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Heat Stroke in cats – What pet owners need to know

As the temperatures soar, heat stroke and heat exhaustion can dangerously affect your furry companion. Any temperature above 25 degrees Celsius is considered too hot to unbearable. You may be aware of heat stroke in dogs, and how to keep dogs cool, however heatstroke can severely affect cats too. Whilst it may not be as common in cats, it is worth noting the following signs to ensure your cat is staying safe this summer.

Heatstroke occurs when a comfortable body temperature has been exceeded. If a spike in body temperature is caused by the weather, heat exhaustion can quickly follow.

When a cat’s body temperature becomes too high for it to cool itself down, heat stroke will occur very quickly if the body is not cooled down. Heat stroke can cause your beloved felines organs to shut down resulting in death.

Cats are brilliant at hiding things from their owners! This means that you may not notice when they are overheating until things become serious.

The below signs can help you indicate whether or not your cat is overheating or struggling from heatstroke.

Signs of heat stroke in cats include:

  • Struggling to breath. Their breathing may become rapid, or they may start panting.
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Limping or struggling to walk or move
  • Dizziness and/or disorientation
  • Bright pink or red tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • A faster than normal heartbeat

Some types of cat are more prone to heatstroke, including:

  • Kittens or senior pets
  • Cats with thick, heavy coats
  • Cats with very short flat faces like Persians and Scottish Folds.

Cats with certain diseases or on some types of medication are also more at risk.

Preventing heatstroke in my cat:

If your cat is an outdoor cat, try to keep an eye on where they head to relax. They will likely seek shady areas but occasionally may love chilling in a sunny spot. If they enjoy the latter, ensure they have intervals where they can cool off and always make sure they have access to fresh cool water. Chilling their food, or providing them with ice cubes in their water can also help.

If your cat is an indoor cat, ensure they seek a cool area and are not trapped in any rooms. Some cats love to hide away in small spaces or cupboards – potentially the boiler cupboard! But this can cause them to overheat. If a few hours have passed since you last saw them, go and check on them to ensure they are still ok.

My cat appears to have heatstroke – what can I do?:

If you are worried that your cat is suffering from heat stroke, contact your vet straight away. You can also try these cooling down methods in the meantime.

  • Carry them to a cool area, preferably next to a window or fan.
  • If your cat is still freely able to move, offer them cool water to drink. A small pet water fountain is an excellent thing to have in the home, as cats tend to prefer running water over a bowl of water.
  • Dampen a towel with cool water and gently press onto their fur.
  • As soon as possible take them to the vets. It is important you do this quickly as sadly, it is not uncommon for cats to die from heatstroke.

For further advice or tips on how to keep your pet cool, please contact your local veterinary practice