We love summer, but sometimes it’s just too hot. Learn how to cool down a cat so that you can keep them safe in the blistering sun. As the weather warms up, you might notice your cat’s behaviour starting to change a little. Whether your cat is indoor, outdoor, or both, they struggle with hot weather just like you do.
If you are lucky enough to have air conditioning, you can control the temperature of your home, but if you don’t or if your cat loves to explore the neighbourhood, then you may need to find other ways to help keep your cat cool.
Much like dogs, cats have thick coats that keep them insulated, this means that it helps them to retain heat in the cold and can repel external heat in hotter weather, but this has its limitations. High summer temperatures can lead to a number of physical reactions as well as behavioural changes.
While a good, high-moisture diet can help keep your pet hydrated, sometimes the heat is just too much for your cat to regulate their body temperature safely.
Why Do Cats Like Hot Weather?
Of course, we are largely going to be talking about how to cool down a hot cat, but most cats do in fact prefer hotter weather. This is because they are homeotherms. This means they are pretty good at regulating their body temperature as needed, and in general, run a little hotter than humans.
This doesn’t mean that cats can’t overheat, but it does mean that if they are feeling the heat, you will definitely be suffering with them. It should be easy to determine if your cat’s odd behaviour could be a result of the temperature.
How Do Cats Cool Themselves
Being homeotherms, cats are naturally equipped to control their body temperature. Of course, they can only do so much, but this instinctual ability makes them generally equipped to manage normal warm weather conditions. Here’s how they do it:
Like dogs, cats pant to cool themselves. Panting allows cool air to circulate in their body, which helps to reduce body temperature. Panting in cats is not as common as it is in dogs, so you might not notice your cat panting. Excessive panting means that they are struggling to control their temp, and you need to intervene.
Cats sweat through their paws, like dogs. Sweat facilitates heat removal from the body as the moisture from the sweat evaporate. It’s rare that you’ll notice super sweaty cat feet, but this in combination with panting is your cat’s involuntary method of cooling down.
This one is pretty unique to cats, but grooming is actually another method of cooling down. When grooming, cats leave behind a little moisture, and like sweat, the moisture from their saliva helps to draw heat out of their body.
How to Tell if Your Cat is Too Hot
Cats can be aloof, so it’s not always easy to notice that they are struggling with the heat. There are a lot of things that you can do to keep your cat cool and comfortable, but being able to recognize signs that your cat is overheating is a matter of safety.
Minor changes to demeanour are normal as seasons change, but you should be on the lookout for behaviours that are dangerous, destructive, and out of the ordinary. Here are some things you might notice if your cat is too hot:
Cats may act very low energy if they are too hot. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are dangerously hot, or even overly uncomfortable, but it is their natural way of limiting energy output to keep their body temperature low.
An overheating cat will also show lethargic behaviours. This could be the beginning stages of heatstroke or dehydration. This is why lethargy should always be taken seriously and should prompt you to look for other possible symptoms that may indicate that you need to intervene.
Sometimes, cats that are feeling the effects of a hot summer day may act agitated or even aggressive. This could present in a serious case of the zoomies, destructive behaviours like scratching or chewing or picking fights with other pets or you, or just general restlessness.
Agitated behaviours are not enough to make a determination, but if your cat is abnormally upset or on edge, it’s important to take note.
Loss of Appetite
Cat’s can be very particular about eating routines, so a skipped meal here and there may not surprise you, but if your cat is refusing to eat at all, then you might want to consider this a sign that they are feeling the effects of overheating.
Overheating, heatstroke and general discomfort from the heat can all cause your pet to turn their nose up at food. Monitor how often and how much they eating, and try to encourage frequent small meals to get your cat the calories and nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Seeking Cool Surfaces
If you keep finding your cat laying on the tile floor of the bathroom, or the hard concrete of your basement or garage, then it’s very likely she is seeking out cooler surfaces to help reduce her discomfort.
Cats love air conditioners too. It’s common for them to plant themselves right in front of an air conditioner, a fan, or an open window just to feel the cool stream of air. If your house is on the warm side, it’s not a bad idea to make sure these devices are safely positioned for your cat to enjoy them.
If you are a dog owner, you know that panting is a normal way for dogs to release heat from their body, but what about cats? Why do cats pant? If you notice your cat panting like a dog, then you should be concerned.
Cats pant for the same reasons that dogs do, but not as often and typically not as hard. Normally, you might see your cat gently panting after a high-energy round with a cat wand or fetch, or after a case of the zoomies, but panting during low energy activities could mean your cat is cooking. We’ll dive more into cat panting later in this article.
