Protect your cat from heat stroke

It’s hot. And gross. And uncomfortable. It’s also dangerous, especially for the elderly, ill, very young, and pets. Here’s some information about heat stroke and your cat…

Like dogs, cats don’t sweat and release excess heat through their paw pads or by panting (generally, cats have to be either really stressed or overheated to pant).  Short-nosed cats such as Persians are more vulnerable to heat stroke, but it can happen to any cat.

Heat stress is first indicated by the cat trying to find a cool spot, panting, grooming excessively and drooling. This is when you want to move the cat to a cool, quiet place and provide cool (not ice-cold) drinking water.

If the heat illness progresses, the cat will show signs of heat exhaustion, which include rapid pulse and breathing, very red tongue and mouth, dry gums, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea and stumbling. If you find a cat showing signs of heat exhaustion, move her to a quiet cool place, offer her water and cool her down using a cool, damp towel; use extreme caution if this cat is not familiar to you – you may want to call animal control, in case the cat isn’t suffering from heat stroke, but from something contagious. Make an urgent call to your veterinarian for guidance on how to proceed; they may want you to come right in, so have a carrier ready. If a cat has not been found by this stage of illness, she may succumb to heat stroke and have seizures or fall into a coma (another good reason to keep your cat inside during a heat wave – you’ll be able to keep an eye on her).

If you happen to find a cat suffering from heat stroke, gently run cool (not cold) water over her, wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and place it between her legs, covering her belly. The cat must be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Trust me because I’ve seen this before – this is not something you want to handle on your own unless you’re a veterinary/animal care professional.

The veterinarian will be able to evaluate the cat and provide supportive care, including intravenous fluids to help stabilize her temperature and hopefully prevent permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and/or brain.

Heat stroke, and other health problems caused by hot weather, can easily be avoided by providing cool, shady shelter for your cat, keeping fresh water on hand at all times, restricting exercise in extreme heat and never leaving your cat unattended in a vehicle (even with the windows cracked).

Temperature guides for cats:

  • 100-103 – slightly elevated
  • 103-104 – elevated and requires veterinary attention
  • 105 and over – life-threatening and in definite need of veterinary attention
Tuxedo cat in a bathtub with water.

Have a cat that likes water? That’ll make keeping her cool much easier.


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