You can bet your furry friend grumbles and hisses about the 100-degree days, just like us. While cats are no strangers to vocalizing their needs, it's hard for us to distinguish a meow for more food from a noise indicating discomfort.
Since cats can't just tell us that they're too hot, we have to look for the signs. Because overheating and heatstroke can have serious complications, educating yourself on managing feline heatstroke may save your cat's life.
Known medically as hyperthermia, heatstroke is a condition that occurs when heat overwhelms the body's ability to regulate its internal temperatures. As a kitty heats up, they may experience the moderate heat issue of heat exhaustion, which is dangerous but not deadly. Heat exhaustion may progress to heatstroke and cause serious internal damage or even death without immediate care. Generally, experts associate heatstroke in domestic cats with a temperature of over 104 F.
Unlike humans and some other mammals, cats only sweat through areas like their paws, lips, and chin. Felines may also lick their fur to cool down or nap through the day, becoming more active at night. Cats do not typically pant, and doing so is an indicator that they are overheating or dealing with some type of stress.
In addition to panting, there are some other key signs of cat heatstroke that you can look for. When a cat first begins to overheat, they may seem restless as they move around the area to find a cool spot. Additionally, you can check your kitty's paws to check for excess sweat. The best and most accurate method is to measure their rectal temperature.
Once a cat enters the heat exhaustion stage, they'll begin to exhibit a few more signs that they are uncomfortable. Panting often occurs, usually with rapid breathing and pulse. Vomiting is also possible. The cat's tongue and mouth may appear much redder than is typical. Commonly, animals with heat exhaustion will seem lethargic and stumble while they move.
If you're worried about your cat's health, you should take them to a veterinarian. However, the best way to know if your companion is experiencing heatstroke is to take their temperature. A temp of up to 103 F counts as elevated, and you should take measures to cool the cat down. Anything above that requires expert evaluation. If the cat's temperature is over 105 F, their condition is potentially life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention.
When a cat is just starting to show signs of overheating, move them to a quiet place with plenty of shade and some water nearby. If you believe that your pet has heatstroke, prepare to take them to the vet. Immerse an unconscious cat in cool — but not ice-cold — water, ensuring their head stays above the liquid. Transporting them may be difficult, so it may be easier to wrap some frozen food or an ice pack in a towel and place it between their legs. Whenever possible, call the vet's office as you travel to give them time to prepare for your arrival.
Your cat's prognosis following heatstroke is almost entirely dependent on how quickly they received professional care. Heatstroke is often fatal without immediate treatment. If you get your cat to the vet quickly, they may still have some organ damage. Heatstroke damages the internal organs and systems, so the damage isn't always obvious, and problems may reveal themselves in the coming months. However, it's also possible that a cat may bounce back from overheating without any damage at all.
The easiest way to prevent your feline friend from overheating is to prepare plenty of cool spots and water. Fans and cooling pads are easy ways to drop the temps in areas of your home. Don't feel like you need to stick to products just for cats, either! If it is safe for dogs or other pets, it's probably also effective for your kitty.
Heatstroke doesn't only become an issue on extremely hot days. Certain situations and environments can increase the risk of heatstroke, regardless of the actual temperature. For example, motor vehicles are prone to overheating, so make sure that there's always cool air circulating to your cat. Depending on the airflow in your home, something as simple as leaving the window shades open may heat up the house enough to cause issues for your furry friend.
Some cats are more likely to have heatstroke and heat-related issues. This includes certain breeds, like Himalayans and Persians, which have shorter nasal passages that prevent them from cooling down properly. Pregnant and obese felines are also far more likely to develop heatstroke. Young kittens may lack the environmental awareness that keeps them out of hot areas. If your kitty seems to be overheating, try a kitten playpen to keep them in cooler spots.
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