You might think that furry cats can’t possibly sweat, and it’s true that their fur-covered skin is rubbish when it comes to sweating, but cats do sweat and also have other strategies for keeping themselves cool.
Cats can, however, develop heatstroke very quickly, which can kill them if not recognized and treated quickly.
Sweating and Cooling Down
Cats have most of their sweat glands in their paw pads, which is why you might see “sweaty” paw prints on paths in hot weather. Obviously, however, even with four paws full of sweat pads, there is a lot of cats to cool, so they have developed other strategies to cool down.
On a hot day, you are most likely to find your cat in a shady place with their body spread out on a cool surface. You may occasionally see him sleeping in his back with his paws in the air.
Your pet will also lick himself to distribute saliva over his fur, this will then evaporate and cool him down in the same way that sweat does on humans.
You may see your cat panting. Panting causes heat from the inner thorax to pass over the mucous membranes of the throat, tongue, and mouth, the cat then exhales the moist air and the consequent evaporation cools him. Panting is not common in cats, so if you notice your cat panting:
- Wet his fur with cool water – which will evaporate and cool him down.
- Provide him with cool water to drink, helping to lower his body temperature.
- Move him to a cooler part of the house or garden
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Can come on quickly and can quickly prove fatal to cats, so medical attention must be sought as soon as possible.
The signs of heatstroke are:
- Panting with an open mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Your cat may seem weak or have actually collapsed
- Seizures/unconsciousness can develop
If your cats are outside, even if you believe they are in a shady spot, call them to you regularly to check that they are well and encourage them to drink.
If your cat is displaying signs of heatstroke, wrap him in a cool damp towel and give him some cool water to drink and get him to the vet for treatment as quickly as possible.
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Other Ways to Keep Your Cat Cool
- Apply cool water to his groin, armpits and the front of his neck. This will help to cool him down, but do it gently and stop if he seems to be getting distressed. If your cat is used to being groomed you could wet his brush/comb and get the water on to him in that way.
- An electric fan or hairdryer could be directed onto your cat or space where he is resting, although the noise might frighten him away.
Remember: If you’re hot, then your cat is hot:
- Have fresh water available at all times, inside and out, and encourage your cat to drink
- Keep your cat indoors if you can do so without causing him distress
- If your cat insists on going outdoors, are sure he is in the shade
- Never leave your cat in the car, or an overly sunny room or conservatory, even for a short period
- Call your vet if your cat doesn’t ‘seem right’ during very hot weather.
Encourage your cat to stay inside during the very hottest parts of the day if you can and then let them back out in the early evening when it cools down outside. Don’t be surprised if your cat chooses to sleep outside in the very hot weather and only returns in the morning to have breakfast.
- Sarah Wooten, DVM, How Do Cats Sweat?, PetMD
- Summer Pet Safety Tips: Keeping Dogs, Cats and Other Pets Safe in Hot Weather, Best Friends Animal Society