- Cats tolerate hot days better than dogs, but indoor temperatures over 85 °F can be too warm.
- If you don't have AC, you can set up fans and cooling beds and offer plenty of water and wet food.
- Call your vet right away for signs of heat stroke, like panting, rapid breathing, and lethargy.
If the weather's too hot for you, it's probably too hot for your cat to be outside and active — especially during a heat wave or high temperature advisories in your area, says Dr. Debra Eldredge, a veterinarian at Cat World.
Cats are generally more heat tolerant than dogs, but they can still overheat in high temperatures.
Temperatures of 85° F indoors and over 100° F outdoors can become problematic, says Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital and lead veterinarian at Cat World.
Cats can overheat at even lower temperatures, Eldredge says, if they:
- Are overweight
- Are acclimated to a cooler climate
- Have a short muzzle, like Persian cats
You don't need air conditioning to help keep your feline friend cool. Read on for six expert-backed ways to keep your cat comfortable during the dog days of summer.
1. Support their general health
Poor health can make cats less resilient to high temperatures, Whittenburg says.
Maintaining your cat's health long-term could help lower their risk of breathing issues, heart problems, and other concerns that can make them more susceptible to heat stroke.
You can support your cat's overall health by:
- Staying up-to-date with their health exams and dental care.
- Ensuring they're well-groomed, which will cut down on extra fur or mats that could keep them from releasing heat.
- Cleaning their litter box daily.
- Feeding them a high-protein diet.
- Paying attention to signs of parasites and using appropriate treatments, as needed, to keep them parasite-free.
- Giving them chances to exercise with plenty of playtime.
2. Set up fans
You can set up fans around your house to keep indoor cats comfortable if you don't have air conditioning. Eldredge recommends setting up a fan over a bowl of ice to make the air cooler as it flows into the room.
You can also use fans to help outdoor cats stay cool — if you can set one up safely, Eldredge says. In short, make sure any fans outside have waterproof cords. You'll also want to tape down the cord to prevent tripping and help minimize the chance of your cat chewing on it.
3. Consider cooling beds or mats
Cooling mats or vests can help both indoor and outdoor cats beat the heat, Eldredge says.
Cooling mats, or beds, contain cold water or gels to maintain a cool temperature. A cooling vest is a wearable that functions in a similar way — for cats who will tolerate it.
These products may be especially helpful if you can't keep indoor air temperatures cool enough. But outdoor cats might also appreciate a raised mesh bed or cooling mat, Eldredge says.
Even without a cooling bed, you can ensure your cat has naturally cool surfaces to lie on. For indoor cats, this can mean tile or wood flooring as opposed to carpet. If your house is mostly carpeted, try putting down a cool, damp towel or some ice packs wrapped in a towel for your cat to rest on.
Outdoor cats will do better on a patch of dirt than cement or asphalt, Eldredge says.
4. Provide shade
Access to shade is key, especially for cats living outdoors and feral cats, Whittenburg says.
If you don't have trees to offer natural shade, you may want to consider setting up a structure or cat house with plenty of airflow for cats to keep out of the sun.
Closing your curtains or blinds will provide more shade for indoor cats, Eldredge says.
5. Keep them hydrated
All cats need access to fresh water — but this becomes even more important during heat waves. You can use water to keep cats both hydrated and cool.
"Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water," Whittenburg says. If you have a cat who prefers not to drink much, offer wet food to help prevent dehydration.
Eldredge and Whittenburg recommend the following tips to help cats who resist drinking water stay hydrated:
- Leave your faucet running to a trickle.
- Set up a pet drinking fountain.
- Offer a mug of water, for cats who prefer drinking out of your glass.
- Add some flavoring, such as a few drops of canned tuna juice, to their water dish.
- Offer a damp washcloth so they can lick the water off.
- Freeze a bowl of water and let it slowly melt. This may work particularly well for outdoor cats.
6. Try cat sunscreen
Most cats are generally safe from sunburn, but their nose, ears, and any other places on their body with thin or no hair are more vulnerable. Hairless cats are also much more prone to sunburn, Whittenburg says.
If your cat resides indoors 24/7, they don't really need sunscreen, Eldredge says, but if your cat goes in and out, applying sunscreen may help protect them from painful burns.
You may find some sunscreens approved for cats at your local pet store. Just make sure to choose cat-friendly sunscreen. Cats may lick off sunscreen, which can cause problems if the ingredients are toxic, Whittenburg says.
Sunscreen for cats shouldn't contain zinc oxide, salicylates, or any scents, Eldredge says.
When to call your veterinarian
According to Whittenburg, the following signs could mean your cat is overheated or experiencing heat stroke:
- Rapid breathing
- Red or pale gums
- Lack of coordination, stumbling, or falling
- Extreme lethargy
If your cat seems a little too warm, a good first step involves making sure they're hydrated.
One way to assess your cat's hydration is the "skin tent."
If your cat is moderately dehydrated or overheated, you can try the at-home hydration methods mentioned above. But if they show signs of heat stroke or severe dehydration, like seizures, collapsing, vomiting, or diarrhea, you'll need to bring them to the vet for treatment, which might include subcutaneous or IV fluids for hydration, Eldredge says.
Cats tolerate heat fairly well — in fact, they often seek it out by choice. But if your cat lives exclusively indoors, they're probably acclimated to the same temperature range as you, and high summer temperatures outdoors can leave them uncomfortably warm.
If you notice signs of dehydration or overheating — including skin tenting, panting, or uncharacteristic clumsiness — offer cool water or wet food and give your vet a call.
You know your cat's regular behavior — if they seem a little off or not quite their usual self, it's not a bad idea to at least contact your vet, Eldredge says.
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