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Summers in my home can be, well, cozy. That is, with only one AC unit between us, you’ll often find my whole gang—cats and all—gathered tightly around my bedroom window.
Admittedly, I’m a major fan of cozy family/kitty time. On scorching hot days, however, I find myself less thrilled to pack into one room together. Until central air is in the cards (someday), I figured there had to be a better way to give my two older cats some relief from the heat.
That’s when I discovered pet cooling mats: a novel way to help a toasty pet chill out. But with the majority of cooling mats designed and marketed for dogs, the task of selecting one for a cat is less straightforward.
To find out, we put two popular cooling mats head to head: the Arf Pets Self-Cooling Bed (a self-activating gel mat), and CoolerDog’s Hydro Mat, which stays cold with FlexiFreeze Ice Packs. With help from my two feline testers, we learned how cooling mats work—and which ones make the most sense for cat parents.
Cat Cooling Mat #1: Arf Pets Self-Cooling Bed
The Arf Pets mat uses a non-toxic, self-cooling gel to absorb your pet’s body temperature. In terms of convenience, Arf Pets wins, hands down. It’s ready to use right out of the package: no batteries, electricity, refrigeration, or water required. The cooling effect is simply activated by your pet’s weight (or the weight of human feet, as I was delighted to learn).
The Arf Pets mat is designed to stay cool for up to three hours—although none of our feline testers sat on it long enough to test this claim. After a quick 15 to 20 minutes of non-use, the mat recharges itself automatically.
We tested the small/medium size (20 by 30 inches), which was more than enough space for a kitty or two. A big selling point for my cat, Floyd, was the pad’s comfy bolsters. Really, they make the Arf Pets mat more than just a cooling mechanism: it doubles as a cushy napping spot.
The easy-to-use Arf Pets is also perfect for folks who travel with their cat. (If this is you, I commend your tenacity!)
Cat Cooling Mat #2: The CoolerDog Hydro Mat
Instead of using gel, the CoolerDog Hydro Mat relies on water-filled FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets for its cooling power.
The upside of using FlexiFreeze sheets is that the CoolerDog gets significantly colder than the ArfPets mat—we’re talking up to ten times colder. (I can personally vouch for that…brrr!) You might consider this a plus or a minus, depending on what you and your kitty are looking for (more on that below). You’ll also have to remember to pop the ice sheets in the freezer, making it useful to have extra ice sheets handy.
Unlike the ready-to-use Arf Pets mat, you’ll need to assemble the CoolerDog’s four components (don’t worry: it’s super easy). An insulating foam insert is placed along the bottom, and a cushioned waterbed transfers cold from the ice sheets to your pet.
Another interesting feature of the Hyrdro is that it’s designed with snaps along the sides to connect it to additional mats. So if you need to accommodate multiple pets (or a dog), you can modify the size to fit your needs.
To help you compare both types of mats, here’s a quick run-down of the specs:
|ArfPets Cooling Mat
|CoolerDog Hydro Mat
|Self-activated, non-toxic gel
|FlexiFreeze Ice Packs
|$59.13 (for small/medium)
|$49.99 (for one mat)
|S/M: 20″ x 30”
M/L: 22″ x 35”
L/XL: 26″ x 40”
|1 Pack: 23″ x 18”
2 Pack: 35″ x 23”
4 Pack: 45″ x 35”
|Outer material: nylon fabric, oxford fabric
Inner material: non-toxic solid cooling gel, sponge, cotton
|Outer material: sturdy ripstop
Inner material: FlexiFreeze ice sheets, waterbed cushion, and insulating foam insert
|Wipe clean with warm soapy water and dry with a soft cloth.
|Outer cover is machine-washable (delicate cycle). All 3 inserts can be wiped clean with soapy water.
|Time it takes to get cold
|Immediately! Just sit and let the mat do its magic.
|As long as it takes to freeze the ice packs (the company advises an overnight freeze, but we found they were ready within a few hours).
|How long it stays cold
|Up to 3 hours. Automatically recharges after 15 to 20 minutes of non-use.
|At room temp, stays cold for 4 to 5 hours.
Cats Floyd and Amber Try the Arf Pets and CoolerDog Cooling Mats
So how did both mats score with the cats? Unsurprisingly, our resident senior kitty, Amber, was not interested in either. Even with the allure of treats and catnip. All it took was one timid step onto the mat for her to decide no, this is definitely not for her. But then, Amber is usually terrified of . . . everything. (We love you, Amber!)
My ten-year-old male cat, Floyd, on the other hand, is usually game for new things. Especially new things that involve lounging. And while Floyd’s personality is the very definition of “chill,” his slight heft makes his body temperature less so. Making him the perfect candidate for a cat cooling mat.
First, we tried out the Arf Pets. Floyd immediately took to this cooling mat, plopping himself into a comfortable position as soon as I set it down. After a couple of minutes, Floyd nestled himself into a heat-conserving “loaf position” in the very corner of the mat, leading me to suspect he was appreciating the bed for its smoother surface and comfy bolsters rather than its cooling effect.
For the next several days, I left out both mats (after re-freezing the CoolerDog ice sheets overnight) to see if the cats would use either one voluntarily. Floyd did help himself to the ArfPets mat every now and then. But the poor CoolerDog mat was left unused. Even later in the week when temps soared into the 80s.
How would these two mats fare with cat nails? Constructed with sturdy nylon and oxford fabric, the folks at Arf Pets claim this mat is “puncture-resistant.” And the Hydro is protected with a cover of tough ripstop material.
Both mats do appear durable—although neither of my cats tested their own claws on them. Whether they’d hold up to intense scratching is questionable, but for the average cat who generally satisfies their need to scratch with a designated toy or scratching post, these mats should stay intact.
We Recommend the ArfPets Cooling Mat for Too-Toasty Cats
I’d like to preface this by stating that I think the CoolerDog mat is an excellent product. It’s sturdy, and it does what it’s supposed to do (i.e., cool things down). But is it for cats? Probably not. Personally, my vote is with ArfPets on this one.
Yes, the CoolerDog definitely gets colder, but I think it actually felt too cold for comfort. As such, it might better suit an energetic dog who needs to cool off after a romp around the yard. For a more sedentary, indoor feline, it’s just too cold.
Another thing I noticed is the CoolerDog Hydro became wet to the touch, which could be off-putting to water-averse cats. I ended up placing a towel over the mat, which helped—and it actually brought down the mat’s frigid temperature, making it more comfortable. (That said, even this modification failed to pique either cat’s interest.)
My final verdict: A gel-based mat, like the Arf Pets Cooling Bed, is worth considering for cats who could use a little help cooling down. This includes overweight kitties, senior cats, brachycephalic breeds, and ultra-fluffy felines—if your cat will take to one, of course. As we know, cats can be particular about where and how they sleep, and not every cat will like a cooling mat (as my apprehensive Amber proved).
And that’s okay! There are other ways to keep your cat cool in the summer. For starters, it’s important to keep up with your cat’s grooming routine to pare down an unbearably thick coat. Hydration is another must, so a water fountain for cats might be worth considering. You can even cool off your cat with a damp cloth (if they’ll allow it).
How We Chose
The products featured here were selected based on a combination of our own hands-on testing, a comprehensive look at customer reviews across a wide variety of retail platforms, and interviews with veterinary experts.
To determine which cooling mat works best for cat parents, we compared materials, ease of use, comfort, and the practicality of these mats against kitty claws. We’re also guided by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated pets, who are never stingy with their feedback.