We all know that some dogs can fare badly in very hot weather, but is it a similar situation for cats? Like dogs, cats sweat through their paws which makes it harder for them to cool down; they are also covered in fur, which, while being a great thing in winter, can add to their discomfort as temperatures start to rise.
For cats that are housed exclusively indoors, it is important to be mindful of their comfort and well-being under warmer conditions. Unlike ‘outtie’ cats that come and go as they please, house cats can struggle to stay cool inside, especially if windows remain closed through fear of a house cat escaping. If we are too warm, we can always have a cool shower, change into lighter clothing or have an ice-cold drink, but for indoor cats, their best option is to find somewhere cool and shaded to retreat to.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to keep our cats cool and comfortable this summer, whether our cat lives inside or ventures out:
- Ensure your cat has a constant supply of cool, fresh drinking water in several locations around the house. Your cat shouldn’t have to travel far to find a water source. Chill the water with ice cubes before you leave for the day or invest in a cooler bowl that stays chilled all day long. Replenish the water regularly to encourage your cat to drink it, or purchase an electronic drinking fountain that circulates the water and prevents it becoming stale.
- If your cat has a favourite resting spot, find a way of shading it from direct sunlight and keeping the area cool. A fan will provide a welcome breeze and help keep the surrounding air nice and chilled. If you can, elevate your cat’s bed to higher ground so that air can circulate beneath it.
- If you know you’re going to be out all day and warm weather is forecast, draw the curtains or blinds in certain rooms to keep them cool for your cat.
- If you usually leave food down during the day, change your routine as exposed food can attract flies, which may discourage your cat from eating. Like humans whose appetites are often suppressed in very hot weather, your cat will probably be less interested in food too, which means you shouldn’t really need to leave it down all day long. To give your cat a tasty treat or make mealtimes more enjoyable, consider freezing a small amount of food for your cat to lick at, a bit like a feline ice lolly. This will help keep them cool as well as nourished.
- Longhaired cats may benefit from a haircut, particularly if they are displaying signs of over-heating, such as listlessness, panting or restlessness.
- Always check rooms before shutting doors, especially if you are going to be gone all day, as you don't want to be trapping your cat somewhere without water or shade.
- Keep activity to a minimum on really hot days to avoid over-exerting and over-heating your cat. In warm weather, most cats will find somewhere cool to take a nap, which is preferable to having them charging around the house working up a sweat.
- We all know that cat's don't like getting wet, but there is nothing to say they won't enjoy a damp towel being placed in their bed or in their favourite spot. You could even place the towel in the freezer for a short while, or half-fill a bottle with water and freeze overnight. Before placing this in your cat's bed, wrap it in a tshirt or towel so your cat doesn't get chilled.
- Hairless and pale-coated cats are more at risk of skin cancer, even if they do live inside. Ears and faces are the most susceptible areas as they are lacking all pigmentation which protects the skin from the sun's powerful UV rays. Use a pet-safe sunblock on cats that regularly sit or sleep by the window.
If you are at all worried about your cat and notice any of the following signs: rapid breathing and/or panting, lethargy, vomiting or sweaty pawprints on the floor (a clear indication your cat is overheating), then take him along to the vet for a check-up. Don't be overly concerned if you notice your cat grooming itself more than usual - this is a cooling mechanism not dissimilar from sweating. The saliva will evaporate and actually help cool your cat down.
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Written by: Hannah Dyball