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During the hot summer months when the temperatures soar outside, humans, cats and dogs are all at increased risk of heatstroke and sunburn. Here’s what you need to know about heatstroke and sunburn to ensure your cat enjoys summer safely.
What are the signs?
Heatstroke in Cats
Heatstroke is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, but your cat can still be susceptible to heat stroke if they get trapped somewhere hot, or bask in the hot sun for an extended period of time. When a cat gets heatstroke, their internal organs begin to shut down, resulting in shock and possibly leading to coma. Untreated, heatstroke can be fatal, so it’s essential that you learn to recognise the early signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion so you can act quickly.
- Panting excessively
- Sweaty paws
- Increased heartbeat
- Red tongue and gums
- Dizzy, weak or lethargic
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
If you think your cat may be suffering from heatstroke, you need to see a vet for treatment as soon as possible, so they can reduce his temperature. If you can, wrap your cat in cool, wet towels and coax him into drinking small amounts of cool water. For more information read our article: How to Keep Your Cat Cool This Summer.
Sunburn in Cats
Just because your cat has a layer of fur to protect his skin it doesn’t mean that he’s immune to sunburn, or ‘solar dermatitis’. Signs of sunburn in cats are very similar to that in humans, although it may be harder to notice under his fur.
- Visibly red areas of skin
- Red and sore looking nose or ears
- Excessive scratching or grooming – he’s probably trying to soothe an itchy burn
Who’s at the greatest risk?
Any cat that is more delicate than usual is at greater risk of getting heatstroke, such as elderly cats or young kittens, pregnant or nursing cats, and cats with medical conditions like heart problems or respiratory problems. Overweight cats are also at greater risk of heatstroke.
The paler the cat is, the less protective pigment melanin he has in his skin so the more likely he is to get sunburn. White cats or cats with white faces and ears are most at risk because they have little to no melanin to protect them against the sun’s rays. Similarly, if your cat has a pink nose or ears, those areas are at risk of getting burned.
Protect your cat on hot summer days
One of the best ways to ensure your cat doesn’t overheat this summer is to keep him indoors on very hot days. If you have an outdoor cat, make sure he always has somewhere cool and shady to retreat to outside. Never leave a cat locked in anywhere where he’s at risk of overheating, like a conservatory or a car, and make sure he always has a supply of fresh water.
You should keep your cat indoors as much as possible, especially if he’s at higher risk of getting sunburnt. If he’s not an indoor cat, make sure that you at least keep him in during the hottest hours of the day, between 11am and 3pm. If your cat does go outside, find a waterproof and non-toxic sunscreen and apply it to exposed areas, especially his ears. Don’t forget that the sun can still burn through glass, so if your cat likes to sunbathe on the windowsill keep your windows covered when the sun is at its strongest.
Has your cat ever had heatstroke or sunburn? Please share your stories below…
Kitties Blue says
Even though we are in the throes of winter, this is a great reminder to everyone. When we had our white kitty, Madison, we had no idea that his ears could get sunburned until it happened.
Great information! I don’t live very far from the Island Cats, so I’m in the same basic position – dealing with a ton of snow. We actually have more than a foot where I am. It is important that people are aware of the potential for heatstroke and sunburn in their cats though.
Layla Morgan Wilde (Cat Wisdom 101) says
good reminders but right now summer feels so far away. I worry about my pink-nosed and eared Odin nature boy but sunscreen gets licked off.
Traveling Cats says
I witnessed a heatstroke in a cat once. It’s a scary situation. I heard regularly making the cat wet with a facecloth can help, as well as giving it fresh water.
Will have to remember this info for when this weather rolls around. As it is there is no danger at the moment here in Boston! *wags* – Gilligan from WagsAhoy.com
The Island Cats says
Very important info. Though it’s hard to think about heatstroke and sunburn when we have a foot of snow on the ground. 🙂