As cats run a higher body temperature than humans, they’re more relaxed when they’re warm. Cats will adjust their body positions to retain heat wherever possible. This makes temperature regulation important, especially during the summer. Cats can overheat if the situation is not carefully managed.
The ideal body temperature for cats is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Slightly over this temperature is tolerable, especially for longhaired breeds. Additional fur means more body heat. A temperature of 105 degrees or above leads to hyperthermia (heatstroke). Help your cat to cool off before it reaches this stage.
Felines are born sun worshippers, so watch your cat during the summer months. Many cats will seize upon an opportunity to bask in the warmth. A little time in the sun is fine, but recognize when a cat is overheating.
What Temperature Do Cats Like?
Cats are most comfortable with a body heat of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, a cat’s temperature fluctuates. As explained by Science, a cat cools off while sleeping and maintains body temperature by eating.
Cats are fond of the sun, finding warmer climes relaxing. This means that a cat can overheat without realizing it until it is too late. If your cat falls asleep in direct sunlight, it may be placing its health at risk.
Controlling The Ambient Temperature
Ambient temperature is key to keeping a cat comfortable. Cats cannot remove their fur the way that we take off layers of clothing. You’ll need to ensure the air around your cat is not too hot and stuffy.
Longhaired cats, especially Siberians, Norwegian Forest Cats, Persians, Ragdolls, and Maine Coons, flourish in cooler temperatures. Their long, thick coats keep them warm. While these breeds shed in the summer, they’ll still be naturally warmer than their shorthaired counterparts.
Shorthaired cats find it more challenging to stay warm in cooler climates. This means they will enjoy a warmer ambient temperature. These cats will also spend more time basking in the sun during the summer. They are at equal risk of overheating, though.
An ambient indoor temperature between 75 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit will be a safe temperature for a cat. Longhaired breeds will prefer the lower end of the spectrum. Older or shorthaired cats will tolerate slightly warmer air.
Do not rely on the thermostat to keep a cat safe, though. You’ll also need to keep a close eye. Watch your cat and ensure that it is not overheating. If your cat is too warm, it will start to behave erratically.
Do Cats Overheat in the Summer?
Cats can overheat at any time of year. During the colder seasons, you will make use of artificial heating sources. Cats will gravitate to these to remain warm and cozy. Prolonged exposure can raise a cat’s body temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is during the summer months that cats are likeliest to overheat. A fur coat, coupled with hot ambient temperatures, can lead to excess body temperature. It will display these behaviors:
- Restless pacing and inability to settle
- Sweaty paws
- Excessive verbalization
- Increased heart rate
- Uncharacteristic irritability and aggression
Panting alone will place a cat’s body under stress. As explained by Pflüger’s Archive, this activity places strain on the feline respiratory tract. This is to be avoided, especially in older cats.
At this point, help your cat cool off and reduce its body temperature. This will prevent any medical issues. If the cat continues to overheat, it will become dehydrated, eventually risking hyperthermia.
According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, dehydration is an ever-present risk in an overheating cat.
Test if your cat is dehydrated by gently pinching the skin around the shoulders. This should snap straight back into place. If the skin feels lifeless, slowly retreating into the folds of the neck, dehydration is likely.
In addition to common warnings of dehydration, other signs of dehydration in cats include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken, unfocused eyes
- Tacky, discolored gums
If your cat is dehydrated, there is only one solution – fluid intake. Encourage your cat to drink water. If the cat refuses, it will require the intravenous application of fluids by a healthcare professional.
Restoring the balance of electrolytes will aid feline dehydration. An energy drink, like Gatorade, will aid this. It is no substitute for water, though. Gatorade should only be offered to dehydrated cats as a temporary remedy.
Encouraging Cats To Drink
Convincing a cat to drink enough water can always be challenging. It is of paramount importance when managing dehydration, though.
Drizzle a tempting scent, such as tuna juice, into a bowl of water. This will increase a cat’s interest. It may not always work, though. The cat will associate the aroma with food. A dehydrated cat often loses its appetite.
If your cat is interested in food, offer snacks with high water content. Fruits, such as watermelon or strawberries can meet this need. Unfortunately, many cats are indifferent to sweet tastes, so your cat may be disinterested.
Providing your cat with a running water source will usually be effective. Cats instinctively distrust still water. Wild cats drink from running water, such as a stream. They consider this water to be cleaner and less likely to be contaminated.
In the short term, you can just run a kitchen or bath tap. Your cat will likely show immediate interest. Leave cold water running at low intensity. The cat will start to lap at the water and hydrate appropriately.
You cannot rely on this method forever, though. Invest in a water fountain as a long-term solution. Water fountains provide a constant running water supply. The cat will drink regularly as it feels secure doing so.
Hyperthermia, or heat stroke, is a serious concern in cats. A body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit will cause hyperthermia.
