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As former desert creatures, today’s domestic cats have evolved to tolerate the heat pretty well. But when temps climb into record-breaking territory, even your typically “cool as a cucumber” cat needs a space to chill.
One cooling method that has received some attention in the dog world is the use of pet cooling mats. And savvy cat parents are beginning to catch on.
But because most cooling mats are marketed at dogs, it’s challenging for cat owners to land on a model suitable for their feline friend. Plus, we all know how particular some cats can be—would the average cat even use one?
To find out if cat cooling beds are effective we turned to the experts, speaking with Dr. Janet Cutler, Board Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) and owner of Landmark Behavior, and Dr. Alex Schechter, founding Veterinarian of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in NYC.
Let’s see if your toasty kitty could benefit from a cooling mat this summer!
How Cat Cooling Mats Work
You’ll find three main types of pet cooling mats: gel-based, water-based, and ice-filled. Each type operates a little differently, with pros and cons of their own.
“Gel mats are the most popular type of cooling mat for cats,” Dr. Schechter tells us. “They are made from a gel material that slowly absorbs energy and dissipates it.” When your cat sits on the mat, their weight activates the gel and starts the cooling process. Typically, gel mats stay cool for 3 to 4 hours and recharge after a rest period of 15 to 20 minutes.
In terms of convenience, gel mats win hands down. No water, ice, electricity, or batteries are required: just your cat’s toasty self. And because they’re lightweight and don’t require refrigeration, gel mats are also ideal for travel.
Another option is a water-filled mat. “These mats typically come with a built-in cold water reservoir and can be filled with cold water or ice,” says Dr. Schechter. One worry with water mats is the risk of a puncture. And while a water cat cooling mat does get sufficiently cool, if you’re looking for an ultra-cold mat, opt for one that uses frozen ice tray sheets. Brrrr!
Different Models of Cooling Mat for Different Kinds of Cat
To help you get a feel for the different types of mats out there—and which ones might appeal most to your own unique kitty—here are a few picks that have received our seal of approval.
|Product||Cooling Method||Price (Small)||Size Options||Materials|
|ArfPets Gel Mat||Gel||$59.13||S: 20″ x 30”
M: 22″ x 35”
L: 26″ x 40”
|The Green Pet Shop Mat||Gel||$24.99||XS: 11.75″ x 15.75”
S: 19.7″ x 17.7”
M: 20″ x 30”
L: 23.6″ x 36”
XL: 27.5″ x 45”
|CoolerDog Hydro Mat||Ice Sheets||$49.99||1 Mat: 23″ x 18”
2 Mats: 35″ x 23”
4 Mats: 45″ x 35”
|K&H Cool Water Bed III||Cold Water||$32.77||S: 17″ x 24”
M: 22″ x 32”
L: 32″ x 44”
The ArfPets Self-Cooling Gel Mat is a low-maintenance gel mat that gets high marks for convenience: all you need is a willing kitty to activate the mat’s cooling effect. It wipes clean with soap and water, although it’s not washing machine-friendly.
My own cat, Floyd, quite enjoyed the comfy bolsters, and he happily parked his sweet self on the mat throughout the day. I wouldn’t consider it the coldest mat out there—not by a long shot. But then, we live in a region that considers temps above 50 degrees to be balmy, so it served us well. Folks looking for more cooling power might want to consider an ice-filled mat like the CoolerDog.
The Green Pet Shop Cool Pet Pad is another popular take on a gel-based mat that relies on your pet’s weight to get cold. Like the ArfPets mat, it uses a non-toxic gel to absorb body heat—without the need for water, electricity, or refrigeration.
If you’re keen on traveling with your cat in the summer, the Green Cool Pad is ultra-light and folds up for easy storage. Our only watchout? This cat cooling mat is on the thin side, so it doesn’t offer much cushioning. We’ve tried it on our pups and been impressed.
