Cats who have an increased risk of heat stroke:
- Pregnant/nursing mothers
- Senior cats
- Obese cats
- Cats with heart or respiratory issues.
A heat-stressed cat may begin to pant rapidly, and her paws may become sweaty or clammy. She may move around anxiously, searching for a cooler spot. Prolonged heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion, and eventually heat stroke, which can cause serious organ damage or failure.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Rapid breathing and pulse
- Bright red mouth and tongue
- Vomiting or drooling
- Stumbling or staggering
Of course, the best way to avoid heat exhaustion and stroke is to make sure your cat doesn’t experience extreme and prolonged environmental heat. However, if your cat shows any of the above symptoms and is or has been in a hot environment, there are a few things you should do immediately:
Move the cat to a cool environment
- Offer cool, fresh water and encourage drinking
- Wet the cat’s fur with room temperature or slightly cool water (cold water or ice can cause shock.) You can also wrap or cover the cat with a wet (but not too cold) towel
- Contact a veterinarian
If you find your cat in distress but conscious, the above steps may be enough to bring her body temperature back to normal, but you should contact a vet anyway for further instructions. Cats should be closely monitored for symptoms or unusual behavior in the days after a heat-related event, as the effects of over-heating may take some time to become apparent. If you find your cat unconscious in a hot place, the steps above might be helpful in the immediate moments, but she’ll need emergency treatment by a professional as soon as possible.
The warmer months of the year are popular trapping times for people doing TNR projects and for colony caretakers. If you’re out trapping during hot weather, be mindful of the places where cats in traps might encounter extreme temperatures. If you’re transporting a number of trapped cats to a clinic, be sure the vehicle’s interior stays at a comfortable temperature and do not leave trapped cats in a vehicle unattended.
If you have a number of cats at a holding site waiting for transport, make sure the cats are in a shady place, out of direct sunlight. And be aware that paved surfaces can get very hot, so it’s best to minimize the time a cat spends in a trap on exposed pavement.
A good rule of thumb is if an environment feels uncomfortably warm for a person, it will be uncomfortably warm for a cat. Even sunrooms and garages, spaces in the home we may assume are safe, can become unbearable on hot days if not properly ventilated. And do not underestimate just how quickly the temperature inside of a car can rise when under direct sunlight. An increase of 20 degrees or more can happen in a matter of minutes!