When a cat develops heat stroke, its body temperature will rise even higher. A cat with hyperthermia will quickly reach temperatures above 109 degrees. This is life-threatening. Signs of hyperthermia in cats include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Extreme redness of the mouth and tongue
- Disorientation and difficulty walking
- Bruising around the abdomen
- Seizures and eventual loss of consciousness
According to Respiration Physiology, the main risk of feline heatstroke is the impact on the lungs. A hyperthermic cat will not be able to breathe appropriately. This must be dealt with immediately.
If you suspect that your cat has heatstroke, make a veterinary appointment. The cat will almost certainly need intravenous fluids. In the meantime, work to reduce the cat’s body temperature.
Submerge the cat in cool water in a shaded location. Containing the cat in a bowl filled with water is best, but a sink will work. Encourage the cat to drink, using a syringe if necessary. As soon as it is safe to move your cat, get it to a vet for further testing.
Keeping Cats Comfortable in Hot Weather
When the weather is warm, many cats will be in their element. Your cat will initially become more active and playful. This can soon turn to lethargy and irritability, though. Cats grow uncomfortable when too hot.
Even a cat that does not experience a health concern will struggle with excess heat. As an owner, it is your responsibility to keep your cat at the right temperature. There are several ways that you can do this. Most of them will not even require you to spend any money.
Managing Sun Exposure
Given half a chance, a cat will gravitate toward the sunshine. This will initially be relaxing but can make a cat uncomfortable in the longer term. You’ll need to be mindful of sunburn or worse.
Managing the sun exposure of an indoor cat is simple—just close curtains and drapes when your cat has spent enough time basking by a window. You can always re-open them later when your cat has cooled off a little.
Outdoor cats are more challenging. Cats may travel so they can sunbathe without disturbance. This can be dangerous. If the cat grows overheated, it may become disoriented. It will struggle to find its way home.
Keep your outdoor cat at home during peak temperatures. Let your cat have an early-morning patrol, bringing it inside at around 11 am. The cat should then stay home until early evening when the sun’s heat is less intense.
Cooling a Cat Down When It’s Hot Outside
Switching on a fan may seem like the easiest way to cool off a hot cat. Some cats will enjoy the sensation of a breeze, but many will reject it. Cats are naturally opposed to draughts. If using a fan, set it on low power.
There are more effective ways to keep a cat cool. If your cat’s body temperature exceeds 100 degrees or ambient temperature soars above 78, consider these methods.
Give your cat something frozen to play with. The easiest way to do this is to freeze gravy or meat stock into ice cubes. The cat will lick and eventually swallow these treats as they enjoy the taste. This simultaneously cools the cat down and provides hydration.
You could also use frozen peas as a game for a playful cat. Scatter these over a flat surface and let your cat chase them down. Just be aware that the heat may be making your cat lethargic. If it shows no interest, pick up the peas and revert to ice cubes.
If your cat enjoys chewing on toys, place these in the freezer. Once they are ice-cold, offer them to your cat. The cat will play as normal, finding the cold toy soothing on their paws and gums.
Cooling Mats or Cold Tiles
Cooling mats are small rubber mats that you place on the floor. The cat will lie upon the mat, exposing its bare underbelly to a cold surface. This will rapidly reduce the cat’s overall body temperature by several degrees.
You could make your own makeshift cooling mat. Fill a hot water bottle with cold water – ideally just above freezing. The cat can lie upon this. The bottle will shield the cat from ice burn, but the soothing qualities will remain. You could even use a damp towel.
Cold tiles, such as those in a kitchen or bathroom, could also work. Just be aware that these tiles may attract heat from a nearby window. Tiles should not be relied upon exclusively for cooling.
Create a Shaded Retreat
Your cat will already have assigned territory in your home. The cat may have chosen territory because it was directly in line with a heat source. Cats often enjoy lying in the path of sunlight through a window.
This would ordinarily be a source of comfort. It could lead to the cat overheating, though. Make this more welcoming in high temperatures by providing shade.
Just use cardboard boxes to shield the cat from direct heat. This will serve two purposes. It will help the cat to remain cool while also providing entertainment. The cat can chew on the cardboard. Apply some favored toys to encourage the cat to stay put.
Grooming a cat, especially a longhaired breed, is critical to maintaining a comfortable temperature. As you brush your cat, you will remove excess fur. This will aid the natural shedding process. In addition, grooming distributes natural oils around the cat’s body.
If your cat is hot to the touch during grooming, apply some damp towels to its fur and skin. This will be preferable to bathing, which will cause stress. Your cat will quickly dry off but will enjoy the cooling sensation of the damp water.
Any temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for a cat’s comfort. At this point, start helping your cat cool off. One or two degrees over is not an immediate health hazard. It does not take long for a cat to become dangerously overheated, though.