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Summer is officially here, and for many of us, that means the hot temps are here too! While you can certainly enjoy some fun in the sun with your kitty, you’ll want to take precautions to make sure she doesn’t get overheated. Just like us humans, cats can get too hot and even suffer from heatstroke and dehydration.
Here are our favorite ways to keep your cat cool in the summer when on adventures:
1. Adventure in the mornings and evenings.
Temperatures start rising in the late morning time, with the hottest time of the day being around 3pm. Aim to take your hikes or canoe rides before 10am or after about 5 or 6pm. That way you and your cat are avoiding the hottest parts of the day.
2. Avoid direct sunlight.
When choosing your summer adventure locations, consider what kind of coverage is around. Is there any shade, or will you constantly be in direct sunlight? Try to choose places that offer more shaded areas – either parks that have pavilions and shelter, or places that have a lot of tree/woods coverage. We all know how miserable it is to have the sun beating down on us. Your kitty feels the same!
Plus, cats can actually get sunburnt – another reason to avoid direct sunlight! Cats are most prone to sunburn on their ears and noses (places that don’t have much fur). Light-colored cats and hairless cats are also more prone to sunburn. We recommend using sunscreen if your cat will be in direct sunlight for any length of time. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients in human sunscreens are toxic to cats, so be sure to use a sunscreen that is marked as cat-safe. Some human infant sunscreens are safe as well, but check with your vet to be sure!
3. Wet your cat down.
When the temperatures are high, even in the shade it can be pretty hot. To cool your cat down in the heat, try wetting him down. Gently drip some water on his head and pat it in. Because cats sweat through their feet, you can also try dipping his feet in a water bowl. If your cat won’t tolerate water directly like that, you can wet a towel and stroke his head, body, and feet. If you don’t have a towel with you, pet your cat down with your wet hands.
4. Keep a cooling mat in your cat’s backpack or carrier.
Cooling mats are a great way to keep your cat cool in the summer heat. They do not require refrigeration or freezing. Some just “recharge” in the air when not in use. Our favorite one gets filled with water. If your cat rides in a backpack carrier while out on adventures, you can line the bottom of it with one of these cooling pads.
You can also place a frozen water bottle in your cat’s backpack or carrier to keep them cool. Just be sure to wrap it in a towel or blanket first so your cat doesn’t come into direct contact with it. Your cat should also be able to move away from it if he gets too cold.
*Do NOT ever use a gel ice pack intended for humans. Your cat’s claws can easily tear those, and the gel inside can be toxic. Always use cooling devices that are intended for pet use.
5. Use a cooling bandana.
If your cat will tolerate wearing things, try getting her a cooling bandana. You can buy one that is specifically made for pets or just use a regular bandana. Wet it, put it in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes, then tie around your cat’s neck. It won’t last forever, but it can help cool her off for a little bit.
6. Bring a fan.
A battery-powered, hand-held fan is a wonderful adventure accessory for both you and your cat! When your cat is getting hot, take a break, pull out the fan, and cool off together.
7. Encourage your cat to drink plenty of water.
Cats have a tendency not to drink enough water when they’re out on adventures. If your cat is one of those who won’t drink, you can wet his lips. He will then lick the water off. Another way you can make sure your cat is ingesting enough water is to bring along snacks that are high in water content. Puree cat treats are great for this!
A good pet water bottle is a good thing to have too. Our favorite one will let you easily pour any unused water back into the bottle so you don’t waste any.
8. Take breaks.
If you’re on a hike or other type of strenuous adventure, be sure to not to push your cat too hard. Take plenty of breaks to give your cat the opportunity to rest. Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior to know when she’s tired. If your cat starts slowing down or panting, it’s time to rest.
Backpack training your cat is recommended too. If your cat is used to riding in a backpack, she can easily take a break at times when you want to keep going.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Cats
Even if you take all of the precautions listed above, your cat may still become overheated, especially if you are adventuring on an extremely hot day. Watch out for these signs of heat exhaustion:
- Breathing rapidly/panting
- Racing heart rate
- Red tongue and mouth
- Stumbling or staggering
- Rectal temperature over 105F
If you notice any of these symptoms, stop your adventure and get your cat cooled down immediately. If left unchecked, heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.