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How to protect your cat from heatstroke

The idea that cats are desert animals and are therefore able to endure heat is, in fact, a myth. They’re actually extremely sensitive to high temperatures and become dehydrated easily, which makes it very important to prevent heat exposure now that summer is starting.

Cats’ bodies are covered in fur (with the exception of hairless breeds), and they’re only able to dispel body heat through their paw pads. In extreme cases, they can also do this by panting, but this method is not as effective for cats as it is for dogs. They naturally seek out well-ventilated and cool places on their own when temperatures start to rise, but if we don’t provide them with these (for example, by leaving them locked into rooms with too much sunlight and no ventilation) they run a serious risk of suffering heatstroke. This consists of a rise in body temperature or hyperthermia at levels that cause severe dehydration, circulatory collapse and multiple organ failure that could eventually lead to death.

To avoid this serious risk, when air temperatures start to rise we must:

  • Make sure our cats have constant access to cool, shady, air-conditioned and well-ventilated areas where they can take shelter from the heat (ideally always below 25°C).
  • Always remember to leave fresh, clean water at their disposal so that they can hydrate themselves when they need to. Cold running water is best, so that the water doesn’t become hot and unappealing.

The symptoms of heatstroke can be mild at first:

  • Excessive grooming in an attempt to eliminate fur in order to lower body temperature.
  • Panting.
  • Restlessness as they try to find a cool place, or, on the other hand, lethargy.

However, if the process continues to progress, you might observe the following:

  • Listless behaviour, with tachycardia and rapid breathing.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Vomiting.

In these cases, the first thing we must do is start to lower their body temperature by wrapping them in damp cloths (never with freezing water), and take them immediately to the emergency vet.

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