"Heatstroke in cats
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"Heatstroke in cats

Cats
Health & Safety

Heatstroke is a condition that gets a lot of publicity when the hottest of the summer weather really hits us, generally in relation to the very acute and real risk that the heat can pose to dogs left in cars or other hot, enclosed spaces.

However, while the risk of heatstroke in dogs and people is well known and understood, virtually any other mammal can suffer from the same affliction-including cats.

Cats are of course rather more self sufficient and able to take care of themselves than dogs are, and so heatstroke in cats is not as common as it is in dogs-but it can still occur, and the symptoms and situations that can cause it are rather different in cats than dogs.

In this article, we will look at heatstroke in cats in more detail, including the risk factors, symptoms, and how to keep your cat safe. Read on to learn more.

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke’s scientific name is “hyperthermia,” which means a dangerously high body temperature-the opposite of hypothermia. When the body reaches a certain temperature, it not only poses a threat to all of the organs and systems that support life, but takes away the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature and cool itself down, which can be very serious and even potentially fatal.

Once a cat has developed heatstroke, it is vital to work quickly to reduce their temperature and seek veterinary advice as a matter of urgency.

How do cats develop heatstroke?

As mentioned, cats are generally self sufficient and good at taking care of themselves, and they also have a lot more common sense than dogs do when it comes to steering clear of threats and potentially dangerous situations! This means that while heatstroke in cats is less common than in dogs, the type of scenarios that can cause it are apt to be rather different too.

Cats will naturally seek shade and water when they get too hot-for instance, you may have noticed that your cat likes to lie flat out on tiles or stone floors when it is very warm, as this contact with the cool floor helps to lower their body temperature. Additionally, cats evolved in very hot, desert climates, and so they are able to tolerate heat much better than dogs or humans.

A cat might develop heatstroke if they are unable to find shade or act to cool down their own body temperature with either shade, water of both. This can happen if your cat is kept indoors and the weather is very hot and they run out of water, or for instance if your cat gets trapped in a shed or garage and cannot find water nor escape.

Identifying heatstroke in cats

The normal body temperature of the cat ranges around the 38.5 Celsius range, which is a couple of degrees warmer than that of humans. A temperature of over 40 degrees is approaching overheating, and if their temperature continues to rise, this can be very dangerous.

Cats are good at masking signs of distress and illness, and so the symptoms that they will display may well be harder to spot than it is in dogs. When the weather is hot, or if you have reason to suspect your cat is too hot, stay alert to the following symptoms:

Inability to settle or get comfortable, continually moving around to find a cooler or more shady space.

  • Red mucous membranes, which may feel tacky to the touch.
  • A fast, thready pulse.
  • Fast, shallow breathing.
  • A staggering or uncoordinated gait.
  • Inability to focus properly or respond normally to stimulus.
  • Unresponsiveness and potentially, unconsciousness.
  • Vomiting or drooling.
  • Sitting with an open mouth.

If you spot any of these symptoms in your cat, you must treat the situation as an emergency. Call your vet immediately for advice-even if it is outside of normal clinic hours-and begin work to reduce your cat’s temperature immediately, whilst arranging to take them into the vet.

In order to reduce your cat’s temperature, you should first of all make sure that they are moved to the coolest spot you can find-such as on a tiled floor, or even in the bottom of an empty bath tub. Then, soak some towels in cool water and place these over your cat, changing them frequently as they heat up.

A cat that has heatstroke is unlikely to struggle unduly or resist this, as they will simply feel too ill.

Don’t try to pour water into their mouths, and make sure the water is not freezing, as this may send your cat into shock.

You may however wrap some ice cubes or a bag of frozen peas (or similar) in a towel, and place this next to your cat.

Blood circulation around the body is what helps to distribute heat, so try to place cool towels or other products close to your cat’s pulse points, on the inside of the things, and on the front legs, on the inside of the leg above the paws.

Stay calm, and take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

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