Summer will be here before you know it, so it’s time to think about ways to keep your kitties cool and collected through the hot summer months. You can help by providing your cat with a cool environment, cooling your cat down if it becomes overheated, and keeping an eye out for heat stroke. If your cat exhibits significant symptoms of overheating, you’ll want to take immediate action and also speak to a veterinarian about a professional diagnosis and treatment.
Here are some of our favorite tips to help your cat survive hot weather:
Turn on the air conditioning: On hot days, it makes sense to keep your cat indoors during midday hours, especially if you have air conditioning. You can keep things cooler by closing blinds or drapes and shutting exterior doors. If you don’t have A/C, turn on some fans in front of open windows to help move the air around. Check that the fans you use are safe for cats and have a secure cover. Don’t let it get too cold, as this will irritate your kitty. You can keep some rooms warmer than others so that Fluffy can pick its’ favorite environment.
Fill the water bowl: Cats, like people, need to hydrate to stay cool. When your cat gets overheated, its brain tells it to drink more water, so you need to ensure that a good supply is always available. Use multiple bowls that are shallow and wide – narrow bowls discourages cats because they don’t like their whiskers to touch the sides. Top off the water throughout the day and change it once or twice. Make sure you use clean bowls, and consider installing a kitty drinking fountain, as cats like to drink running water. Various designs of drinking fountains are available, but pick out one with a gentle flow that won’t intimidate your pets.
Kitty knows best: Let your cat sit wherever it wants. Cats like to make themselves comfortable, so they will naturally gravitate to a spot that feels good, neither too hot or cold. Your cat might pick a sunny spot in an otherwise cool room. Long- and short-hair breeds have different temperature requirements, so if you have a multi-kitty home, don’t be surprised if each cat adopts its own favorite spot. A warm cat might enjoy stretching out in a porcelain sink or bathtub to cool down. Tiled floors are also cooler. So, to borrow a phrase, let sleeping cats lie.
Postpone energetic games: You might enjoy playing with your cat by dangling objects or using a laser pointer to get it into hunting mode. On hot days, it’s a better idea to let your cat remain sedentary, because exercise and muscular activity will generate additional heat, something your cat doesn’t need.
Set up shady spots: If you let your cat go outdoors on warm days, make sure there are some nearby shady spots, which are often 5 to 10 degrees cooler than sunny locations. A tree or bush can do the job, but lacking those, consider setting up a garden umbrella. If you have a barn, shed or detached garage, make sure you check to see whether you cat is using it as its lounge area before you close the door. Protect indoor kitties too by giving them access to darker rooms.
Damp towels at the ready: Unlike dogs, cats don’t take well to water, but if they become overheated, your cat will probably tolerate a cool-down from a damp towel. Gently stroke your cat, starting at the top of its head and proceeding down the back. You might have to do this several times a day if conditions warrant.
Brush your kitty: Daily brushing removes heat-trapping matted fur. This is especially vital for long-haired breeds. It’s a good idea to brush in the early morning, before the day heats up, as your cat will be more comfortable then. You might give your cat a haircut, but do not expose any skin, which risks sunburns and skin cancer. In fact, some experts believe a thick coat actually keeps a cat cooler by blocking incoming heat – speak to your vet for the latest information on this topic.
Watch out for heat stroke: Warning signs include rapid breathing, panting, confusion, bright pink ears, lethargy, weakness, tremors and possibly seizures. Cats with heat stroke will exhibit hot paw pads as well. Respond my moving your cat to a cool surface, putting on a fan and applying damp cloths. Give your cat water, but if it’s too weak to drink, pat a wet towel on its gums. Do not apply ice or ice water, which can send you cat into shock. Call your veterinarian immediately and be prepared to bring in the cat for treatment, such as administration of intravenous fluid.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.