Summer and its long, hot days are on their way. You may not think of your cats as being at risk of hyperthermia (heatstroke), but they are wearing a fur coat year round. Helping keep your cat cool on the hottest days of the year is important, especially in kittens and elderly cats.
Make Cool Spots Available
Give your cat access to rooms with cool things they can lay on. Tile floors, ceramic bathtubs, or even the back of your toilet are places that your cat can stretch out and enjoy the cool surface beneath them.
In our house, we have a sunroom connected to the house by a sliding glass door, and the metal track of the door was a favorite spot for one of our previous cats, Rhett, many years ago. His white paws were often smudgy from the grease in the sliding door track where he would sprawl for comfort on hot days.
You can make an extra cool spot in your house by freezing water in a three-quarters full water bottle (leave room for expansion as the water freezes) and wrapping a towel around it. Use this kind of like you would a heating pad in the winter. Instead, think of it as a cool buddy that your cat can cuddle up to in order to cool off. Don’t forget that this is going to be damp due to condensation, so you will need to either put it somewhere that won’t be damaged by moisture or protect the surface beneath it from moisture.
Provide Plenty of Fresh Water
Make sure your cats have plenty of water, and check the water level often. Warm weather means it evaporates more quickly, and your cats will drink it faster, too, meaning it will need to be refreshed more often than in cooler months. You can add ice cubes to the water to cool it down temporarily. Just be aware that some cats will fish out ice cubes to play with them, so monitor the bowls the first time you do that, especially if your bowl is in an area that the floor could become slippery when wet from melting ice.
Keep Out the Sun
Close curtains or blinds to prevent sun from further heating rooms in your house where your cat prefers to sleep during the day. This will also help with your air conditioning bill. This may mean less time for your cat to watch the birds and squirrels outside your window, but the birds and squirrels are probably resting in the heat of the day, too.
Southern and western exposure windows are the ones likely to heat up your house the most. Our sunroom has both south and west-facing windows, and we keep the blinds closed for most of the day in the summer to try to keep cool. In the late afternoon, opening the room’s west-facing blinds can make the temperature jump ten degrees in a few minutes, so keeping that sun out makes a big difference.
Use Fans to Maximize Circulation
Point a fan where your cat can enjoy the breeze it creates. A fan helps humans cool off by evaporating sweat from your skin, and cats don’t sweat all over the way that humans do, only on their paw pads. That means that a fan isn’t quite as efficient for helping cool your cat as it is to cool you, but moving air around your cat that is cooler than her body temperature still helps to draw heat away. If your cat is willing to let you wet her down with a damp washcloth, this effect works even better.
Don’t forget that some fans are easier to tip over than others. If your cat is rambunctious or has climbing tendencies, a fan that sits on the floor is a safer choice than one on a tall pedestal that has a higher center of gravity and could be prone to toppling. Of course, always make sure the fan has a grill over it so that a cat can’t get close to turning blades.
Save Strenuous Exercise for the Cooler Hours
You probably go out for your daily jog in the early morning to avoid the sizzling summer heat, and it’s no different for your cat. Don’t encourage strenuous play in the heat of the day. Playtime is important, and it’s great bonding between cat and human, but it can wait until after the house cools down. Or set your alarm a little early in the morning and have extra play time then.
You may regularly play with your cat until he is panting, but panting is also a sign of heat stress.
Don’t push your cat’s exercise when it’s hot so that you can’t tell one from the other. And if your cat begins to act unusual after summer exercise, with rapid pulse and breathing, redness in his tongue and mouth, lethargy, or if kitty is stumbling after a case of the midday zoomies, don’t assume he’ll be fine. Heat exhaustion signs like those need prompt veterinary followup.
References and further reading:
Creative commons images courtesy flickr/nauright and flickr/barbourians