For cats who like it really cold, the impressive CoolerDog mat is about as chill as it gets: ten times colder than most gel mats, in fact. The CoolerDog mat uses a four-layer system for optimal comfort and cooling effect. You can also purchase additional FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets, so you always have one on stand-by.
Need a bigger size to accommodate a larger pet or multiple pets? These mats have snaps on three sides so you can attach them to each other. Admittedly, the CoolerDog takes a little more effort to use, since you’ll need to remember to have frozen ice trays ready to go. Plus, it’s best for cats who don’t mind a little water, as we found this mat does perspire a bit.
Though gel mats are almost always non-toxic, a pet who ingests too much of the inside still might not feel very good. If you have a cat who loves to nibble, a water bed can be a more convenient alternative. The K&H Cool Water Bed III bed boasts a new and improved nylon and vinyl exterior that should hold up to most cats.
There’s a cap where you can fill the bed with tap water and an air valve to adjust the bed for optimal comfort. The sturdy exterior also means you can use this bed indoors and outdoors. Some pet parents have complained about mild leaking, and K&H warns shoppers this bed isn’t recommended for destructive pets.
What the Experts Have to Say About Cat Cooling Mats
So what’s the bottom line? Do cat cooling pads help to keep our kitties comfortably cool?
As far as their efficacy is concerned, Dr. Cutler is optimistic. “We don’t have any science yet looking at the effect of a cooling mat on body temperature in cats,” she admits. “But anecdotally, people have said that they feel much cooler against a cooling mat, and many household cats and dogs do seem to like to lie on them as it gets warmer. As cats do lose body heat to surfaces, it’s reasonable to think that a cooling mat would help them feel cooler.”
Dr. Schechter agrees. “Yes, cooling mats do work to keep a cat cool. They help disperse heat from a cat’s body and may help to lower the cat’s body temperature. A cooling mat can prevent a cat from getting too hot and stressed out.”
Dr. Schechter also points out that certain types of cats can benefit even more from a cooling pad in the dead of summer, including
- Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like Persians and Himalayans
- Cats with long, thick fur
- Senior cats
- Overweight cats
- Cats with heart and lung health issues
Both experts consider cooling mats safe to use with cats, but there are some things to be aware of.
First, it’s important to remember that while cooling mats do offer relief and comfort, they’re no match for extreme weather. “The average temperature range for felines is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” confirms Dr. Schechter. “Most cats will feel uncomfortable and stressed at around 103 degrees (39 degrees Celsius).” At this temperature, your cat is at risk of heatstroke.
And if your cat is a habitual scratcher and chewer, there’s also the gel to watch out for, as Dr. Janet Cutler reminds us. “Many of the compounds in non-water cooling mats are proprietary and aren’t listed clearly when you buy the product. If your cat is prone to chewing on things, or you live in a household where another animal or child could damage the mat, this is something to be cautious of.”
Final Verdict: Are Cat Cooling Mats Worth It?
For the most part, yes, cooling mats are a useful cat accessory. They’re a simple way to offer your cat some relief when it’s hot out—and they’re especially valuable for cats who need a little extra help cooling down, like flat-faced breeds and cats with thick coats.
Nevertheless, a cooling pad is no substitute for air-conditioning and access to cool water. And the truth is, some kitties just won’t go for a cooling mat (as I can personally confirm). If your cat falls into that last category, our experts have some safe alternatives for beating the heat.
“Other options to keep your cat cool include having a cool room accessible (with air conditioning or a fan if possible),” Dr. Cutler tells us. “If your cat seems hot, you could use a damp or wet cloth to rub over their fur, as evaporation can help cool them.”
Dr. Cutler goes on to say that adequate hydration is always essential for cats: “Ensure they have plenty of water, and try to keep them in a calm environment, as excitement can also cause body temperature to rise.”
One way to boost your cat’s water intake is with their very own drinking fountain. And don’t neglect your kitty’s grooming routine, since removing all that extra hair will keep them more comfortable in the heat.
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. We’ve prioritized effectiveness of cooling, convenience, ease of storage, durability, and safety in our cat cooling mat picks. 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.