It's a Heat Wave! Here's How to Keep Cats Cool in Summer Weather
The temps are rising, and it can only mean one thing—the long days of summer are here. While our canine pals frolic in sprinklers and bask on SUPs, what's a cat to do but seek out the coolest corner of the bathroom floor? This summer, give your favorite feline something to purr about with a sweet escape from the heat.
From semi-friendly outdoor cats on the prowl for shade to indoor cats loafing about—knowing how to keep cats cool in the summer is essential to their health. "Cats that have any health issues or older cats are very prone to serious health conditions caused by the heat," Sarah McCormack, DVM at Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital in Portland, Ore., says. But, she adds, any cat could experience dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke when temperatures teeter toward 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
8 Ways to Keep Cats Cool in Summer
Here are tried-and-true ways to keep every kind of kitty cool when temperatures are on the rise:
1. Swap the Water Bowl for a Fountain
Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water. So, McCormack says, swap their still water for a cat water fountain. They replicate a natural water source that might entice your kitty. Other options for encouraging your cat to stay hydrated without spending moolah on a water fountain include adding a splash of sardine water or tuna water to their bowl. Or, encourage your cat to drink from the running bathroom faucet.
2. Get a Cooling Mat
How do you keep cats cool in summer without AC? McCormack says a cooling mat could do the trick. Just be sure it's made to withstand cat nails, or trim your cat's nails before use.
3. Swap Dry Food for Wet Food
Wet food can pack up to 66 percent more water than dry food, helping to prevent dehydration and keep your cat cool. Even better, chill the wet food before serving it to see if your cat likes cold food (some cats prefer room-temperature or warm food, no matter the weather).
4. Give Her a Haircut
Calling all extra-fluffy and long-haired cats—this cool summertime tip is for you. "A lion cut can provide a lot of comfort to a cat, especially long-haired cats," McCormack says. My long-haired cat can attest, a fresh cut has her feeling like a brand-new kitty when the temps are sizzling. For indoor-outdoor cats with a new 'do, consider a UV shirt or pet-safe sunscreen to protect their skin.
5. Provide Airflow
If you don't have AC, providing airflow for your cat is a must. Cracking open windows and turning on a fan might do the trick on moderately hot days. When temps get close to the triple digits, however, McCormack suggests seeking out a cat-friendly hotel with AC or even investing in a portable AC unit.
6. Apply Cool Water to Her Paws
Cats aren't great at thermoregulation, which is why you'll catch your floof sprawling out on the cool tile floor during the hottest of days. But they do have one spot on their bodies where they perspire and cool slightly with the evaporation of sweat—their paws. "If you're concerned your cat is hot, putting cool water on the cat's paws can cool them down," McCormack says.
7. Give Experienced Bathers a Cool Bath
If your cat is a pro at bath time, she may enjoy a cool summertime bath. But remember, stress can exacerbate some health conditions and make cats uncomfortable. So, if your cat hasn't taken a bath before, a record-setting hot day might not be the best time to try.
8. Provide Outdoor Cats a Cool Spot
As for how to keep your friendly (or feral) neighborhood stray cool—share fresh water and a serving of wet cat food by placing it in a shady spot. "If you are in an area that does not have any shade you can consider providing a source of shade. The best summer cat houses are open on the sides to allow for airflow," Jacklyn Ellis, Director of Behavior at Toronto Humane Society, says.
Signs Your Cat is Too Hot
Heat exhaustion is the beginning phase of heatstroke, McCormack explains. When your cat begins to feel too hot, she may refuse food, hide, or pant. Even indoor cats can be at risk of heatstroke without proper precautions. Contact your vet immediately if you think your cat is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Overheated cats may display the following symptoms:
- Panting or open-mouth breathing
- Rapid respiratory rate
- Hot ears
- Bright red tongue
- Dark red or pale gums
- Depression or weakness
- Anxious behavior
- Laying on one side, completely stretched out
As for dehydration in cats, McCormack says the signs can be more subtle and you'll need to take a hands-on approach. "If you lift the skin along their back and then drop it, it should go back down quickly if they are well hydrated," she explains. "If there is any delay, and the skin stays tented up, that is an indication of dehydration."
Sunny days and a perfect little sunspot can be pure bliss for any feline, as long as they stay cool and comfortable. If you're concerned your cat has overheated, is experiencing heatstroke, or is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian immediately.