How Do Cats Sweat?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
How Do Cats Sweat?

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One of the most appealing things about cats, besides their independent personalities, is their beautiful coats and the wide range of colors, shades, patterns and markings they can come in. Every cat is unique!

When you see them lazing around in the sun or going about their lives on very hot days, it's normal to wonder how they can cope with the high temperatures - especially considering their thick coat - and whether cats can sweat at all.

For this reason, AnimalWised will now explain how this cats regulate their body temperature. Next time you see your cat lazing around on an extremely hot day, you will know how do cats sweat!

You may also be interested in: Do Pigs Sweat?

Do cats have sweat glands?

Firstly, you need to be clear that cats do indeed sweat, although they do so to a lesser extent than human beings. This might surprise you because you've never seen your cat covered in anything that resembles sweat, especially when you consider that they are covered in a layer of hair.

Cats don't have many sweat glands, and they are only found on specific points on the body. This contrasts greatly with human beings, who have them across the entire surface area of their skin. Bodies produce sweat to release heat when it feels it is getting too hot, cooling the skin down.

This mechanism works the same way in cats, but they only sweat in very specific areas: the pads on their paws, the tip of their chin, their anus and lips.

A cat's coat can withstand temperatures of up to 50 ºC (122 ºF) without suffering any sort of damage, although this doesn't mean that the animal doesn't feel hot. Put simply, they have other mechanisms for relieving this sensation of heat.

You should also keep in mind that cats not only sweat when the temperatures increase, but also when they are stressed or scared. In these cases, cats leave a trail of sweat from the pads on their paws that gives off a sweet smell that can be detected by humans.

How Do Cats Sweat? - Do cats have sweat glands?

How do cats cool down?

Despite possessing the aforementioned sweat glands, they aren't enough to cool the animal down in extremely hot weather, especially in the case of long-haired cat. As such, cats have developed other mechanisms to release heat and maintain a stable body temperature in the summer. It is very common to see cats doing the following things on hot, dry days:

Firstly, they preen themselves more regularly. Cats lick their whole body, and the saliva that stays on their fur evaporates, helping the body to cool down.

They avoid making any unnecessary efforts on hot days, which means they will be much more inactive than at other times of year. It is normal to find cats taking a nap with their body outstretched in a shady and well-ventilated area.

Similarly, they'll drink more water and will want to play less in an attempt to keep themselves cool. You could add an ice cube to their water container, helping the water stay cool for longer.

Panting is another way to cool down body temperature. When cats pant, their inner thorax - the warmest part of the body - releases heat through the moisture produced in the mucous membranes of the throat, tongue and mouth. By doing so, cats are able to exhale this air and make the most of the steam to cool down.

However, panting is more common in dogs than in cats because dogs tend to perform more physical activity. If you notice your cat panting, it means it is extremely hot and you should provide assistance. Here is what you can do:

  • Wet its coat with cold water, dampening the underarm, groin and neck areas.
  • Wet its lips with cool water and allow it to drink by itself if that's what it wants.
  • Take it to a better ventilated area. It is much better to place it close to a fan or air conditioning unit.
  • Contact your vet immediately.

If your cat continues to pant even after taking the aforementioned steps, you should tell your vet. It is highly likely that the cat is suffering from heat stroke caused by high temperatures, a condition that could be fatal if not treated quickly.

In hot temperatures, the cat's brain tells the body that it should release body heat, which initiates the process of sweating; here, blood vessels in the skin dilate to allow for the expulsion of heat. However, when this process fails or none of the other mechanisms required by the cat perform well enough, the body overheats. When this happens, cats are exposed to suffering from heat stroke, which can have fatal consequences.

How Do Cats Sweat? - How do cats cool down?

Now that you know about a cat's ability to sweat, continue learning all about caring for them:

If you want to read similar articles to How Do Cats Sweat?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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