With summer upon us, despite being in the UK, we can sometimes experience a great deal of hot weather…….barbecues, beaches, & holidays. This should also include plenty of sun cream for all members of the family!
It shouldn’t be forgotten that cats are members of the family too, so we are going to discuss ways to help their summers be fun in the sun, too!
We have all heard of hypothermia, which is when a body temperature drops to 35°C or lower. On the other hand, if your body temperature is above 40°C, this is considered Hyperthermia or heatstroke.
Heatstroke is a form of Hyperthermia that is a very serious, life-threatening condition. It can cause damage to your pet’s internal organs if a cat is exposed to high heat for prolonged periods of time. This can in fact be fatal if an owner is not careful. This is the primary concern in cats when it comes to summertime.
Despite cats having evolved in a desert climate, they can still be at risk of overheating. So how do cats avoid heat stroke? There are a few methods they use. The first is very simple, they do nothing! They reduce their physical activity levels and basically stretch out & become couch, floor, or shady grass potatoes, in order to conserve energy and avoid an increase in their internal body temperature.
Next, is conduction. This means they use objects or surfaces around them that are colder to the touch, to help keep cool, such as stretching out on a tiled floor.
It is a common belief that cats sweat, which is true, but mainly from their paws. This explains why sometimes cats who are taken to the vet, leave damp paw prints on the surfaces they are placed on, as they become hot & frightened.
They do have some sweat glands on their skin but due to the covering of fur, this does not make ‘sweating’ effective in the same way that a human can sweat from their skin. They are more likely to lick themselves if they get too hot, as the saliva evaporating off the skin helps to cool them down.
They can pant but not really in the same way as dogs. Panting in dogs is more common as they undertake extended periods of intense play or exercise, and can be subjected to long rides in hot cars. Cats will only tend to pant if they become very overheated, stressed or have some respiratory distress. If your cat does start to pant & you believe it is becoming severely overheated or stressed, it is advisable to contact your vet as soon as possible.
Things you can do to assist in keeping your cat cool includes providing a nice cool bath, providing cooling mats, or leaving ice cubes out for them to play with and lick, which will cool their saliva down, which in turn, helps them cool off through the grooming process. As always, ensure they also have plenty of fresh water available to drink.
However, despite having fur all around, cats are fairly adept at keeping themselves cool and generally all they need to do is find a bit of shade, be lazy and lick themselves!