Cats were domesticated from desert species, on continents like Asia and Africa, so they often enjoy the sunshine and heat. Unfortunately, however, too much sunshine can lead to serious problems such as heatstroke and sunburn.
Most cats can regulate their own body temperature to keep themselves safe, but certain breeds (such as longhaired and flat faced cats) are at a high risk of developing problems when the weather is hot. Prevention is always better than cure, and luckily, there are many things that we can do to help keep our feline friends comfortable this summer!
Know the signs of heatstroke
Most cats avoid overheating by seeking shade, however, if they are trapped in a hot area (for example a shed, porch or greenhouse) and have no way to cool themselves down, they are at risk of heatstroke. It’s important for all cat owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke, so you can get help for your cat quickly if needed. Common symptoms include:
- Low energy
- Drooling (in severe cases, your cat will get a dry mouth and gums)
- Mouth breathing/panting
If you're worried that your cat is suffering from heatstroke, contact your vet immediately.
It’s also a good idea to check your outbuildings and cars for cats before you close them, even if you don’t own any pets yourself. Cats are often inquisitive and can sneak inside if windows and doors are left open, leaving them trapped in a small space that could become dangerously hot.
Top cooling tips
It can be tricky to know how to keep your cat cool – especially if they love exploring outside. However, from creating a shaded spot, to providing cold snacks, there’s lots you can do to help them!
Creating a shady spot outside is a great way to help keep your outdoor explorer cool. Trees and shrubs make great natural shade for garden-loving kitties. Alternatively, you could try making your own shady spot by hanging sheets/blankets, or make your own ‘DIY sun den’.
Don’t forget to provide shaded spaces both outside and inside of the house by closing curtains and blinds to protect your cat from the sun indoors.
Plenty of water
It might sound simple, but making sure that your cat has plenty of access to clean, fresh water is one of the most important ways to keep them cool and protect them from dehydration.
Always make sure that there are plenty of water bowls both inside and outside of the house, so your feline friend doesn’t have to venture far to find a refreshing drink. This is particularly important if you have more than one cat, as they often don’t like to share bowls! Try to position food and water bowls away from each other too.
Many cats prefer to drink running water, so you might want to think about getting pet fountains.
Dawn and dusk
On very warm or humid days, you might want to encourage your cat to stay home and out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. This is really important if you think your cat is at high risk of heatstroke or sunburn. If forecast is set to be very warm, make sure your cat can head out to explore in the early morning and at evening when the weather is likely to be cooler.
You can also encourage them to nap indoors during the hotter parts of the day by playing with them at dawn and dusk, and offering their breakfast a little later to tempt them to come home before it gets too warm!
Protect your cat from the sun
It’s not just us who are at risk of sunburn – our feline friends can be too! Although fur is a great sun barrier, cats can still get sunburnt especially on thin furred areas or areas with no fur, such as the ears and nose. Cats that are hairless, such as Sphynx cats, or light in colour such as ginger or white cats, are especially at risk.
Protecting cats from sunburn is vital, as it can lead to a skin cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. When the weather is hot and you’re lathering sun cream on your own skin, remember to protect the exposed areas on your cat with pet-safe sun cream too, especially if they might be more vulnerable to sun damage. You can further protect your cat by creating plenty of shaded areas for them to snooze in.
Create a cool room
A great way of protecting your cat from the heat, is to create a cool, enticing room indoors for them to snooze in!
A simple way of doing this is to close the curtains on the hot side of the house and create a refreshing breeze with fans and open windows. Just remember that cats are curious, so put netting across any high windows to prevent accidents, and make sure that the fans are out of reach so they can’t be knocked over by mischievous paws!
You can also tempt your cat with a refreshing place to kick back and keep cool by providing cold ceramic tiles, or a cooling mat for them to lay on.
Remember that it’s important to keep your cat out of rooms that are likely to get very hot on warm days – especially spaces such as sheds, greenhouses, summerhouses, conservatories, porches, cars and caravans. Always check before you close hot rooms – if your cat is trapped with nowhere to cool down, it’s likely to result in a serious case of heatstroke!
Ice, ice, ice
Contrary to popular belief, ice can be a good and safe way to help keep your cat cool – not to mention it’s refreshing and fun!
The possibilities are endless with ice-filled fun – you can provide ice cubes to bat around the floor, give frozen treats, or even pop a few ice cubes in their water bowl!
It’s not surprising that with all the extra fluff, long-haired cats are more likely to overheat in the summer. A good grooming routine is important all year round, but it’s especially helpful in the summer months. A daily brush will help make sure that your cat’s thick undercoat and excess fur is removed, which can help them feel a little cooler.
On particularly hot days, you can also consider stroking your pet with wet hands to provide relief from the sun, as long as they enjoy the cool water on their fur!
Which cats feel the heat?
Any cat can struggle in the heat, but some will find it more difficult to cope than others. If your cat fits into one of these categories, they may need some extra care to stay cool during the summer months:
- Flat-faced breeds such as cats with short noses like Persians or British Shorthairs, can have difficulty breathing because of the shape of their face and therefore struggle to cool themselves down, especially in hot weather.
- Fluffy cats and cats with long, thick fur will feel the heat more than their short haired friends. They might need extra help to cool down in a heatwave – along with regular grooming.
- Older cats or cats with health problems are generally more sensitive to the heat and more prone to serious problems like heatstroke. It can be safer to keep poorly cats inside the home and monitor them closely, so that they don’t become overwhelmed by the heat outside.
- Overweight cats carry extra fat, which puts their body under additional strain and insulates them, making it much harder for them to cool down.