Heatstroke in Cats: Causes, Signs and How to Protect Your Pet

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that can affect both cats and dogs. You need to know what the symptoms are for this condition so you can recognize it is in time to get your pet the help they need. Protecting your cat from heatstroke is just as important as recognizing the signs of the condition. Prevention is always better than a response to a heatstroke situation.

Many people do not know that cats can get heatstroke just like dogs and are not prepared to give their cats the attention they need when this emergency arises. Knowing more about heatstroke could be the difference between life and death for your pet.

cat heatstroke

Causes of Heatstroke in Cats

There are different causes of heatstroke in cats:

Unventilated Area

Heatstroke in cats is usually caused by being left in an unventilated area that is hot. This might be a car or a closed room in your home. Another factor is typically that the cat does not have access to enough water to drink.

Too Much Exercise

Cats rarely exercise too much and get heatstroke, but it can happen. This is something that would be more common in younger cats who tend to be really active, but older cats might have problems if they are worried and are pacing or walking around in a hot room for a while.

Being Left in the Car

Cats who have been taken somewhere in the car should never be left in the car on a hot day. This is a common cause for all pets to get heatstroke. It gets a lot hotter than you think in the car when it is shut up tightly. Even with windows rolled down, it is too hot in the car in the summer for cats.

Signs of Heatstroke in Cats

Cats with heatstroke display some specific signs that you can learn to recognize. Knowing the signs of heatstroke can make it much easier to get your cat to the veterinarian before it’s too late. The common signs of heatstroke in cats are:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Salivating
  • Agitation
  • Being restless
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Signs of mental confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Staggering
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing
  • Lying down flat
  • Producing no urine
  • Falling into a coma

Cats might experience many of the symptoms on this list or only a few of them. You should take any symptoms of this nature seriously and get your cat to the vet right away. Most cats only have about a half hour to get treatment before it’s too late to save them. The longer you wait when you suspect heatstroke, the more at risk your pet is for long-term health problems or death.

How to Protect Your Pet From Heatstroke

Protecting your cat from heatstroke is easier than you might think.

Provide Water

Cats can be protected from heatstroke by making sure that you are aware of the temperature that they are being exposed to and by  having water available for them to always drink. Cats need to consume enough water to stay hydrated in order to protect their kidneys from damage.

Make Sure Your Cat is Drinking Water

Cats need to have access to clean water always, and they should not be prevented from drinking for any reason. If you have another pet in the home that is making your cat scared to go drink water, you need to resolve this issue right away. If you add a warm environment to a situation where your cat won’t drink, you have a recipe for disaster.

Stay Indoors

Cats need to stay indoors when it’s hot out and should not be closed into a room that doesn’t have any airflow. This can lead to a situation where the temperature in the room is too high for your pet to be safe. If you do need to enclose your cat in something like a cat carrier, they need to be in a climate-controlled room that is not hotter than 72 degrees.

Check on Your Outdoor Cat

Cats that are outdoor cats need to be provided water as well, although it will be up to them to take advantage of the water they have been offered. It can be a good idea to bring outdoor cats inside if the weather is supposed to be very hot. This will protect them from getting sick unnecessarily.

Treatment for Heatstroke

The treatment for heatstroke will always include your cat being given IV fluids. They might also be given electrolytes to try and prevent organ damage. If your cat has been vomiting or has had diarrhea, this can be the key to saving their life. A vet has to administer this treatment, which is why it’s so important that you contact your vet right away and rush your pet in to see them.

Cats with heatstroke will be kept on observation for a couple of days at least. You will need to expect that they will have to be kept in ICU during this time under close watch. Your vet will be able to tell you what to expect when your pet gets home. Some cats will have lasting healthcare struggles related to their heatstroke event, while others will be able to go back to the same routine that they had before. Each case can be unique, so your vet will have to guide the treatment plan for your pet once the heatstroke has resolved.

Cats With Heatstroke Need Immediate Treatment

The most important thing that you need to know about heatstroke is that prevention is key. Animals that have had even one heatstroke are more likely to have other heatstroke events and to have secondary health struggles. You will always need to be aware that your cat could get overheated more easily than you think. Protecting your cat from getting heatstroke is always better than responding to heatstroke after the fact.

Now that you know the signs of heatstroke, you will be more prepared to get your pet the treatment that they need if a heatstroke event should happen to them. You need to make sure that you know where an emergency vet is located so that you can get your pet the care they need to save their life. If you live in a place that is very hot, you will need to be aware that your cat is at more risk of heatstroke than cats that live in more temperate climates.

Need to talk with a veterinarian about your cat’s wellness and care? Book an appointment at any of our Heart + Paw locations!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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