If you have a cat that drools when they purr, then you might not see this as abnormal behaviour, but excessive drooling, or drooling in unusual situations can be a bad sign. This is especially telling if it’s combined with panting or other behaviours from this list.
Throwing up is not the most uncommon thing for cats. Many cats deal with hairballs and are no stranger to regurgitating food after meals. Though the reasons can vary, vomiting alongside panting, drooling, or lethargy is concerning.
Consequences of Cat Overheating
If your dealing with a prolonged heatwave, then your cat will probably show mild symptoms of overheating, but if the symptoms don’t go away, or start to worsen, then your cat could be in danger. There are two things that could result from prolonged overheating:
Dehydration in Cats
Cats are not naturally drawn to water, so unless they are eating a moisture-rich diet, most average house cats live in a perpetual state of mild dehydration already. Further dehydration can cause many problems, and overheating will quickly dehydrate your kitty even further.
The even tougher aspect of dehydration in cats as a result of overheating is that you can lead a cat to water, but you can’t make them drink. It may be necessary to encourage moisture intake through food or tasty water additives.
In cases of extreme dehydration, your cat will need an iv to replenish their fluids, so don’t wait to call your vet if you notice signs of dehydration in your cat.
Cat’s typically have a body temperature of between 100 and 102 degrees F. If your cat’s body temperature goes above 103, then your cat is overheating, but over 106 can be an emergency. This means your cat has heatstroke.
Heatstroke causes your kitty’s organs to start shutting down, so it’s vital that you act quickly and seek medical attention to lower your pet’s body temperature safely. In addition to the signs of overheating above, you may also see either brightly coloured or very pale gums.
If you suspect heatstroke, call your vet immediately. Heatstroke can easily be life-threatening if not treated in a timely manner. Contact your vet for instructions on how to try to lower their body temperature and prepare them for transport to the vet safely.
Cats That are Most Susceptible to Overheating
While any cat can feel the effects of extreme temperatures, some cats are more susceptible than others. Here are a few examples of cats at high risk of overheating and heatstroke:
- Senior cats
- Sick Cats
- Overweight Cats
- Cats with thick fur
- Brachycephalic breeds (short noses or push in faces)
- Young kittens
- Hairless breeds
- Outdoor cats
If your cat falls into one of these categories, you should consider a more controlled environment to keep them safe. Keep them inside if you have air conditioning, provide fans, and keep windows open to provide a cross-flow of cool air in your home. Keep reading to find out more ways to cool your cat down.
How to Cool Down a Hot Cat
Keeping your cat cool and comfortable when the weather is hot will help keep them safe. Preventing overheating is easier than treating it, so whenever the temp feels a little too warm for you, then you should act as if it’s too warm for your cat too.
There are several factors involved in deciding how to keep your cat cool, the first being the environment. There is a difference between indoor and outdoor cats. Their behaviours and ability to control their own body temperature will be different because of their environment.
10 Tips for Cooling Down a Cat Inside
Indoor cats have an easier time maintaining control over their body temperature because they are more likely to be able to escape the sun and have access to fresh cool water. While there are advantages for indoor cats, your cat may still need some additional help beating the heat. Here are some simple ways to cool down your indoor cat:
1. Keep Them Hydrated
Incorporate more liquid into their daily routine. Multiple water sources, like cat water fountains, will help to encourage your kitty to drink more. Additionally feeding a higher moisture diet, like raw cat food or canned foods, will help to replenish moisture regularly.
2. Provide Cool Spaces
As we said earlier, your cat might seek out cool surfaces, like tile or concrete to help cool them. Try to leave your cat safe access to these cooling methods, even if you are not home. This might mean leaving bathroom doors open or giving your cat access to your basement.
3. Air Circulation
Set up cat trees or chairs in the path of fans or air conditioners. This will give your cat a safe spot to literally chill. If you don’t give them easy access, they may risk climbing furniture or exploring dangerous platforms just to get closer to the cooler breeze.
4. Cold Treats
Frozen treats are popular for dogs, but cats are more particular about temperature. You are better off offering them a coo, moist treat. Our favourites are whole raw sardines or chicken necks from Big Country Raw.
5. Cooling Gear
Lots of cooling gear is designed for dogs, but that doesn’t mean that it can be used for cats too. Cats are typically less happy about wearing clothes, but you don’t have to give them a full cooling vest. You can start with a simple cooling collar or bandana.
