During the summer months, you frequently hear things like “keep your dogs inside” and “don’t leave your dog in the car.” This is great advice and should be followed carefully to keep your doggie friends safe. Unfortunately, cats are often left out of the heat safety discussions. Do you know how to keep your cat safe as the temperatures rise? Here are some tips:
Cats can get heat stroke/exhaustion, just like dogs can. It is hard for cats to get rid of excess heat, as they can only sweat through their paw pads. The first sign that your cat may be bothered by the heat includes them being restless and unable to settle. This can be because they are trying to find a cool place to rest. If they are unable to cool down, this can progress towards heat stroke. Signs of which include a high body temperature, drooling, lethargy, rapid heart rate and rapid respiration rate, vomiting, red gums, stumbling, and panting. Panting is never normal in cats, unlike with dogs. If the heat stroke goes untreated it can result in collapse, seizures, coma, and even death. If your cat is showing signs of heat stroke, soak them in cool (not cold) water and get them to a veterinarian immediately. If you have to soak your cat, make sure to keep their head above water, so they do not drown. Prolonged high body temperature can lead to severe problems such as organ failure.
To prevent heat stroke in cats, please provide them with a cool area as the temperatures rise. If your kitty goes outside, try to keep them inside where it is cool, during the hottest parts of the day. If your cat does not come inside, make sure they have cool/shaded places to go and lots of access to fresh water. Outdoor cats can be at risk for things like sunburns, or paw burns, from walking on the hot ground. Make sure both indoor and outdoor kitties have access to fresh, cool, clean water at all times. Many cats do not drink enough water and benefit from drinking fountains and/or canned food with water added in. Some cats will actually lick at ice cubes, but not all. Some people have success with providing ice cubes made of dilute tuna juice, as a treat to help cool down their kitties.
Providing cats with cool spots to rest is crucial. Some cats enjoy having an ice pack with a towel over it placed on the ground for them to lay on. Fans also can help keep them cool. Many people will place ice packs or ice cubes (in a bowl) in front of a fan to try to make it a bit colder. If your cat is playful, limit playtime for early morning and later in the evening, so they are being active at the coldest times of the day.
If you have to travel with your cat, DO NOT leave them in the car. Warnings are out every year, and still, pets die every year from being left in cars. Stress can also increase the body temperature, so try to make traveling as stress-free as possible for your cat. Make sure your kitty is familiar with their carrier before the trip. Some cats also enjoy quiet calming music during their travels. If you are concerned about your cat’s stress levels while traveling, do not hesitate to talk to your veterinary healthcare team for tips and tricks on keeping them happy.
Please keep a close eye on your feline friends and monitor them for any changes in behaviour or health all year long. If you have more questions about keeping your kitties safe in the heat, do not hesitate to contact us!
Written by Mikaila Cariou, RVT