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You sweat. Your dog pants. But does your cat sweat? And can she pant too? What does she do when she needs cool off?
Do Cats Sweat?
Cats, known for their cool-as-a-cucumber attitude, do, in fact, sweat. You just probably don't see it.
Cats have sweat glands, but most are covered by fur. That means their effects are minimized, but the exception is their paws. Your cat's paws have sweat glands and you might occasionally see proof of that if your cat leaves behind damp footprints, explains Cat Health.
So, do cats sweat? Kind of.
Because cat sweat glands aren't that effective, cats have other ways of cooling off. They bathe themselves, because when their saliva evaporates it cools them down—kind of like taking a lukewarm bath on a hot day. Cats also like to rest in cool places. Spreading their bodies out on a cool surface — like a tiled floor or an empty bathtub — keeps them comfortable. Many cats also shed their undercoats in the warmer months. If your cat seems to be shedding more than usual, you can help by grooming her regularly. It's a dual benefit: grooming your cat is a bonding activity, and you'll cut down on the hair around your house.
While cats have all those ways to stay cool, that doesn't mean they can't become overheated. A cat's normal temperature is about 101 degrees. When it reaches 104 degrees, heatstroke is a possibility.
However, it's pretty unusual for a cat to suffer heatstroke. After all, as Dr. Jason Nicholas notes on Preventive Vet, cats don't typically ride in cars and don't go outside for long periods of intense play or exercise with their owners — common scenarios in which dogs can become dangerously overheated. But, he notes, there are instances of cats suffering heatstroke. Dr. Nicholas writes that some scenarios in which you should consider heatstroke as a possibility include:
- A cat gets trapped in a clothes dryer
- A cat gets trapped in a shed or other structure without air-flow during a hot period
- A cat left confined without ready access to water and shade
- A cat left in a hot car for a prolonged period of time
Is Your Cat Overheated?
One common sign a cat is overheated is panting. While common in dogs, of course, cats aren't your everyday panters. They will typically pant in cases of overheating, stress, respiratory distress or some secondary illness and biochemical change. Just like with a dog, cat panting allows heat to escape the body through evaporation.
Dr. Jane Brunt, a veterinarian at the Cat Hospital at Towson in Baltimore, tells Catster that other signs a cat might be overheated include:
- Salivating or drooling excessively
- Bright red gums, tongue, or mouth
- Wobbly walking or disorientation
If you notice your cat is panting and are concerned your cat is overheated or is suffering heat stroke, you should take immediate action to cool her off. Move her out of the sun and, if you can, bring her to a cooler area. Make sure she has cool water to drink by adding an ice cube or two to her bowl. You can also wet her fur with a damp, cold cloth, or wrap a frozen water bottle in a towel and place it beside where she is resting.
If you live in a warmer climate and your cat can't escape the heat in your home for whatever reason (i.e., your air conditioner goes out), you might think about having a backup plan ready to make sure she stays cool during the day when you can't be there to care for her. This could include having her stay with a friend or family or kenneling her at the vet. While cats don't generally love the change of scenery, you'll be thankful that you have an upset kitty rather than a sick one.
If you're concerned your cat is overheated, contact your vet as soon as possible. Let the staff know why you think your cat is suffering from overheating, what time you noticed the symptoms, and what you've done to cool her off. They can let you know what further actions to take and if you should bring her in for care.
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer and pet parent who lives in Erie, Pa. She has a goldendoodle named Maddie.