How to Keep a Cat Cool in Summer
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Changing temperatures can lead to changing behaviors. For us, it might mean lighter clothes and drinking more cool drinks. For our cat, the changes they will need to make may be surprisingly similar. Hotter temperatures don't simply change a cat's behavior, they can threaten their health. Intense heat can raise a healthy cat's body temperature to the point they develop hyperthermia. If the cat has pre-existing health conditions, this can be even more dangerous.
At AnimalWised, we look at how to keep a cat cool in summer. We do so that you might keep your cat safe and ensure they don't have negative effects of hot weather.
How excessive heat affects cats
Cats best tolerate temperatures between 17 ºC/62 ºF to 30 ºC/86 ºF, although there is slight definition between individuals. For example, longhaired Norwegian Forest Cat breeds can tolerate lower temperatures than most shorthaired cat breeds. The latter generally prefer warmer climates.
Additionally, cats only have true sweat glands on their paw pads. This means they cannot reduce their internal body temperature as we humans can. To know more about how cats cool down naturally, take a look at our article on how cats sweat.
Guardians of cats need to be careful for signs their cats is overheating. We can see this when a cat starts to hide in dark places, lies down on cool tiles or is generally lethargic. Since these behavioral changes can also be symptoms of certain pathologies, so ensure to be observant of their context. We also need to be careful when these turn into warning signs that the cat is in danger, such as when they hypersalivate or stop moving.
The main risks high temperatures pose to felines is the possibility of dehydration or heat stroke in cats. Heat stroke occurs when the cat has an internal body temperature reading of more than 39.2 ºC/102.5 ºF. When this occurs, vital functions will be diminished and the consequences can be fatal.
A cat begins to suffer the effects of high temperatures when the ambient temperature exceeds 30 ºC/86 ºF. However, if the weather is humid, they will start to be affected at even lower temperatures. For this reason, it is imperative you keep your cat cool in the summer.
What is the ideal ambient temperature for cats?
To avoid overheating, we should ideally maintain the home at a temperature which is optimal for both the cat and ourselves. This means we should keep the home at a temperature of between 15 ºC/59 ºF to 23 ºC/73 ºF. This is easier to do in homes which have climate control such as air conditioning.
For homes without air conditioning, we can still reduce the temperature on hot days by lowering the blinds during the hours of most sunlight. We can also crack a window to allow some cool air in. Do not open them fully to prevent the cat from escaping or falling, as is the case in cats with high-rise syndrome.
The importance of hydration for cats
Our domestic cats ancestry lies in desert cats, a wild feline used to conserving water and living in areas with high temperatures. This animal derived most of its water intake from their prey. Domestic cats carry genes which makes them drink relatively little water, even when we give them exclusively dry feed. For this reason, when temperatures rise, it is common for domestic cats to suffer from dehydration. This can lead to urinary tract problems and will eventually threaten their entire organism.
To avoid such problems and maintain hydration, we will need to ensure our cat is getting enough water. We can do this by switching their dry food to wet, or by adding water to their dry food (although we need to ensure the cat will tolerate this). We can add chicken broth to make it more appetizing, as long as there is no salt or any additives which are toxic to cats.
If we only have one water bowl for the cat, it is imperative we provide them with fresh and clean water at all times. In the summer, this means we will need to change their water a couple of times throughout the day. We can also add some ice cubes to our cat's water bowl. This will lower the temperature and make it more appetizing for the feline.
Check out this article on more ways to ensure your cat does not become dehydrated.
Avoid access to the outside
In the hottest hours of the hottest months of the year it is important that our cats stay inside as much as possible. Since we can control the indoor environment more easily, this prevents the cat from being caught in a situations where they cannot get access to water or the heat becomes too much for them. Of course, if remaining inside is too stressful for them, this can be reconsidered.
Can I wet a cat to cool them down in summer?
When it gets too hot, kids love to run around with the garden hose on to cool down. The same does not apply to cats. While there are some exceptions, generally cats do not want to be sprayed with water. In fact, many associate it with being punished for something. Even bathing the cat can be a tricky business, although it is necessary in some circumstances.
When temperatures are very high, however, your cat may be receptive to being cooled with water. To do this, we don't submerge them completely in a tub or basin. Instead, we need to take clean cloth and moisten it will cool water. Rub them on the top of the head and down their back. If they accept it, you can gently rub their face also. This also cools them down when the water evaporates from their fur.
Take care of their fur
Long-haired cats or those with short hair, but with a good coat, can suffer more in hot situations. That's why they should be brushed frequently to help remove dead hair that has not yet shed. Regular brushing will make them feel less heavy and fresher.
If you have doubts about the care of your cat's coat, read our article with all the recommendations for brushing your cat's hair.
Maintain their ideal weight
Being overweight and obesity in cats are triggers and risk factors for several feline endocrine and organic pathologies. It also is an increased risk factor for heat stroke and hyperthermia. This is because overweight cats have a greater layer of fat that acts as an insulator, maintaining body heat. That is why cats with excess weight will suffer more from the consequences of high temperatures.
To keep your cat in shape you must offer them a quality diet and encourage them to do physical activity. We will need to do the latter indoors as exercising in the heat will make the situation worse.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Keep a Cat Cool in Summer, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.
Brunetti, B., Magno, N., & Cappelletti, M. (2019). World Encyclopedia of Cats. Editorial of Vecchi SAU.