- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
House cats are descended from desert dwellers. Because of this ancestral connection, cats absolutely love basking in the warm sun and lazing in an afternoon glow. You may have noticed your cat following the sun around your house in search of a place to nap. Once they find a place, they sprawl out on the floor on their side and stay there for hours.
Their sun-loving nature brings up some interesting questions. Don’t they get hot? Do they ever overheat? Or maybe, based on human’s natural air-conditioning system: Do cats sweat?
According to PetMD, cats do sweat! But they don’t necessarily release sweat droplets as humans do. Instead, they’ve developed other ways to cool down. Cats have very small sweat glands on their paw pads and between their toes. You might notice tiny damp footprints on your floors from your cat on a hot day after they’ve spent time sunning themselves or if they’re slightly stressed out. These little paw prints are normal.
Cats also have sweat glands located in a few other hairless areas, including the paws, lips, chin and on the skin that surrounds the anus, but their sweat glands aren’t that effective.
There are a few ways that cats modulate their temperature.
- Sweat from their paws, noses, and anywhere there isn’t hair
- Napping in a shady location
If your cat feels “sweaty,” that’s because cats create their own version of sweating (or evaporative cooling) by licking and grooming themselves regularly. During warmer months, cats will lick all over their bodies. The saliva will evaporate to cool them down.
Cats have developed other efficient biologic strategies to cool off. Their fur coats are highly evolved; in the winter they keep cats warm, but in the summer, fur protects skin from the sun and slows dehydration. Many cats also shed their undercoats automatically in the warmer months. Even if you’re tempted to shave your cat in the summer, don’t!
Because of their desert ancestors, cats instinctually know limiting activity, finding shady spots, and lying on cool surfaces will help them from overheating. Your cat will likely take naps during the warmest part of the day to stay cool (and also because they sleep for 15 hours a day on average!).
You may also notice your cat spending more time in shady and air-conditioned rooms, sprawled out on the tile floor, or even passed out in your bathroom sink. Cats cool themselves down by choosing a cooler location to lay down. While they will likely spend lots of time lazing in the sun, they know to move to a cooler spot when they get too warm.
In extremely warm weather, cats will also pant to release heat from their bodies. They might even drool a bit. But if your cat is panting or drooling and hasn’t moved themselves to a cooler area, you may need to move them yourself, or they can potentially overheat.
A cat can return to their natural body temperature, which ranges from 100.5°F-102.5°F, as long as their cooling mechanisms are not overwhelmed by too much intense heat.
A general rule of thumb for cats: if you’re too hot, they likely are too. Keep in mind that each cat may handle temperatures differently, especially depending on what breed they are.
Again, cats are pretty great at keeping themselves cool without intervention. If you notice your cat seems uncomfortable with the heat, help your cat cool down by keeping their water bowl full, especially on hot days.
Cats will enjoy laying in front of a fan or air conditioning when it gets warm. Even though cats love sunbathing, if it’s over 80°F, close your curtains during the warmest part of the day to help keep your house cool.
If your cat spends time outside, try to bring them in during heat waves or make sure there’s a shady, cool spot for them in your yard.
One trick for sweltering days: Put ice cubes in a bowl and let your cat play with the cubes to cool off their feet as well as get a cooling drink as the ice melts. Cats don’t love getting wet, but they may enjoy splashing their paws in the water to cool down.
Never, ever leave your cat in a car. Cars get hot super quick, and even an errand can turn deadly.
Be sure to keep a close eye on your kitty on warm days, especially during heat spells. Cats can overheat.
While cats can use panting to cool down, heavy panting is usually a sign that a cat is too hot or too stressed. Continued, excessive panting after efforts to cool your cat down can be cause for concern.
Heat stroke is possible in cats and it can be deadly. If your cat looks too hot, attempt to cool them down by applying cool water or a towel to their paws, groin, armpits, and their neck to begin to cool them. Seek immediate veterinary attention.
The key to avoiding any kind of heat stroke is to be cautious in hot weather and help your kitty cool down when you can.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are the basic ways to keep your cat safe in the heat.
- Have fresh water available at all times
- Turn a fan or the air conditioning on
- Keep your cat indoors
- Never leave your cat in a car
- Call your veterinarian if your cat acts sick or strange
Though their paws are one of the only places they sweat, cats are great at cooling themselves down using a variety of evolutionary behaviors.
Don’t spend your time away worried about your cat. Hire a cat sitter to keep an eye on them and ensure they’re staying cool. Find the perfect cat sitter with Rover.