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Keeping Cats Cool on Hot Days

As the temperature rises, we all find ways to keep cool and stay hydrated, from relaxing in the shade to carrying a water bottle with us wherever we go. But what about our feline friends? When left to their own devices, most cats will just find a shady spot and sleep all day, but some cats, especially those who are older or have underlying health concerns like kidney or heart disease, need a bit of extra attention on hot days. So, what can we do to help?

  1. Add water to their food – it may not look very appetising, but adding a few tablespoons of water (or as much as they will tolerate) to your cat’s wet food can make a real difference. If your cat eats both wet and dry food, offer more of the wet food as biscuits are naturally dehydrating.
  2. Offer lots of different water bowls – cats love to drink from what they think are our glasses, so putting a few pint glasses or even wine glasses filled to the brim with water (so their whiskers don’t get wet!) in various places around the house can encourage them to drink more. Keeping a water bowl outside in the shade is also a good idea (good for local wildlife as well). Water flavoured with a bit of tuna or a few drops of cat milk is a nice treat on hot days too. Some cats like water fountains, although others are less keen – try a few different things to learn what your cat likes.
  3. Cool treats – some cats will accept ice in their water, or tuna flavoured ice cubes in water, or food straight from the fridge, although not all will appreciate this. I love the idea of frozen Lick-e-Lix popsicles as well, give it a try!
  4. Keep the house cool – many cats don’t like to lie directly in the path of a fan, but some do. Having a fan on in the room will help circulate air, as will opening windows in the evenings and keeping the lights off during the day.
  5. Provide extra shade outside – I’ve seen makeshift kitty tents, cardboard boxes and plant pots all create shady sleeping spots. Older cats especially may not know when to get out of the sun, so if you see your cat lying out in the sun when you think they probably shouldn’t, encourage them to find a cooler place to nap. Be especially mindful of greenhouses and conservatories as these can get dangerously hot in the summer.
  6. Cool mats and damp flannel baths – giving them a quick rub down with a damp flannel can help cool them by evaporation, and brushing your cat regularly can remove some of the loose fur that traps heat in. Although some cats won’t touch them, others really love those special cooling mats you can get lots of places online these days (if you get one and your cat hates it, try it yourself, my son loves his! 🙂). Ice packs under a towel or their favourite blanket can also work but require regular changing.

It is common for cats to sleep more and eat a LITTLE bit less on hot days, so a mild change in routines is probably ok. Don’t use that as an excuse to ignore signs that they might be feeling unwell though – if their appetite drops right off or they look ill in anyway, speak with your vet as they may need additional supportive care such as IV or subcutaneous fluids to get them back on track. Cats that are already having to deal with chronic health problems can go downhill very quickly in hot weather so if in doubt, ring your vet.

Did you know… that unlike dogs, panting is not normal for cats. Breathing with their mouth open and/or tongue out for more than a few seconds at a time usually means that they are having difficulty getting enough air in which can be a very dangerous situation. Fluid on the lungs (often due to heart disease), overheating or severe distress can all cause panting so definitely let your vet know if you see this at home.

Wishing you and your cats a lovely, safe summer!