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How to treat heat exhaustion in cats

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Summertime is in full swing in New York City. In the hotter weeks ahead of us, elderly and obese cats can find themselves at greater risk for heat exhaustion. Even youthful felines can get into trouble during the hot months, especially if your kitty is used to living in air conditioning. Here’s what you can do to prevent and treat heat exhaustion.

Prevention

In your home, make sure your cat has access to cool, shaded areas and a large supply of water. If you need to take your cat to vet, do not use public transportation. Buses and trains may be air conditioned, but platforms are not. If you call for a taxi or car, be sure to have the driver turn on the air conditioning. Never leave your cat by itself in a car, not even with the air conditioner on.

Signs and symptoms

In the early stages of heat exhaustion, you may notice your cat becomes more restless as he or she is looking for a cooler place. Your cat may also begin excessive grooming to try to cool down. If your cat displays any of these symptoms, you need to intervene immediately:

  • Panting/open mouth breathing
  • Cherry red tongue and gums
  • Sweaty paws
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling, staggering
  • Rectal temperature over 105 F

Treatment

If your cat is conscious, get your cat into a cooler environment immediately. Soak a hand towel in cool water and drape it over your cat’s side. Treat the ears and pawpads by dabbing them with room temperature water. Try to coax your cat to drink with a clean dropper full of water in the corner of your cat’s mouth. After your cat recovers, be sure to take your cat to the vet. Your vet will check for organ damage and replenish fluids.

If you came home to find your cat unconscious in a hot environment, PetMD recommends soaking your cat with cool (not cold) water, and placing a bag of ice or frozen vegetables between your cat’s legs. Rush your cat to the vet.

Remember, never use cold water to treat heat exhaustion as it can shock your cat.

If you’ll be out of town for a few days during the summer, consider having a pet sitter come by to check on your kitty. Even if your cat is usually fine alone, a pet sitter can ensure that your home a comfortable temperature, and that your cat has access to plenty of fresh water.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Image by Koen Photos is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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