Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.
When summertime temperatures soar, people sweat, dogs pant and animals of all types seek shelter in the shade, preferably with a gentle breeze. That assumes, of course, there’s no access to air conditioned rooms or vehicles.
But what do cats do to stay cool?
If you’re thinking summer heat is not an issue for our pet cats because they originated as desert animals, you’ve fallen victim to this month’s myth:
Summer heat is no problem for cats.
Although cats tend to tolerate the heat a little better than dogs — after all, they are famous for seeking sunny spots for sunbathes — the reality is that cats can suffer from overheating (hyperthermia) and heatstroke too. Heat-related health problems tend not to be as common in cats, possibly because cats tend not to exercise in hot weather with their humans and spend less time in the car.
Cats are also incredibly smart about keeping themselves cool. Here’s how they keep cool, as well as things you can do to help them beat summer’s heat.
- Cats conserve their energy. You may notice your cat “disappearing,” taking longer naps or being less active during really hot weather. That’s because cats (unlike their canine counterparts) know that conserving, rather than exerting, energy during hot weather helps keep their core temperature down so they don’t overheat. Cats will sleep during warmer parts of the day, preferably in a cool area out of direct sunlight, and reserve activities for the cooler parts of the day or evening hours.
- Cats seek out cool surfaces. There’s a reason why you’ll find your cat chillin’ on the tile floors of the laundry room, bathroom or kitchen or on the cement floor of your basement. Cats understand that the cooler floors will conduct heat away from their body. They’ll also seek out shaded areas like under the bed or a closet where they can stay out of direct sunlight. So make sure your cat has access to areas of your home with tile floors or rooms that don’t get much sun.
- Cats groom themselves more. Because cats can’t sweat like we do, they groom to keep themselves cool. As they groom during hot weather, their saliva evaporates off of their fur, cooling them down just like evaporating sweat cools us.
- Cats drink more water. Cats get thirsty when they’re hot, just like us and our dogs. Be sure your kitty always has access to fresh, clean, cool water. You can help keep kitty’s water cool by adding a couple of ice cubes.
- Cats benefit from their fur coats. You might think your cat’s fur coat makes them miserable during hot weather, but the reality is that fur has insulating properties that help regulate body temperature. What you can do, however, is brush your cat frequently to help remove any excessive undercoat.
What else can you can do to keep your indoor kitty comfortable?
Consider setting your home’s air conditioner to a conservative but comfortable temperature instead of turning it off when you leave the house in the morning. And don’t forget to close curtains and blinds to reduce heating through windows, skylights or sliding glass doors.
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