Cooling mats are a popular option among dogs but are not always recommended for cats because they often use gel beads to keep cool. These gel beads are toxic if ingested, and because cats like to knead their beds, there is a high possibility that they will split the material exposing the toxic gel.
6. Limit Sun Exposure
Keep your curtains closed to limit direct sun exposure. Cats love a good sunbeam to lay in, but on the hottest days of the year, you may have to limit how much sunbathing your kitty does. This goes for outdoor cats too. Keep them in areas that provide shade and shelter from the sun.
7. Keep Them Indoors
Even though your cat may love spending time outdoors, when the temp outside gets crazy, it may be safest to keep them inside until the weather breaks. They may not be happy about this, but it’s about keeping them safe.
8. Keep Calm
Your cat may be anxious or restless, but too many activities will not help them keep their cool. Limit playtime to lower energy activities to keep your pet calmer and relaxed. Stick to couch cuddles and belly rubs instead.
9. Elevated Pet Bed
Beds that are raised off the ground on legs, like this K&H Elevated Pet Cot, may not seem all that special, but in reality, the airflow under the bed will help to keep them cooler than in a bed that is directly on the floor. Set up this bed near a fan to push cool air under the bed.
10. Damp Cloth
If sweating and grooming help your cat cool using evaporation, then you can help them speed up the process by giving them a quick rub down with a damp cloth or towel. They may not love being wet, but they will be able to cool down faster. This is a great option if your cat won’t tolerate cooling gear.
Bonus Tip: Go for Swim
We added this one just for fun. If you read this and thought - WHAT!?!, then you are not alone but don’t knock it till you try it. There are cats who don’t mind water, especially if they are looking for a way to cool down.
Can Cats Swim?
Most can actually. They also just choose not to. Most domesticated cats have never had any experience with swimming, so don’t be surprised if your cat is not willing to just dive in. It will take time and practice to get your cat comfortable around water, and frankly some cats will never go for it.
Cats That Like Water
You may not suspect your cat will like a nice cool dip, but some cat breeds are more likely to have an affinity for water. This isn’t a guarantee that your cat is ready to cannonball, but it might be worth a try if you have one of these breeds:
- Turkish Van - this breed is sometimes called the swimming cat because they are natural swimmers that enjoy a dip.
- Maine Coon - suspected to be loyal ship’s cats, Maine Coon’s aren’t necessarily avid swimmers, but they aren’t afraid to get wet.
- Bengals - are one of the most playful and curious cats, so even though they aren’t known for their swimming abilities, they are willing to try anything that might be fun.
- Abyssinians - another cat that is willing to explore any environment just out of curiosity. Water may not be their first choice but some toys will likely encourage them to at least dipping their toes in.
- Norwegian Forest Cat - This big cat is a natural hunter, and one of their favourite prey is fish. Wading into the water for a tasty meal or snack is not uncommon.
All of these breeds are great hunters, so much of their confidence in the water is from tracking down prey, but they also usually just like to play. These 5 breeds will likely be interested in your kitchen sinks, curious about the tub, and if they spend time outside, they may even be comfortable with the hose or sprinkler.
How to Keep Outdoor Cats Cool During Summer
If your cat loves to spend most of her days exploring the neighbourhood, then you may need to consider additional measures to keep them cool. Beyond the tips above, like cooling gear, there are additional things you can do to ensure that your cat can safely enjoy a hot summer day.
Even if your cat doesn’t love water, leaving out a large bowl, or even a kiddie pool of fresh clean water will ensure that your cat will know where to come to rehydrate or even cool down if she so chooses to get in. Your cat’s survival instincts will tell her to find water if she needs it.
Your cat is going to explore as she pleases, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t need a reprieve from the beating sun. Providing an insulated shelter, like a dog house, will help her get out of the sun and control her body temperature.
Limit Outdoor Time
This may not be an option that your cat appreciates, but it is in her best interest to keep her inside during the hottest parts of the day. Changer her outdoor time to early in the day or in the evening when the sun isn’t as hot.
It’s a Hot Cat Summer
Now that you know how to keep your cat cool, you and your kitty can enjoy your favourite summer activities. Whether you are relaxing at home, playing in the yard, or going on exciting adventures with your feline companion, these tips for keeping your cat cool can help.
Just remember to look for the signs of overheating, be aware of the environment your cat is in, and choose the tips for cooling down your cat that works best for you.
If you are ever concerned about your cat's temperature, it’s always best to connect with your vet. Prevention is always better than treatment, and your vet can help you determine if your cat has any health issues that may put her at a higher risk of overheating.
How do you keep your cat cool on a hot summer day? Does your cat like to swim? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!