Written by Mary Anne Miller
Any cat fancier will tell you that their cat is cool. But when the temperature starts to rise, how do you keep your cat cool? How do you prevent heat stroke from occurring, and if it does occur, what do you do about it?
Unlike dogs, cats do not sweat by panting. They instead sweat through their paws. On a hot summer's day, you may notice your cat has taken to groom himself more than usual. This is how they cool down. By licking themselves, and leaving the saliva on their fur, when the saliva finally evaporates off the fur, the cat's temperature goes down.
Cats will seek cool places to lie down in when they get to hot. Common areas are; sinks, bathtubs, litter pans, potted houseplants, shady tile floors or parked in front of the fan or the air conditioner.
If your home reaches 90 degrees, your cat will begin panting. This is your cat's way of exchanging heat inside his body with the cooler air outside. Cats will also pant when they are frightened or scared.
Your cat's temperature should be 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The only accurate way to determine if your cat is running a fever is to take his temperature using a rectal thermometer, or one of the newer ear thermometers.
Recently, we asked the readership of our newsletter KittyBytes...
"How do you keep your cats cool?"
Let's look at some of the responses:
- I keep lovye [my furchild] cool by putting a pan of ice in front of her personal fan. The fan blows cool air across to her. Plus I let her lie on damp towels
- My friend and I take care of a family of ferals (outdoors) as well as a houseful of indoor cats...you can well imagine the challenge of keeping everyone happy and cool...
- We use the dog as a status of 'cool' ...if the dog pants more than usual, we figure the cats are even hotter...
- We put ice cubes in the water bowls throughout the day.
- We have ice packs that we put in pillow cases and often some of the cats will sleep on or near the 'ice' pillow.
- We have window air conditioners so they may not cool as well as say central air, to move things along. We have a few fans around the house at the floor level (this pushes the cool air around more and raises the hot air out.
- We have one room on the top floor where we leave the window a crack open so that hot air can exit the house (no it's not wasting air conditioning it's actually helping cause hot air rises and cold air drops).
- We change their water daily.
- Two of our cats are extremely thick and long haired...they get a 'lion' cut just before the major heat...
- In very hot weather, I put an ice cube in each water bowl. The kitties love this. Also I get all their bellies shaved for the summer. I raise Persians so getting rid of all that hair makes them more comfortable. The adult males also get lion cuts.
- To keep my 3 moggies cool in very hot weather I leave out plenty of fresh water with a few ice blocks in to keep it cool a bit longer.
- I also stand them (one at a time) in the laundry sink in 2 inches of cold water, After the initial shock you can watch as their eyes cross in delight as their temperature drops. I will also wipe them down with wet hands every now again, which has a double bonus of cooling them down and having a much needed pat.
- I have 8 cats and I keep them cool by putting ice cubes in their water and leaving 2 air conditioners on for them on low all day long. My mother-in-law checks in on them a couple of times a day as she lives downstairs and loves them just as much as I do.
- I always wet a couple of paper towels with cold water and wet my babies from head to toe. They see the towel coming and they run over because they know it is going to cool them off. They even roll on their back so I can wet their stomach. I also make sure I keep filling their water bowl with ice cubes to keep the water nice and cool.
- I have two little girls, Esme and Phoebe; they take turns lying on the kitchen air vent. Plus when I fill their water dishes I always put ice cubes in first then fill with water.
- Living in the Mojave Desert, where it's been 105-107F for 1 1/2 wks and counting, this is indeed a timely issue! Some of our cats live indoors with us, and enjoy the central air conditioning, ceiling fans, etc. On cooler days, they go out into their own screened-in "catio" to bird watch and sun themselves. But the rest of our beloved felines share two stables and a cat- fenced adjoining yard; it is sweltering up there!!! So we just put up a water mister that delivers a fine, cooling mist (hook a garden hose up to it and turn it on at lowest setting; a lot of restaurants use these for "al fresco" dining). Additionally, we bought a portable swamp cooler (evaporative) that has two chambers you fill with water from tap or hose; it plugs in and a fan blows on the water -cooled pad, providing cool and moisture for one of the barns. These are available at home stores for a little over $100, and are far cheaper to operate than air conditioners; models are also available that hook directly up to a garden hose, but they are not portable, of course.
