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When the weather heats up, how do cats sweat and cool their bodies? Find out what it means if your cat is sweating

Unlike us humans, cats aren’t very sweaty creatures. Domestic cats are descended from the African wildcat, which lives in the hot climate of the African savannah, and our pet cats have retained their ancestor’s tolerance for warm weather. As a result, cats are also usually very good at keeping themselves cool, finding shaded areas to snooze in when it gets too hot.

long haired ginger cat sitting in the sunshine outside in front of a brick wallHow do cats sweat?

Cats do have sweat glands but they have fewer than us humans and tend to sweat less. Their sweat glands are located in the hairless areas of their body, such as their paws, so you may notice them leave behind sweaty pawprints when the weather is hot or if they’re particularly stressed, such as at the vets.

Why is my cat’s fur sweaty?

Cats don’t sweat through their fur, so if their fur is damp, there is probably another cause. It could be damp with their saliva from licking their fur while grooming, or perhaps they’ve been trying to drink from the tap and splashed themselves. If their fur is very wet after grooming, they could be producing too much saliva as a result of dental disease, so get them checked by your vet to find out if this is the cause.

Do hairless Sphynx cats sweat?

Sphynx cats have abnormal hair follicles which means they don’t grow fur, but this doesn’t affect their sweat glands which are located within the skin, so they sweat the same as any other cat. The skin of Sphynx cats can feel oily to the touch due to different glands, called sebaceous glands, which all cats have and secrete an oily substance, called sebum, to keep their fur coat healthy. In furry cats the oil is absorbed and hidden by their fur, but in Sphynx cats it stays on their skin and means they need to be bathed on a regular basis to prevent a build-up of oil.

What should I do if my cat is sweating?

If your cat has slightly sweaty paw pads, it’s a sign that they’re feeling hot. Make sure they have access to somewhere cool and shaded, and that they have plenty of fresh water to drink. If they are sweating a lot, this is quite unusual for cats and so it is best to contact your vet and get them checked over.

brown tabby cat lying down outdoors and looking at their paw

How do cats cool their bodies?

As well as sweating through their paws, cats also keep themselves cool by grooming. Not only does this help to remove any excess heat-trapping fur, but when the saliva they leave on their fur evaporates it helps to cool them down too. Cats are also very good at keeping themselves cool in general. They do most of their physical activity, such as hunting, playing and exploring, during the cooler parts of the day at dawn and dusk, and then when it warms up they’ll seek out shade and cool surfaces and keep physical activity to a minimum, preferring an afternoon nap.

How can I tell if my cat is overheating or has heatstroke?

It’s very unusual for cats to overheat as they are usually good at keeping themselves cool. Cats most at risk of overheating are flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds as they can have breathing difficulties, and those made to overexercise or become very stressed in hot temperatures. During the hottest parts of the day, avoid travelling with your cat or playing with them, and make sure they are not confined somewhere where the temperature is very high.

Signs your cat is too hot

Unlike for dogs, panting is not a normal reaction to heat for cats and so is a sign that they are far too hot. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet right away and try to keep them as cool as possible on the journey – ensure the cat carrier is well ventilated and keep the temperature inside the car cool.

Find more advice on keeping your cat cool in warm weather.

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