by Barbara George,Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Cats are better able to deal with heat than dogs or people. However, we can make it easier for them as the temperature climbs.
Water is essential; fresh clean water in a clean bowl in a cool space. Heat and wind will cause evaporation, so check water bowls regularly during the day, or provide more than one. Adding ice cubes will keep the water cool. Make larger ice cubes using small plastic containers when you will be away for a longer time than the standard ice cubes will keep cool.
Provide several shaded or cool places to rest; when one place becomes too hot, they will move to another. Cats that have access to indoors may enjoy tiled floors, or the shower. Close curtains to keep the heat out of favourite rooms.
If the garden or outdoor space does not have shady areas, create artificial cover, using items such as chairs or benches, in various areas to create shade, being aware of the path of the sun during the day. Covers will allow for air circulation and can provide a safe spot for water bowls.
Open windows and doors to allow for air flow. A standing fan can be used where there is limited airflow. Face the fan upwards to create air circulation, directly onto the cat would feel uncomfortable as it disturbs the whiskers and fur. Placing a bowl of cold water in front of the fan will cool the air; add ice cubes as the water warms up. Where possible, raise cat-friendly surfaces up to allow for air to circulate below and around.
Almost-fill ½ or 1 litre plastic bottles with water and freeze them overnight – do not fill to the top as water expands when freezing so the bottles may burst. Wrap these in towels and place in or near cat beds; cats can choose to lie on or next to them. Cooling gel packs are not recommended as they contain chemicals toxic to cats; if punctured by a stray claw, cats an ingest the chemicals. Lightly dampened towels can be placed on appropriate surface, such as tiled floors, the bath or shower, for cats to sleep on.
Matted or tangled fur will trap hot air around the cat; groom cats daily to remove any loose fur. Wet your hands and stoke the cat to provide a light layer of water for evaporation; a lightly damp towel can also be used. Shaving is not recommended, as the fur protects the delicate skin from scratches and sunburn.
Even in hot weather, cats need to exercise. Make play-time during cooler hours of morning and evening and discourage excess bouts of energy during the day. Calming remedies can be used if needed, or play gentle music.
Keep a count of your cats – know where they are, so they don’t become locked into a hot space accidentally.
Examine cats daily for signs of sunburn or cancer. Typical areas to check are ears, nose, lips, tummy, and inside the back legs. While light-coloured cats are more disposed to this, any cat with bald or exposed fur is at risk.
Signs that a cat may be suffering from heatstroke include dehydration, panting, rapid breathing, agitation, distress, increased heart rate, lethargy, red gums, glazed eyes, drooling, vomiting, staggering, collapse, unconsciousness, or fever. This is a serious condition, the cat needs to get to a vet or emergency centre as soon as possible. Cool the cat by wrapping in a lightly damp towel, a sudden change in temperature could be dangerous.
Some cats are more at risk of heat stroke, these include overweight cats, cats with flat faces, long-haired cats, cats that are ill or injured, and very young or very old cats.
While many of these facts are common-sense, we need to remember to make it easier for our cats to be comfortable at all times.
To contact Barbara, please email firstname.lastname@example.org