Do Cats Suffer Heat Stroke?

Yesterday one of my pet sitting clients and I were discussing heat stroke in dogs. I told her that she had to be careful of her cat too, because they can suffer from hyperthermia (heat stroke) also.  She said she hadn’t realized this.  So, here is information about cats and heatstroke:

cat outside

A cat’s normal body temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Any situation which causes them to become hotter than this exposes them to heat stroke.  Cats cool themselves by panting, licking their fur and sweating through their paws. This is an inefficient method of keeping cool, so they can easily become overheated. Short nosed cat breeds, very young or elderly cats, obese cats,  and cats with respiratory diseases are very susceptible to hyperthermia. To help prevent heat stroke, do not expose cats to very hot and humid weather, never leave a cat inside a car, provide a lot of cool clean water for your cat to drink, provide shady areas where your cat can avoid the sun, bring cats indoors during the hottest hours of the day, keep your house cool using an air conditioner.  Another trick is to wrap a bag of frozen peas in a towel and put it in her bedding for her to lie on.  Some cats will enjoy the frozen peas, others don’t.

Symptoms of heat stroke are:

  • Rapid panting –  A cat’s normal respiratory rate while resting is between 16 and 40 breaths per minute.
  • Rapid pulse –  A cat’s normal heart rate while resting is between 120 and 140 beats per minute.
  • Increased body temperature –  A rectal temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or greater is cause for concern.
  • Restlessness or lethargy
  • Dark red gums and tongue
  • Vomiting. Vomit may contain blood.
  • Salivating –  Saliva will be thick and sticky
  • Muscle tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness on her feet
  • Coma

If your cat is displaying signs of heat stroke:

Cool her down immediately by putting her body in cool (not cold) water.  Keep her head above the water.  You can also wrap the cat in cold, wet towels.  Have a fan blowing on the wet cat to facilitate evaporation and cooling. Give the cat cold water (not icy) mixed with a little salt to drink to help rehydrate her.  You can use an eye dropper or syringe to drip a little water at a time inside the corner of her mouth. Do not shoot the water down her throat as this can cause chocking.  Monitor her temperature every 5 to 10 minutes until it returns to normal.  Once the cat’s temperature has reached normal, take her to the vet immediately. Heat stroke is a very dangerous condition that can cause organ damage  and/or death.  Her vet will need to examine her to determine if further treatment is needed.

If at any time your cat’s body temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit, wrap her body in cold, wet towels (don’t cover her face with the towels), put her in your car with the air conditioner blowing on her, and get her to the vet immediately… don’t wait.