Although they are originally desert animals, 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. It's scary. So watching out for the signs your cat is overheated is especially important during the summer months. 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 Dr. 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, Dr. Christman further explains.
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.
Although it's perfectly normal for dogs to pant as a way to cool off, this behavior is more concerning for cats. For the most part, panting increases as heat stroke progresses, says Dr. Christman, so keep an eye on your kitty to monitor this symptom. If their panting is excessive or labored and gets worse, you might want to take them in right away.
2. Sweaty Feet
Cats can sweat, just not to the same degree that humans do. So if your cat has sweaty feet on a hot day, then she's getting pretty warm, as explained in Catster. Help her cool down a little by moving into a cool, air-conditioned room and offering plenty of fresh water.
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 Dr. Christman. A cat who seems unusually tired, to the point where they are uninterested in meals or playtime, it’s possible they’re dealing with heat exhaustion.
4. 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, as explained in Preventive Vet. In some instances, vomiting or diarrhea related to heat stress will even have traces of blood, says Dr. Christman.
5. High Body Temperature
If you have a pet thermometer on hand, then consider taking your cat's temperature. A temperature of 101 Fahrenheit is considered normal for cats, and anything above 102.5 is considered hyperthermia, according to Catster. If the cat's body temp gets to 105, then heatstroke is a real concern, thee site further explained. If you don't have access to a pet thermometer, then contact your vet for advice.
6. 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 combatting heat sickness, according to Pet MD. This can progress to collapsing, muscle tremors, or even seizures, explains Dr. Christman, so it’s something to watch very closely.
7. 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, says Dr. Christman. This may be accompanied by intense panting, another sign of heat exhaustion.
8. Red Or Pale Gums
If possible, take a look at your cat's teeth and gums. Dr. 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.
Edit Note: This post was originally published on July 11, 2018 . It was updated on August 21, 2019.