When the temperatures rise, panting dogs seem to get all the attention. But people seem to forget heat is a problem for cats too, and a good summer scorcher can kill them.
Thankfully, making felines comfortable during the hottest months of the year is simple, and your kitty will appreciate your efforts to make sure they stay the cool cats they are at heart.
Keep fresh water handy
The easiest and most effective way to ensure your furry friend is happy this summer is to keep them hydrated. All you have to do is make sure they have access to fresh (and—hopefully—cold) water at all times. This can mean changing their water more often throughout the day or keeping several bowls of water around their space so they don’t have to move a lot to drink.
[Related: Keep your dog safe and cool during summer]
Water is not only refreshing—it helps cats sweat. Just like dogs, felines only sweat through their paw pads; but unlike pooches, cats lick their feet to stimulate sweating and cooling, which is why they need to drink more than usual when it’s hot out. And although a cat’s risk of succumbing to heat stroke is lower than that of their canine counterparts, it can still happen.
An indoor cat is a cool cat
There are a lot of reasons to keep your cat inside, but when it’s hot out the main benefit is your ability to control temperature. If you have an indoor cat, you’re golden, but if you let your kitty roam free around your neighborhood, make sure to bring them home and keep them there during the day. This is especially important between 3 and 4:30 p.m., which is when daily temperatures reach their peak.
If your cat refuses to come home and has found a place to hide in, say, a tree or shed, make sure you check on them regularly and keep fresh water available to them at all times.
Once you and your furball are indoors, it’s time to get cool. If you have air conditioning, make sure you have it on even if you’re not at home, so your cat stays comfortable. If you don’t have AC or can’t afford to keep it running for a long time, you can use electric fans to keep the air moving. Opening windows (while keeping fly screens closed) can be helpful, too—it’ll let the breeze and some fresh cooling air in.
To maximize the effect, close your curtains, drapes, and blinds to let in as little sunlight as possible.
Get rid of your cat’s winter coat
Your cat’s hair is insulating, and that can prevent internal heat from leaving their body, putting them at greater risk of heat stroke. This is why brushing your kitty’s coat constantly during the summer months is crucial.
If you live in a particularly hot area, clipping your cat’s hair—even just the fur around their bellies—can be a good next step to keep them comfortable. But unless you’re a professional animal groomer, never clip your cat’s hair yourself. Your furball’s skin is delicate and can rip very easily, so one wrong cut can turn into a bloody trip to the vet.
Put together an icy den
Cats love to hide, so give your feline friend a cool spot to hang out. As we mentioned above, water is a must, but you can make their hideout even better by adding a cooling pad for them to lie on.
If you don’t want to buy one, you can turn any bed or blanket into a cooling pad by freezing a bottle of water and wrapping a towel around it. Put it in your cat’s favorite spot and watch them chill. The towel must be thick enough that it’s comfortable for your pet and the pad isn’t too cold. To test this kind of DIY cooling device before you put in your cat’s favorite spot, hold it in your hand or keep it on your lap for a couple of minutes. You should feel a chill, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable or feel like you’re putting an icepack on an injury. If it does, wrap the bottle in a bigger or fluffier towel, or wait until the ice has thawed a little.
Keep in mind that condensation will eventually soak the towel and your cat’s bed, so having a second water bottle in the freezer to replace the first one before everything gets drenched is a good idea.
Ice is cat fun
When you go to the kitchen to make yourself a tasty cup of iced coffee, save one cube for your cat. Just put it on a hard floor and push it around until your kitty gets the gist and starts playing with it. This will help cool their paws and hopefully get some extra water in their system. Be careful with the residual water on your floor—prevent any accidents by mopping and drying everything up once your cat is done with their ice cube.
If you want, you can also make your kitty some icy treats. Freeze some tuna brine or chicken broth in an ice cube tray or a popsicle mold, and serve it as a tribute to your feline overlord. Just make sure to put it inside a bowl or container so your entire place doesn’t reek of tuna for the foreseeable future.
Get a damp towel
Since most cats don’t like to get wet, offering your lovely pet a cool bath is not an option for most cat owners. Still, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t help them cool off with a cold damp towel or cloth.
You can dab it on their pads, chin, underarms, and outside their ears, or you can gently stroke them with it. If your kitty doesn’t like the feeling of a wet cloth, you can produce a similar effect by wetting your hands and petting them.
Needless to say, if your cat doesn’t like the towel or your wet hands, they’ll let you know. For their sake (and your safety) stop any attempt to cool your furball down if they start scratching or biting you.
Look out for signs of heatstroke
Just like with dogs, heat strokes can be fatal to cats, so it’s a good idea to learn the signs in case you need to rush your fur baby to the vet.
Some panting can be normal in hot weather, but you should worry the moment your cat starts doing it excessively and is clearly in distress. Other symptoms include drooling or salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, and agitation or lethargy. If you’re not sure if your cat is suffering from hyperthermia, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so contact a specialist as soon as possible.