The sun is beaming and it’s getting very hot. So hot that you’re naturally starting to worry about your cat. Can they handle hot weather, even? How can you tell they are overheating and how can you help cool them down, should you need to? Well, these are the very things we will be addressing here today.
So, what temperature is too hot for cats? It is generally accepted that temperatures over 105 degrees F (40 degrees C) are too hot, and you need to move your cat to a cooler location. Though, temperatures around 100 degrees F (37.7 degrees C) are still not ideal for cats. The best temperature for all breeds is between 75 to 80 degrees F (23.8 to 26.6 degrees C).
Depending on where you live, the season, and the breed of cat you have, this may present some challenges.
Whether more frequently or on those particularly hot days during the summer months.
If you are here, chances are you are in those temperature ranges referenced above.
So let us look at how cats handle heat before turning to how we, as owners, should support our cats during such times.
Can Cats Handle Hot Weather?
Most cats can handle hot weather, and use a number of different means to keep cool and cool down. However, the ability of your cat to handle hot weather depends on her age, type of fur, and other external factors (such as how long they are exposed to the heat, level of hydration, etc). At the same time, cooling methods are generally less effective at higher temperatures.
A cat’s average body temperature is hotter than ours: it ranges from 100 to 102.5 degrees F (37.7 to 39 degrees C).
The longer hair your cat has, the higher her average body temperature within that range.
If the temperature rises above your cat’s average body temperature, this is when your cat can struggle to handle hot weather.
Most healthy cats can survive temperatures above 100 degrees F (37.7 degrees C) as long as they have enough water.
And suppose your cat has been exposed to warm temperatures as a kitten.
She will usually be better equipped to handle the heat, as cats can become homeothermic (able to better control their body temperature to a certain extent).
How Cats Handle Heat
Most cats know when it’s time to cool down. Here are several things cats do to control their body temperature in order to handle the heat:
- They take regular drinks.
- They move out of the sun and onto a cool surface such as a shady spot or a tile floor.
- They move in front of an air vent or fan.
- They take shelter in a cooler room such as a basement or shaded garage.
- They groom themselves. As the saliva cools from their body, this creates a cooling effect.
- They sleep. Cats can actually lower their body temperature while they sleep!
- They sweat. Cats have sweat glands in different areas of their bodies, but the ones that have the most significant impact on lowering heat are in their paws.
- They pant. Panting allows saliva to evaporate from off the tongue.
When Your Cat’s Natural Responses Aren’t Enough
If the environment is too dry or too humid, your cat’s natural responses to heat will not be as effective.
If it’s too humid, the sweat that your cat secretes won’t be able to evaporate quickly enough to cool her down because there’s already too much moisture in the air.
If your cat can’t get rid of the excess moisture, her body won’t cool down, and she can get heatstroke.
Heat and humidity are measured using what’s called the wet-bulb temperature.
There is no current research to know exactly what maximum wet-bulb temperature cats can tolerate, but we can make an estimate.
The maximum wet-bulb temperature that humans can tolerate is 95 degrees F (35 degrees C).
If it’s too dry, your cat can become dehydrated, especially if she isn’t drinking enough water.
Even though death is unlikely to result from high temperatures alone, dehydration or heatstroke can be fatal.
Even if a cat survives, she can suffer from lifetime organ damage requiring treatment for the remainder of her days.
How Do I Know If My Cat Is Too Hot?
Although cats tend to keep to themselves when they’re not feeling well, your cat will display signs of dehydration or heatstroke that you can learn to identify to know your cat is too hot. There are also some cats who are more prone to having problems with the heat.
Symptoms of Dehydration or Heatstroke
If your cat is dehydrated or has heatstroke, you can see any of the following symptoms:
- Restless behavior – your cat is looking around for a cool spot.
- Excessive grooming to try and cool off.
- Drooling (for the same reason).
- Excessive panting (idem).
- Sweaty feet.
- Skin tenting (gently lift the skin at the scruff of your cat’s neck, then let go. The skin won’t snap back into place quickly if your cat is dehydrated).
- A slightly elevated rectal temperature.
- Dry or tacky gums (gently lift your cat’s lip and touch her gums. They should feel like ours: wet and slimy. If they don’t, your cat is dehydrated).
More serious signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Lethargy or loss of appetite.
- Tongue and mouth turning red.
- Aggressive behavior (particularly if this is unusual for your cat).
- Quick breathing with a rapid pulse.
- Stumbling or staggering around.
- A rectal temperature above 105 degrees F (40.5 degrees C).
Any of the above signs constitute an emergency, and you need to get your cat to the vet right away. Your cat may begin to collapse, have seizures, or go into a coma.
Your cat could also have trouble breathing as her lungs are impacted by the heat.
Your vet will have to act quickly if your cat is severely dehydrated because without enough fluids in the body, organ systems can start to shut down.
Waste can accumulate in your cat’s bloodstream, so your vet will administer fluids urgently to avoid fatal consequences.
Note: Some cats are more sensitive to dehydration or heatstroke than others (see below). The more fragile your cat is, the faster you have to act.
Cool down your cat on the way to the vet (see below for how to do this).
Cats Who Struggle More In Hot Weather
There are some cats who will struggle more in hot weather:
Persians and Birmans, for instance, come from cold climates and have adapted to lower temperatures.
Their average body temperature is already higher than other breeds, so they are more susceptible to problems in hot weather.
Breeds like the Sphynx can struggle with hot weather, as they have no fur to protect them from the sun.
These cats can suffer from sunburn as well as other heat problems.
