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Keep Your Cat Cool This Summer

By Elizabeth Parker

Keep Your Cat Cool This Summer

When the thermometer shoots ever skyward during the summer months, your fur-covered feline may be at risk for the same kind of health problems that plague overly hot humans: heart difficulties, heat stroke, breathing issues and more. “Cats are like people,” says Humane Society spokesperson Nancy Peterson. “They can become dehydrated and suffer organ failure and die if they get too hot.” Because summer temperatures in general appear to be on the rise, likely due to global warming, it helps to be aware of the dangers heat poses for your cat and ready to enact measures necessary for keeping your cat cool.

First, here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t leave your cat in a parked car Don’t do this even for a few minutes. The inside of a car can heat up rapidly, making it much hotter than the outside temperature. Leaving the window open a few inches does not make the car cooler inside.
  • Don’t forget to leave fresh water for your cat Leave several bowls of water in the house so your cat will be sure to get plenty of it.
  • Don’t shave your cat’s fur Your feline’s fur offers some protection against sunburn. Cats that are pale or have light-skinned fur must stay out of the sun. “The ears and tips of noses of light-colored cats can get skin cancer,” says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, of Laguna Hills Animal Hospital, a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Applying sunscreen could help, but most cats will find a way to lick off the potentially toxic substance pretty quickly, says Dr. Cruz.
  • Don’t tether your cat outside Even if you think shade will protect your cat, the sun may shift, exposing the cat to direct sunlight before you realize it.
  • Don’t ignore signs of heat stroke “The signs include panting rapidly, having trouble breathing and increased heart rate,” says Peterson. “A cat may act like it’s drunk by walking strangely, and its gums will be redder than normal.” If you notice any of these symptoms, wrap your cat in a cool, wet towel, and get it to your veterinarian or an animal hospital as quickly as possible.

To ensure you never have to make that emergency visit, follow these suggestions for keeping your kitty cool:

Provide a Cool and Comfy Living Space

  • Cool down your house as much as possible before you leave for work. Cover the windows and leave the air conditioning on “low,” if you can.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, place fans in the windows and run them on “exhaust” to circulate the air without sucking in the hot air from outside, suggests Karen Commings, author of The Cat Lover’s Survival Guide (Barron’s 2001).
  • Put small plastic containers filled with water in the freezer overnight. During the day, place these containers (now filled with blocks of ice) around your cat’s favorite sleeping spot.
  • Freeze a bottle of water and place it in your cat’s bed, or place a package of frozen peas just under the covering of your cat’s bed. (You could later eat the defrosted peas for dinner!)
  • If possible, allow your cat access to your basement, says Commings. This could particularly benefit older cats, which may not be as mobile, or able to locate a cool spot for themselves.
  • Consider keeping your cat in the bathroom during the day, says Dr. Cruz. Cats sometimes like to lie on the cool tiles, in the bathtub or in the sink.
  • If you have a screened-in patio where your cat likes to hang out, put up shades on the sides that face the sun. Provide plenty of fresh water. Check on the bowl throughout the day to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated.

Make Essential Car Trips Tolerable for Your Feline Passenger

  • If you have to go on a car trip with your cat, travel at night or early in the morning when it’s coolest, says Dr. Cruz.
  • Keep the car AC on, but make sure that the airflow actually reaches your cat’s carrier, Dr. Cruz advises.
  • Lay a wet towel over your cat’s carrier if you must travel with your pet in the car during the day.
  • Keep a spray bottle of cold water handy to wet your cat’s coat during any necessary car trips.
  • Fill the feed cups inside the carrier with crushed ice for extra cooling.
  • Buy a small battery-operated fan to attach to the outside of your cat’s carrier. Keep extra batteries on hand in case you need them.

Adjust Water, Play and Travel Schedules Accordingly

  • Place your cat’s food and water bowl away from sunlight, says Commings. Fill the water bowl with ice cubes to keep the water chilled for hours.
  • Keep activity to a minimum. Don’t encourage your kitty to play on hot days.
  • Monitor your cat when the heat soars. If possible, dash home on your lunch hour to make sure the water dish is filled and that your cat appears healthy and happy. If you’re going out in the evening, check in at home first. If you’re heading out for a day trip, such as a visit to the beach, enlist a neighbor to look in on your cat while you’re gone.

Even Cooler Tips (For Extreme Heat, 80 degrees Fahrenheit+)

  • Buy an electronic, drinking-fountain style water bowl, suggests Commings. “Add some ice cubes to the water to cool it down, too,” she says.
  • Consider buying a cat bed that stays comfortably cool with low-voltage electricity.
  • If you’re unsure that your house will be cool enough for your cat, line up a friend or cat sitter with a cooler home now who would be willing to keep your pet for the day.
  • AC busted? Take your kitty and check yourselves into a pet-friendly hotel for the night.

Summer heat can be stressful for everyone, but our cats depend on us to make sure they’re safe and healthy. Taking the steps to ensure that your kitty is cool and comfortable is an important part of being a responsible and loving pet owner. Your cat will thank you many times later in its usual way, with lots of head butts, purrs, affection and loyal companionship.

Elizabeth Parker has written for The Boston Globe, Shape, Glamour, Viv and many other publications. She is co-author of Heeling Your Inner Dog: A Self-Whelp Book (Times Books) and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, cat and two rabbits.


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Posted on July 3, 2011

cat owner says: live in arizona, ac is out. don't have the money to stay in a hotel. what should i do? it's 97 in my house. I'm worried about my cats

Posted on July 16, 2008

Mollykay says: My Cat Loves To Sit In The Bath Tub. With A Little Water In It. And I Also Put Icecubes In Her Water. To Make It Stay Cold.

Posted on July 20, 2008

renie says: My cat is 15 years old long hair, she is going blind, she won't let me brush her hair so it is getting badly matted. It sounds bad to do but she is miserably hot. she never goes outside

Posted on July 3, 2008

amanda says: my cat loves it when shes shaved, she can do alot more and doesnt get tired as quickly but i only do this during the summer since i live on the second floor apt and gets very hot up here. during the winter i keep her fur coat long and she doesnt shed that much.

Posted on July 3, 2008

amanda says: my cat loves it when shes shaved, she can do alot more and doesnt get tired as quickly but i only do this during the summer since i live on the second floor apt and gets very hot up here. during the winter i keep her fur coat long and she doesnt shed that much.

Posted on June 29, 2008

sharron vaness says: I have 2 female adult cats.Infact they are mother&daughter. 3 days ago my siamese had 3 kittens. Since then my other female has refused to come inside the house for any reason. im very worried about her.The siamese has had 3 other litters and my other cat has never acted this way before. I dont know what 2 do. sharron vaness

Posted on June 18, 2008

linda says: My cat love to stay cool with a sink full of water so he drink it all day and nigth

Posted on June 19, 2008

Byren says: i live in the south and it gets really hot. i am also extremely energy conscious. my question is: what is the highest safe a/c temperature setting for my cats? i recently adopted 2 adult med/long hair rescues.

Posted on June 8, 2008

Emma says: If your cat has really thick fur and is never in the sun, is it ok to shave or trim there hair?

Posted on June 13, 2008

adrian says: NO. Bad idea. Please avoid the shaving of cats under all circumstances.

Posted on February 18, 2012

Laury says: My 16 yr old female cat, short and I have moved to AZ and are staying w/my parents. The problem? She can't be trusted to use the litter box, at all! I therefore, have her outside. This is fine until it gets hot. Then what?

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