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Heat Stroke in Cats: Prevention and Treatment

Although heat stroke in cats isn’t especially common, the effects can be extremely serious and it’s important for every cat parent to be aware of the signs of heat stroke in cats.

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Article checked by a vet
Article checked by a vet

Although heat stroke in cats isn’t especially common, the effects can be extremely serious and it’s important for every cat parent to be aware of the signs of heat stroke in cats. Understanding how heat stroke can come about and how to recognise its symptoms is essential to prevent it, react proactively, and potentially save your cat’s life.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at heat stroke in cats, how you can prevent it, and what you should do if you ever suspect your cat is suffering from this condition.

Understanding heat stroke in cats

Cat heat stroke is a serious condition that occurs when a cat’s body temperature rises to a point where their body can’t cool itself. The condition starts as heat exhaustion in cats, where cats are severely dehydrated or unable to regulate excess heat due to the environmental temperature.

While all cats can get heat stroke, flat-faced breeds like persian cats are particularly susceptible to the condition, as are particularly old or young cats.

As many cases of cat heat stroke come from cats getting stuck in hot environments like conservatories and sheds, it’s essential for cat parents to check their pet’s environment thoroughly when kittens can go outside unsupervised.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke in cats?

Heat exhaustion in cats and the signs of heat stroke in cats can manifest suddenly. Because of this, it’s crucial for all cat parents to be familiar with cat heat stroke symptoms, and know how to act accordingly.

Some of the common signs of cat heat stroke include:

  • Restlessness and agitated behaviour.
  • Lethargy and collapsing.
  • Panting and rapid breathing.
  • Drooling.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Vomiting.

These cat heat stroke symptoms can be indicative of other conditions. However, if your cat’s been in an unusually warm environment where it’s possible that cats can get heat stroke, it’s generally safest to assume the worst and contact a vet immediately.

How to prevent heat stroke in cats?

Like with many health conditions that affect cats, the best policy to deal with cat heat stroke is to take preventative measures and stop it from happening in the first place.

Some of the best ways to prevent heat stroke include:

  1. Keeping your cat indoors

    Though your cat might be an intrepid explorer if the weather’s dangerously hot it’s better to keep them indoors. Finding some activity for cats indoors to keep them stimulated and distracted might stop them from meowing up a storm at the back door. However, even if you can’t play with your cat indoors and keep them occupied, keeping them inside is often the best policy to protect them from heat stroke.

  2. Keep your cat hydrated

    Heat exhaustion in cats, the precursor to any signs of heat stroke in cats, is caused by dehydration in a hot environment. To prevent this, it’s essential to make sure your cat has access to water wherever they like to spend their time, whether indoors or outdoors.

  3. Keep hot rooms ventilated

    It’s unfortunately common for cats to get heat stroke when they spend too much time in a hot and unventilated room. If there’s a particularly warm room where your cat likes to hang out, be sure to keep it cool by opening the windows or letting a fan run.

  4. Give your cat shade

    In some cases, cats can get heat stroke simply from spending too much time in direct sunlight. If you don’t have a lot of trees in your garden, making a patch of shade with an open umbrella held in place with a stone can give them the shade they need to beat the heat.

  5. Check places where your cat could get stuck

    Sheds, greenhouses, garages, and similar spaces can all present a serious heat stroke risk if your cat gets stuck inside during hot weather. If there’s warm weather on the horizon and you let your cat out of the house, check these areas and ensure there’s no cat-sized gaps that your pet could slip in through.

  6. Avoid unnecessary car travel

    All cat parents know that you should never leave your pet in a hot car, but even trips in the car on a hot day can be enough for cat heat stroke symptoms to show up. Try to avoid travelling with your cat in the car, and if it’s necessary, take steps to keep the inside of the vehicle as cool as possible.

First aid for cats having heat stroke

If you’ve confirmed that your cat has heat stroke, there are certain first aid techniques you can administer to help mitigate the effects of the condition. 

Carry out the following steps as urgently as possible if you suspect your cat has heat stroke:

Get them out of the heat

First, move your cat out of the hot environment and into a cool, shaded room away from direct sunlight.

Cool your cat with water

Soak flannels or hand towels in cool water, wring out excess water and place lightly over the cat's body. It's important to cool the cat gradually in order to avoid them going into shock.  

Create a breeze

Open doors and windows or aim a fan at your cat to help cool them off.

Get your cat hydrated

Giving your cat a bowl of cold water to drink will help deal with the dehydration. Though you’ll obviously be concerned about your cat, it’s important not to manually splash water in their face or try to force them to drink, as this could make their condition worse. Soak a flannel in cool water, wring out the excess water and gently wipe the cat's face and head to help them cool gradually.

Give your cat a cool pack

Wrapping an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in a towel, then placing this between your cat’s legs or near their body, can also help to stabilise their temperature.

Seeking veterinary advice for heat stroke in cats

In mild cases of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you might notice your cat’s condition starting to improve from the first aid. 

However, if your cat is showing signs of severe heat stroke, such as collapse, unconsciousness, and extremely rapid breathing, you should call the nearest vet immediately and get your cat urgent medical attention. It’s also important to contact a vet if you know your cat has underlying health conditions, such as respiratory issues or heart disease.

When you need to take your cat to the vet with heat stroke, make sure you continue to cool them off by turning up the air conditioning or rolling down the windows. Remember car safety and have the cat secured in a cat carrier whilst you travel. If possible, have someone else in the car who can continue cooling your cat with towels dampened with cool water or a fan while you drive.

Final thoughts

Fortunately, most cat parents will never have to deal with their pet suffering from heat stroke. However, it’s still important to be aware of this condition and know how to react if you notice the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in your cat.

We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of feline heat stroke and how to prevent and react to it. For more information on maintaining your cat’s health, be sure to check out our guide on reasons why cats refuse to eat here.