“If I close my eyes and count to ten, will the heatwave go away?”
As we’re now into the second week of a national heatwave (or is it third – I’m so hot I can’t remember), I thought I’d put together some information about how we can help our cats stay cool.
The first thing I should point out is that you don’t need to panic – your cat will not be suffering nearly as much as you are in this heat! Domestic cats are descended from a desert species and so have evolved to cope with very hot conditions: a cat’s normal body temperature is higher than that of a mere human – an average of 38.6°C/101.5°F for felines compared with 37°C/98.6°F for their human slaves, which gives an increased ability to withstand high external temperatures. Plus, when you take into account a cat’s natural tendency to comfort-seek (warm spots in winter, cool in summer), and inclination to remain motionless for long periods of time, you can get an idea of a heatwave from your cat’s perspective. Most moggies are probably wondering what all the fuss is about! I say most, because elderly, very young and sick cats are more vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures than healthy adults, and should be cared for accordingly – I’d strongly advise you to contact your vet if you have any concerns.
Sometimes, when it’s really hot outside, you’re better off staying indoors with your rat.
Even though most of us don’t need to worry too much about our cats in this weather, it’s still sensible to take a few measures to reduce the effects of the heat on our feline friends, so here are some handy tips:
General Cat Care
1. It’s very important that our cats stay hydrated in this weather, and this particularly applies to cats who are on a dry food only diet. Make sure your cat always has access to fresh water – place extra water bowls around the house and in the garden to encourage drinking. You may wish to consider investing in a drinking fountain; I’ve never used one with my cats, but I’ve heard anecdotal evidence which suggests they encourage cats to drink more frequently.
Another good way to increase your cat’s fluid intake (although probably unnecessary for the majority of healthy cats) is to mix water in with their food – I’ve found most cats will happily tolerate at least a tablespoon of water added to wet food, providing it’s mixed and mushed enough to resemble a gravy. Some cats will eat dry food which has been allowed to absorb added water, other cats will (understandably in my book) turn their noses up at soggy biscuits.
While we’re on the subject of food and water, I’ve noticed a fair amount of advice being given on social media at the moment about adding ice cubes to water and food and/or chilling food in the fridge in order to cool cats down. In my opinion this is completely unnecessary – cats like their food and water to be at room temperature. In fact food straight from the fridge can cause problems for cats with sensitive stomachs, leading them to vomit. (I always allow any food I’ve stored in the fridge to come back up to room temperature before dishing it up for my lot.) So save the ice cubes for your own drinks!
It’s perfectly natural for our cats’ appetites to be reduced during hot spells, but should your cat go without food or have a very significantly reduced food intake for 24 hours, always consult your vet.
2. Make sure food bowls are kept clean, particularly those containing wet food. Even tiny scraps of food stuck to the side of the bowl can rapidly become smelly enough to put your cats off their dinner in this weather. Also, throw any uneaten wet food away immediately – it can very quickly become fly-blown during summer months.
3. Keep your cat well-groomed, particularly long-haired floofballs – cats moult more profusely during hot spells, and a build up of hair will retain heat.
4. The cooling effects of placing damp towels, and/or freezer cool packs (well wrapped in towels or old clothes) near to your cat’s preferred snoozing spots may be appreciated. Or your efforts may be completely snubbed – sometimes being a cat servant can be a thankless task!
5. Try to keep your cat calm – any running around in this weather will quickly result in canine-like tongue lolling and panting as your cat tries to cool down again afterwards. Most cats don’t need any encouragement when it comes to taking it easy, but if you and your cat enjoying playing games together keep the games gentle, and play them at night when temperatures have dropped a few degrees.
6. Cats with white ears and noses have an increased likelihood of contracting skin cancer, and should really wear sunblock when outdoors. If you’re worried that your cat may be in the at risk group, contact your vet who will be happy to advise you on non-toxic products suitable for cats.
Martha panting after foolishly deciding to scale a 20ft wall of ivy during a heatwave.
1. Keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day to prevent the sun from showing its evil face inside your home. (Can you tell I’m not a big hot weather fan?) This simple measure really does help reduce indoor temperatures, benefiting you as well as your cat!
2. Of course you’ll want the windows open as wide as possible at the moment, but be please extra vigilant around upper storey windows where your cat is concerned. Even the most cautious of cats is capable of reacting instinctively to a passing bird or butterfly spotted through an open window – with potentially fatal consequences.
3. Your cat will currently be seeking out cool spots around your home; cosy cat beds will shunned in favour of ceramic tiles and lino, so try and leave doors open to provide access to such areas. Sinks, baths and shower trays also prove popular during hot spells, so make sure you rinse any cleaning products away thoroughly to prevent your cat from ingesting them when grooming. Or do as I do and just give up on housework until the weather cools down.
1. Be very very vigilant around sheds and greenhouses – any cat accidentally shut inside one of these enclosed spaces will be subjected to horrendously high temperatures, resulting in extreme suffering and even death.
2. If your garden is mainly given over to grass and lacks mature shrubs and trees, or maybe you have a paved/decked courtyard, your cat will probably appreciate some outdoor shade. This can be easily accomplished with garden furniture. Even if you have plants which give shade, it’s always worth providing a bit extra – thanks to Cool for Cats UK reader, Melanie Georgiou, who left this tip on the Facebook page: ‘Our cat’s favourite bit of shade is always underneath one of our folding chairs so we leave one out for him all day on hot days even though we have several trees providing shade. Apparently chair shade is best.’
So, in summary: don’t worry too much, as long as your cat remains hydrated, and you remain vigilant regarding open windows, sheds etc., your cat should have no problems coping with the sort of heatwave we have here in the UK. However, if you have any concerns whatsoever about your cat’s health during a hot spell (or at any other time) always consult your vet.
Please feel free to add any tips of your own in the comments section!