid of excess heat,” unlike humans who have the benefit of sweat glands to keep cool. The increase in body temperature can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death, he cautions.
There are many ways to help prevent your cat from overheating in the first place. “In order to keep cats healthy overall, I always recommend keeping your cats indoors and plenty of air conditioning in their home,” says Christman. In general, access to a cool, well-ventilated and shaded environment, as well as plenty of fresh drinking water, can help keep your cat safe from these heat-related dangers.
Keep reading to familiarize yourself with the signs of heat exhaustion in cats, and if you are concerned at all that your kitty might be at risk, monitor your pet closely and contact your vet right away.
Cats can sweat, just not to the same degree that humans do. So if your cat has sweaty feet on a hot day, then they’re getting pretty warm. “Cats have sweat glands in their paws (just like dogs), but not in other parts of their body like humans do,” Lyons says. “Although they might produce a small amount of sweat on their paws, it is insufficient to cool them down.”
Granted, most adult cats tend to spend a lot of time sleeping. But if your cat shows signs of lethargy or general weakness, then they may be overheating, explains Christman. A cat who seems unusually tired, to the point where they are uninterested in meals or playtime, could possibly be dealing with heat exhaustion.
Vomiting & Diarrhea
This is one of the signs that requires immediate veterinary care. If your cat is experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea from a heat-related illness, then get to your vet right away. In some instances, vomiting or diarrhea related to heat stress will even have traces of blood, says Christman.
High Body Temperature
“Normal body temperature for a cat is around 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” Lyons says. “Above 105°F is concerning for heatstroke, and above 109°F, the cell membranes in the body become altered and normal enzymatic processes cannot function.” If you have a pet thermometer on hand and notice signs of overheating, then you may want to consider taking your cat's temperature.
Trembling & Unsteadiness
If they get too warm, cats can lose some of their stability and balance while walking. If a cat's walking gait becomes wobbly or unsteady, then the cat may be combating heat sickness. This can progress to collapsing, muscle tremors, or even seizures, explains Christman, so it’s something to watch very closely.
Drooling Or Salivating
Drool is hardly a sign of concern with many dogs, but it can signal potential problems in felines. Cats dealing with heat distress may start drooling or salivating excessively, Christman says. This may be accompanied by intense panting, another sign of heat exhaustion.
Red Or Pale Gums
If possible, take a look at your cat's teeth and gums. Christman explains that very red or even pale gums may be a sign of overheating. Get your kitty into a cool space right away if you notice this unusual symptom.
Remember that your feline isn’t immune to extreme temps, so observe them closely on extremely hot days. By keeping a watchful eye on your kitty and keeping their living conditions just right, you can protect them from the complications that heat exhaustion can potentially cause.
“If a pet is suspected to be suffering from heat stroke, a pet parent can put cool or room temperature water on the pet, as well as a fan, to help cool them via evaporation. It is important to not put ice cold water on them, as this can constrict the blood vessels in the skin and make it more difficult to dissipate heat,” Lyons explains. “If there is any concern for heatstroke, the pet should always be evaluated by a veterinarian as there can be severe complications that families won't be able to treat at home.”
Dr. Adam Christman, veterinarian, board member of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA)
Bridget M. Lyons, VMD, DACVECC, Assistant Professor, Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine
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