When you feel warm or even hot, chances are your cat does, too. And our feline friends can be susceptible to overheating, heatstroke, dehydration and other heat-related illnesses just like us.
During hot, humid or especially warm days, cats are at increased risk for heatstroke and overheating.
“Heatstroke in cats is no different than in other species,” says Jo Ann Morrison, DVM, DACVIM, senior manager of medical quality advancement for Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, Oregon. “It is the inability for the body to cool itself appropriately, usually in the face of high environmental temperatures and/or humidity. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment by your veterinarian.”
To help protect your precious furball, learn the common signs of a cat overheating, behaviors to look out for and what to do if you think your cat is experiencing heatstroke.
7 Signs of Your Cat Overheating
If your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms—especially if it’s hot outside—he might be at risk for heat-related illnesses:
- Cat panting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dark red or grayish gums
- Increased body temperature
Relief for Heat Exhaustion in Cats
Often cats will take it upon themselves to find shady or cool spots, such under structures, near cooling vents or by fans. How can you help if you see heat exhaustion in cats?
“Get the cat to a cool, calm and soothing environment,” says Lou Anne Wolfe, DVM, at Will Rogers Animal Hospital in Oklahoma.
Reducing your cat’s stress and keeping him cool can help get the situation under control.
“If your pet shows any of these signs, or you suspect your pet has heatstroke, make every effort to minimize their stress and keep them calm,” says Dr. Morrison. “Contact, then transport your cat to a veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.”
In some cases, water can help relieve heat exhaustion in cats, but there are specific ways to proceed. And this is only if water won’t further stress your cat.
“If water does not stress your cat, you may rinse him in cool (not cold) water,” Dr. Morrison says. “Do not place ice cubes on your cat or submerge your cat in water, as this can increase his stress level, putting him at even higher risk of medical complications.”
Other ways to help cool a cat overheating include:
- Bringing him to a cool or air conditioned room
- Rubbing the cat with a damp towel
- Make drinking water available at all times
If your cat refuses to drink, use an eyedropper or syringe to drop a couple of beads of water in his mouth at a time. Do not shoot water into his mouth or down his throat, as it can cause choking.
Which Cats Are Most at Risk for Overheating?
Any cat can be at risk for heatstroke, but some breeds of cats may be more susceptible to overheating. For example, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds are at risk for breathing problems.
“Some breeds—for example, Persians and Himalayans—may be predisposed to developing heatstroke or be especially sensitive to the effects of heat and humidity and unable to cool themselves effectively,” Dr. Morrison says.
A physical examination by your veterinarian can help determine your cat’s particular body and facial makeup, if you’re unsure. Whether or not your cat falls into the high-risk category, veterinary experts recommend keeping all cats out of the direct sun as much as possible.
As with humans in warm weather, they need access to shade, cool areas and water to stay hydrated. Cats generally are protected best when they’re inside and in a cool area. If signs of heatstroke do not subside, contact your veterinarian right away.