- My Casey is an indoor cat, I keep the air on in order for him to stay comfy, and keep plenty of cool water to satisfy his thirst, I also have an outdoor cat (lucky) he occasionally come inside to escape the heat, I also keep lots of cool water for him as well. We live in North Carolina and it gets really hot and humid, at those times lucky stay inside as much as possible.
- A large zip lock bag full of ice with a thin towel over it makes a cool rest stop. (leave a little room at the top so the ice will be "adjustable"). Also try a large bowl of ice in front of a small fan. When it melts -ice water for drinking.
- Bubba likes to sleep in a chair with the fan blowing on him.
- The most important thing in keeping my cats cool is cold fresh water out of the fridge. I do this several times a day; and they come running....they love it.
- I have 4 cats, 3 like to play outside on our farm most of the time but do ask to come in during the heat of the day. Inside is air conditioned. The one cat I keep indoors is deaf. Even though the house is cooler than outdoors I give my cats' ice cubes to help them cool off. I put a handful on the kitchen floor. They have a great time licking them and playing with them. After the ice is gone, each cat finds his or her favorite spot to sleep the rest of the hot day away.
- I keep my precious kitty cool with air conditioning, fans, and plenty of fresh water. Also, I brush her often to remove loose fur (even though she is a short-hair).
- To keep the kitty's drink cool all day long, I put 3-4 ice cubes in her drinking water early in the morning. This keeps the water cool most of the day. When I return from work, I again put several ice cubes in her water bowl.
- To keep the kitty from being exposed to the Southern heat (I live in Atlanta), I put her out on the screened in porch early in the morning and again after dinner or when the heat dies down.
- What I do to keep my cat cool is put ice cube in her water dish and put in the basement. It works for her but not for some cats.
- Since my cat is a white Turkish Angora she gets fur balls on her belly each year. I get her shaved in early summer and she stays cool lying on the tile floor.
Traci of cat-health online says: "Cats may pant if afflicted with hyperthermia, and will also drool/salivate excessively.
Symptoms can and will include panting, hyper salivation, dehydration, congested mucous membranes, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory distress/failure/arrest, hemorrhagic vomiting or diarrhea, seizures, stupor, coma and death.
Immediate veterinary attention is imperative for any pet suspected of heat-stroke, with IV fluids therapy, regulating body temperature, treating kidney damage, heart dysfunction or other organ dysfunction. The sooner treatment is initiated, the better the recovery outcome.
Owners can apply rubbing alcohol on the pet's paw pads, and cool the body with cool, wet towels--and/or use cooling fan directed toward pet-- en route to the vet, but need to get veterinary attention immediately (owners should NOT *continually or for long periods of time* apply cold/wet water or towels to the pet because the condition can fast lead to HYPO-thermia, this is the reason for immediate veterinary attention. Owners should also NEVER immerse the pet in ice.
If a pet suffers heatstroke even once, that pet *may* be more susceptible to heatstroke again, depending on health and environment."
According to Ben Braat DVM. of Linn Benton Veterinary Clinic in Albany, Oregon;
"Giving ice water or ice cubes to hot kitties does not do any good to lower body temperature... except if the cat is in the middle of a heat stroke then ice cubes should be placed on the head while kitty is in transport to the vet's office."
The best thing you can do for your cat when it is so hot is provide cool, cold water at all times and be sure there are shady places for your cat to lie down in. But if you see your cat starting to become overheated, get the cat to the nearest vet's clinic while doing your best to lower her temperature before you get there.
Mary Anne Miller is a free-lance writer, and member of the Cat Writers' Association. She is a web copy writer, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne at her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.
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