Cats With Dark Cats
Darker colored fur will absorb more heat than lighter colored fur, so black cats, for instance, can be more likely to get too hot.
Any flat-faced cats like Exotic Shorthairs, Persians, or Himalayans are more susceptible to hyperthermia (a higher-than-average body temperature) because of their anatomy, making it harder to breathe.
Kittens can’t regulate their body temperature until they’re around 8 weeks old.
Until then, they rely on their mothers to lick them down, which helps cool down their bodies.
Older cats struggle to regulate their body temperatures, even in temperate weather.
If your cat has too much body fat, the fat will absorb more heat than if she were slimmer.
It’s usually more difficult for overweight cats to cool down.
Cats With Heart Or Breathing Problems
Any cat with breathing difficulties or heart problems will struggle as they are more vulnerable to heatstroke.
They may start to pant severely and find it difficult to get enough air.
Cats With Other Health Problems
Other health problems like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, or hyperthyroidism can cause a cat to experience more serious problems from the heat or lack of fluids when compared to healthy cats.
How To Support Your Cat In Hot Weather
There are several things you can do to support your cat in hot weather. By having the right setup at home, you can minimize the risk of problems in the heat.
What To Do At Home
Here’s what you can do at home to support your cat in the heat:
- Leave the air conditioning on when you’re out.
- Keep your cat indoors if it’s too hot outside.
- Keep access available to cool and shady rooms that cats are often drawn to, such as bathrooms and closets. Just make sure they can’t get trapped inside.
- Provide a source of fresh running water for your cat, such as a fountain. Cats are instinctively drawn to sources of running water, and you may find your cat will drink more from a fountain than from a bowl of still water. Here is the one to one to get from Amazon.
- Groom your cat with a wet cloth (remember the water needs to be cool but not ice-cold). Even grooming your cat with a brush will help her maintain her body temperature, as brushing removes excess fur.
- Keep curtains or shades closed in the heat to help keep your home cool
- Have frozen treats on hand (see above).
- Get a cooling mat (like this best seller from Amazon).
If, despite your precautions, you still notice your cat becoming uncomfortable in the heat, contact your vet.
It could be a health issue that is preventing her from regulating her body temperature, such as tumors in her sweat glands.
What To Avoid
Here are some situations you want to avoid at all costs in hot weather, as they typically lead to heatstroke:
- Not enough shade.
- Not enough drinking water.
- An environment that is warm, hot, or humid, without adequate ventilation (e.g., leaving your cat in a car or a room without ventilation. The most common cause of hyperthermia in cats is because they’ve been left in a car! The temperature inside a car can rise very quickly, even in mild weather).
- Too much exercise.
As a general rule, if it’s too hot outside for you, then it’s probably too hot for your cat.
How Do You Cool Down A Hot Cat?
You will have to take different approaches depending if your cat is simply a bit too hot or if you suspect heatstroke.
If Your Cat Is Too Hot
Make sure you do the following for your cat:
- Provide plenty of fresh, cold water.
- Provide a cool place to relax, such as a dark room, a cooling mat, a fan on the floor, a tile or stone floor indoors, or even a covered cardboard box (in a cool place).
- Feed your cat frozen treats (frozen broth, stock, or gravy, for instance).
- Put a frozen water bottle (3/4 full) wrapped in a towel or a t-shirt by her bed.
If you know you’ve got feral cats in your neighborhood, you can help them too by providing raised beds, shady spaces, and access to water outdoors.
There are even cat bowls that you can buy that keep drinking water cool for up to 15 hours.
If You Suspect Heatstroke
If you believe your cat has heatstroke, you must do something immediately in order to lower your cat’s body temperature.
Here’s what to do:
- Move your cat to a cool and shady place. You may want to wet the area around her, too.
- Spray or apply cool water onto her fur and skin (especially her paws)
- Use a fan to maximize heat loss.
- If your cat is alert enough and able to drink water, give her small amounts frequently.
- Get her to the vet as a matter of urgency, even if she appears to be feeling better.
Note: When cooling down your cat, don’t use ice or ice-cold water, as this could make things worse by blocking her circulation.
What The Vet Will Do
If you do have to take your cat to the vet to further help your cat cool down, the vet will probably:
- Place an IV (intravenous) line into your cat to give her fluids directly. By giving her these fluids, her temperature will lower more effectively. Fluids can also help counter the effects of shock and lower the risk of organ damage.
- Monitor your cat’s temperature continually until it begins to fall. Once it is stable, your vet will check your cat for signs of organ damage.
Note: Signs of organ damage may not show up for several days, so if your cat is not back to normal within 2 to 3 days, contact your vet again.
To recap, the average healthy cat will typically begin to struggle in temperatures around (and that rise above) 95 degrees F (35 degrees C).
But they won’t allow themselves to get too hot if they can.
Cats leverage a number of different ways to help keep cool. They’ll adapt in their environment.
But that doesn’t mean that there are not things that you can do to support them further.
Nor does it mean that we should blindly accept and assume our cats will be okay in the heat.
So do keep an eye on your cat.
Be mindful of factors such as their age, health status, hydration levels, and behaviour.
And do all you can to keep them out of the heat of the sun.
But if in doubt, unable to keep them cool, or suspect heatstroke, be ready to get on the phone to a vet.
Outdoor temperatures that exceed 100 degrees F (37 degrees C) are considered too hot for cats.
Indoor temperatures that exceed 100 degrees F (37 degrees C) are considered too hot for cats.
80 degrees is considered an ideal temperature for most breeds of healthy cat.
85 degrees is considered an ideal temperature for most breeds of healthy cat.
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.