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In this guide, learn more about the potential dangers of heatstroke in cats, signs and symptoms to look out for and our tips on keeping your pet cool in hot weather to prevent heat exhaustion.

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a serious condition that can occur when a cat’s internal body temperature rises to dangerous levels, so high that they cannot cool themselves. Heatstroke always begins with heat exhaustion when a cat is not able to get rid of excess heat or is dehydrated because of a hot environment.

Do cats get heatstroke easily?

The risk of cats getting heatstroke is quite low, as they are generally very good at keeping themselves cool if they have access to areas of varying temperatures, shade, and water.

Flat-faced cats (such as Persians), those that become very stressed in hot temperatures, and very young or old cats are at greater risk.

Cats like to sleep in warm places, such as conservatories, greenhouses or sheds. Accidentally being trapped in very hot areas with little air circulation, especially in summer, can increase the risk of overheating. Lack of fresh water on hot days can dehydrate cats, which can cause heat exhaustion. Keeping an eye on your cat is a good idea to prevent overheating.

Signs of heatstroke in cats

Signs and symptoms of heatstroke in cats can include:

  • restlessness
  • fast breathing or panting
  • drooling
  • confusion
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • collapsing

If your cat has been in a very warm place and is showing these symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your vet immediately. Heatstroke is an emergency.

What do I do if I think my cat has heatstroke?

If you suspect your cat has overheated or they are showing heatstroke symptoms, remove them from the hot environment immediately.

You can use a cloth to wet their coat with lukewarm water and put them somewhere cool and safe before contacting your vet as soon as possible. Cooling your cat down needs to be gradual to avoid shock and not cause your cat stress, as stress can increase their body temperature further.

When taking your cat to the vet, ensure the cat carrier is well ventilated and if going by car, keep the temperature inside the car cool.

How is heatstroke treated in cats?

When you take your cat to the vet, they will examine them and provide emergency treatment depending on the severity of the heatstroke. Treatments can include:

  • cooling treatments
  • oxygen supplementation
  • medication
  • blood and urine tests
  • monitoring your cat

How do cats keep cool?

There are a few ways cats keep themselves cool during hot weather.

They do most of their physical activity such as hunting and exploring during cooler times of day, and when it gets much warmer they will seek out shady spots to take an afternoon nap. Although you may often see your cat relaxing in sunny or warm spots, they will simply relocate to a shaded spot when they feel too warm.

Cats sweat through their paw pads to regulate their body temperature, so you might occasionally see evidence of that if your cat leaves behind damp footprints (this can also happen in stressed cats). Additionally, they groom themselves which helps to remove any excess heat-trapping fur and gives a cooling effect.  

How to prevent heatstroke in cats

  • offer plenty of fresh water at all times. You could place multiple water stations throughout the house and outside. Read our tips to encourage your cat to drink more
  • be mindful of where they are and check your shed or similar places before shutting the door as your cat might be snoozing in there
  • encourage them to stay indoors during the warmest times of day and create a cool and well-ventilated space inside
  • provide lots of shady spots in your garden by planting plants/bushes safe for cats or build a shelter away from direct sunlight
  • don’t encourage your cat to play or exercise in the hottest parts of the day or during a heatwave
  • if possible, avoid travelling for non-urgent vet visits in a heatwave

Find out more about caring for your cat in warm weather

How to create an outdoor shelter for your cat during hot weather

If you have a feline that loves to roam outside, you might want to provide them with a few options to retreat in your garden, especially when it gets hot. Whether it’s cool shade under a bush or tree or an outdoor shelter where they can hide from the sun and relax.

When making a shelter for your cat, make sure it’s placed somewhere shaded with good ventilation and free access in and out to prevent them getting trapped and overheating. You can use a sheet to create a shaded area outdoors or place garden furniture to provide your cat shade and cover, while still in a breeze.

Creating a cat-friendly garden

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