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Heatstroke in cats: What are the dangers and why should you keep a cool cat

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
16th Jun 2022
6 mins read
Most cats love warmth, but you have to be careful they don’t overheat. Cats can suffer from heat stroke too!
If you think your cat might have heat stroke, call your vet and try to cool your cat down. Move them to a cool area, like in front of a fan, and wipe them with a damp cloth. 
To prevent your pet from suffering from heat stroke, make sure your cat has access to drinking water, and has cool places to sleep.
This article was updated 14th April 2023
Cats love to sunbathe and your feline friend might take every opportunity to enjoy a cat nap in a warm puddle of sunshine. Although most cats love warmth, and their wild ancestors hailed from hot countries, they can still get too hot and develop heat stroke.
Heat stroke in cats is much less common than heat stroke in dogs. Some owners might not know that cats could even get heat stroke. However, this condition could be a risk to your cat’s life so it’s vital that owners learn to recognise the signs of heat stroke in cats and know what to do if their feline falls ill.
In our complete guide, we’ll explain what heat stroke is, what causes it, the symptoms to watch out for, and what to do if you think your cat is suffering from heat stroke.

What is heat stroke in cats?

Heat stroke in cats, also called “hyperthermia”, is a potentially life-threatening condition where your cat overheats and is unable to control their body temperature and cool down.
Cats have a healthy, normal body temperature of around 38°C to 39°C. If their body temperature rises above 40°C, it can have a serious impact on their body.
This abnormal rise in their body temperature can make them sick. It has the potential to damage various tissues in their body, causing neurological problems like seizures, and even organ damage or failure.
Because of the serious effects of heatstroke, it is considered a medical emergency. You must call your vet for advice as soon as possible, and try to cool your cat down.

What causes heat stroke in cats?

Heatstroke is caused by a cat becoming too hot. Cats can't regulate their body temperature very well, since they can’t sweat or remove their fur coat. That means if it gets too hot, they can become unable to naturally lower their temperature, and their body starts to gain heat faster than it can lose it.
Cats aren’t as likely as dogs to get heat stroke. This is because you’re much less likely to exercise your cat outside in hot weather, or travel with your cat in a hot car.
However, a cat can still become too hot and get sick if the temperature is high. This is especially true if they stay in hot, poorly ventilated rooms like a conservatory.

Can cats get heat stroke inside?

Yes, cats can get heat stroke inside if the room they are in is hot, humid, or if it's not well ventilated. Some rooms, like conservatories, can let a lot of sunlight and warmth in and get very hot and stuffy. If your cat stays in there for too long it can cause them to overheat and suffer from heat stroke.

Are some cats more at risk of heat stroke?

Any cat can be affected by heat stroke, however, there are certain cats that are more at risk than others.
Firstly, young kittens are vulnerable to overheating because their bodies aren’t fully developed and can’t regulate heat as well as an adult.
Meanwhile, age-related health conditions can make very old cats more at risk of heat stroke.
Flat-faced (brachycephalic) cats, like Persians, are also at higher risk of heat stroke. This is because the physical shape of flat-faced cats, such as their short snouts, makes it harder for them to cool down.
To find out more about why flat faces make pets more vulnerable to certain conditions, like heat stroke, listen to our podcast with vet Dr Emma Milne.
Overweight or obese cats are also more at risk of heat stroke because the excess layers of fat insulate them and trap heat in their body.
Similarly, cats with very long or thick fur are also vulnerable to heat stroke because their fur keeps them warmer.

Signs of heatstroke in cats

Clinical signs of heat stroke in cats include:
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Lethargy
  • High temperature (More than 40°F )
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bright red or dark red tongue and gums
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Tremors
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
If you notice your cat showing any of these signs of heat stroke, you must contact your vet for advice and try to gradually cool your cat down.

Treatment for heat stroke in cats

If you think your cat might be suffering from heat stroke, you must phone your vet for advice as soon as possible.
You can also offer some first aid to help cool your cat down before you get to the vet. Early treatment for heat stroke in cats could save their life.

How to cool your cat down:

  • Move them into a cool and ventilated area.
    (Or into the shade if you’re outside.)
  • Or
    move them in front of a fan
  • If they’re awake and alert, try to
    get them to drink
    some water. (It helps cool them and prevent dehydration.)
  • Gently
    pour some cool water
    onto your cat, or stroke them with a damp cloth.
use cold or ice water to cool your cat down as the cold will constrict their blood vessels, which prevents heat from escaping and makes them even warmer!
Once your cat stops panting, or once their temperature returns to normal, you can stop cooling them down.
Even if your cat seems back to normal, you must still take them to a vet for a check-up. Your vet will need to make sure they haven’t suffered from any internal damage or organ damage as a result of heat stroke.

How to prevent heat stroke in cats

The key to preventing heat stroke in cats is making sure your feline stays hydrated and has cool areas to relax in. Here's how to keep your cat cool this summer:
  • Make sure your cat always has access to a bowl of fresh water they can drink from.
  • If your cat doesn’t drink a lot, try giving them wet food which contains a lot of moisture.
  • Consider buying a water fountain to encourage them to drink more.
  • Let your cat groom and wash themselves. This helps to remove loose fur and the damp saliva on their fur removes excess heat as it evaporates.
  • Gently wipe your cat with a damp cloth. Again, as the water on their fur evaporates it will remove excess heat.
  • Brush your cat regularly to remove loose fur and keep them cool.
  • Try to restrict playtime and exercise with your cat to the cooler morning and evening hours.
  • Try to keep your cat indoors or in the shade when the sun is at its strongest. (Between 11am and 3pm.)
  • Let your cat nap. Snoozing helps them to regulate their temperature.
  • Make sure your cat has cooler, shaded spots to sleep in. For example, a room with the curtains shut, a cold tiled floor, the bath, or sink.
  • Consider buying a cool mat for your cat to sleep on.
  • Wrap a frozen water bottle or an ice pack in a towel and let your cat sleep near it.
  • Never leave your cat alone in an enclosed, poorly ventilated space such as cars or conservatories.
For more detail on how to keep your furry friends safe this summer, check out this guide.
Even though your cat might the warm weather, it’s important you make sure they don’t get too hot. By following these tips, you can help to keep your cat cool and comfortable this summer and prevent avoidable, and potentially deadly, illnesses like heat stroke.

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