9539 Liberty Road, Frederick, MD 21701
Phone: 301-898-4009 ~ Fax: 240-668-3664
Gentle, complete veterinary care for the felines in your family
Link map for Frederick Cat Vet for directions, hours, bio of the veterinarian and staff, veterinary services offered and a tour of the veterinary practice

Summer Heat, Cool Cats

With the temperatures quickly rising, many of us keep our windows closed and the air conditioning on for weeks at a time to stay cool. We are conditioned to ensure our pets don't overheat, and rightfully so, especially with the danger of enclosing pets in parked cars. Temperatures in this situation can be dangerous for everybody as it can easily exceed 120° a short time.

However, overheating in your home is much less of a concern, as many cats are content to sit in an open window on a 90 degree day. Having evolved from ancestors living in Africa, cats are actually more tolerant of heat than us. Despite the fur coat, they have more skin area per body weight than larger animals, so can release extra heat more quickly. They take full advantage of this fact when they lie fully stretched out on a tile or concrete floor. Cats with darker coats are more likely to avoid sunbathing as they absorb heat faster. Don't bother with electric fans, which most cats hate - they are smart enough to know how to stay cool on their own!

Even so, it is wise to guard against overheating. Here are a few simple tips:

At Home:

- Always, keep plenty of fresh water in multiple locations. A small recirculating water fountain may be more appealing than a bowl of water, so consider offering both.

- Don't be surprised if you see a small decrease in appetite as the temperature rises. In colder months, cats are burning calories to stay warm and their bodies are naturally adjusting in the warmer months. (If it is a marked change in appetite with a loss of weight, consult your veterinarian).

-Open up the windows as often as possible to let in fresh air. It can also be a nice boost to the air quality to release odors that have been trapped inside for so long. This can be quite invigorating and they may get very rambunctious and start tearing around the house.

-Your cat is more likely to pant after exercise, but they know how to cool down quickly. You may also try cool, damp cloths in this case.

-Cats over 20 years of age can do just fine in a warm household and likely prefer a 75-80 degree household than an air-conditioned 65 degrees. Just take the same precautions you would for younger cats, but offer even more water bowls. The water requirements for senior cats are typically higher and they may be more sedentary so having it close by ensures they don't miss out.

- If you have an outdoor enclosure, water and shade are essential. It is possible, although rare, for cats to get sunburn, but this only occurs if they don't have a shady place to go. Sunburn is of greatest concern on ears and for white cats, and California Baby sunblock is a good choice when needed.

-Catnip is a natural mosquito repellant. Mix a bit with olive oil and apply to the outside of ears. It's a stinky potion, but it works!

Car ride tips:

-Even if your vehicle is air-conditioned, your cat may begin panting, because anxiety can contribute to this. If it is only a 15-20 minute trip, there is usually no cause for concern, and stopping to check on them will only lengthen the trip.

-Preparing for longer summer trips, your cats should be in their carriers, waiting in a cool spot in your home. Then when the car is packed and you're ready to go, the pets should go in last.

-If the vehicle does not have A/C: Use a larger carrier and set an ice bag on back of the cage and a thick towel over top. This way, they wonâ´ get too cold and have the front of the cage without ice if they like. They will get wet, so be sure to dry them off. When you get to your destination, they may head right to the litter box, and clumping litter on a wet cat can be quite a mess.

-For hours-long trips in the car, cats are less likely to drink water, so it is good to take regular breaks to check on them and offer water or a cool, damp cloth around their head and neck. (They may not want to drink even at a rest area, until they're settled in at the destination.) Be sure to keep them in the carrier, especially so far from home.

The summer? -it's cool for cats!

-Mike Karg, DVM