How to keep cats cool and hydrated in summer

Having fur in the heat is no fun, this is how to keep cats cool, hydrated and protected from the sun when temperatures soar

Cat spread out in the sun on decking
(Image credit: Getty)

When warm weather hits, knowing how to keep a cat cool is essential. Whether you've had your feline friend for years or are just a few months in, heat exhaustion in cats is no joke and if you think it's hot, imagine wearing a fur coat... Of course, cats are clever and they have their own ways of keeping cool but as pet owners, we play a major part in keeping our kitties hydrated, happy and safe when temperatures soar above 80°F (27°C) in the summertime.

Keeping a good portable air conditioner unit inside can help keep a cool home environment, but there's more you can do to keep cats in good health and protected from heatstroke when there's a heatwave, especially if you don't have AC installed.

There are lots of ways to keep pets cool in summer and Paul Trott, UK Marketing Manager at Catit (opens in new tab) says that outdoor cats will especially need to be kept an eye on but that 'if you have an indoor cat then keeping them cool is just as important. If it's not possible to open a window (for instance, if you live in a high-rise apartment), then be sure to keep air conditioning or a fan on for most of the day.' 

Otherwise, it's all about employing both creative and strict measures to keep cats cool and safe over summer. 

1. Provide plenty of water 

Keeping your cat hydrated is key so make sure you provide yours with lots of fresh water and put down extra bowls outside (in a shaded spot) and in different rooms around the house so that they always have access to a water source.

Refresh it regularly and try to spot whether your cat prefers cool or room temperature water, metal or earthenware bowls, a bowl half full or full to the brim, that way you'll know the best ways to keep them hydrated. 

Trott adds 'During hot days, hydration is key. Despite this, cats generally don't drink as much as we expect them to and instead get much of their water from their food. Dehydration is responsible for cats' predisposal to urinary tract infections (opens in new tab), though, so keeping up their water intake is still important. When they do drink water, cats can still be notoriously picky. Try to keep a good supply of fresh water on hand for your cat, as they may not drink any that's been left standing overnight or too close to their food. It's also a good idea to stick to wet food during warmer days rather than using dry kibble, as this can provide your cat with extra water without them having to drink it.'

Cat spread out in the sun on decking

(Image credit: Getty)

2. Encourage drinking with creative methods

If your kitty isn't hot on drinking (not all cats are) one method to encourage them over to their water bowl is to add a little cooled chicken broth.

If you see your cat drinking from flowing water outside, you could even consider a cat water fountain (opens in new tab)for indoors. Trott notes 'Similarly, our feline friends are well-known for their curiosity and so are often most intrigued by running water from taps or hoses. Not only this, but a continuous stream keeps the water moving, helping it to stay cool and fresh for longer. You can therefore encourage your cat to drink more by using a drinking fountain, such as the Pixi Smart Fountain (opens in new tab), which flows filtered water for them to lap up. Feeding products with stainless-steel tops can also be more hygienic and irritate your cat's skin less than plastic.'

3. Keep them indoors during peak hours

If you have an outdoor cat, encourage it indoors into a cool room when the sun's rays are strongest, this is typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

To cool a room down without AC, a good fan can help, however, you need to be careful about which one you choose and where you position it. Choose one with a small grill so that curious cats don't get their fur caught up in it, and if you only have a fan with a big grill, put it far out of reach and position it in a way that circulates the air around the room. Pointing the fan towards an open window supposedly helps push warm air out. 

Note that 'When the warm weather hits, you'll likely be out soaking up the sun too: so, when using any sheds, greenhouses, or cars, check that your cat hasn't wandered inside before shutting the doors. A prolonged time spent in these unventilated spaces on a warm day is very dangerous for your cat and could give them heatstroke.' Advises Trott.

4. Keep a cool and calm environment

Being in the heat can be stressful for everyone and if your cat is used to being outside all day, then suddenly having to spend more time indoors, this can trigger other issues. Try to make their indoor environment as comfortable as possible by keeping it not just cool but also quiet, with lots of levels and spaces to lounge. Consider adding a pheromone diffuser like Feliway (opens in new tab) if you don't already have them installed also as they can be a big help. And of course, keep it well ventilated and with a fan that is safe to use around your cat. 

5. Adjust their sleeping spot

Trott says 'When temperatures are high during the night, your cat's bed or usual sleeping spot may become too hot for them (particularly igloo-shaped beds or ones made of thick, fluffy material). Wrapping an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a towel and placing this into their bed can help to cool them down overnight, without making them sleep somewhere different. Simply moving their bed to a tiled floor or elevating it above carpeted floors can also help keep it cool.

If your cat sleeps in an enclosed room, always remember to leave a window open — or the air conditioning switched on — to give them proper airflow throughout the night.'

6. Groom your cat daily

With all the grooming you see your cat doing, it's easy to want to leave them to it but when it's particularly hot, a gentle daily brush in the shade is a good way to help them shed excess fur in the heat. Additionally, try not to worry if your cat is grooming itself more often as it's their way of cooling themselves down also.

Trott adds how 'Grooming is also key for keeping cats cool, but particularly so for long-haired breeds, short-muzzled cats like Persians and Himalayans, and older or overweight cats, all of which are more vulnerable to overheating. Matted fur traps in more heat, so be sure to groom and clip your cat's fur when necessary. Long-haired cats should be brushed every day whereas short-haired breeds can be groomed weekly, so it's worth investing in a grooming set (opens in new tab) designed for different shedding needs. When it comes to clipping, you can just trim the fur around the stomach to help keep their core temperature down.'

7. Create shade

If your cat – like mine – likes to follow you into the yard and if there aren't many trees around for shade, use a wet towel or sheet to create a shady spot where they can relax comfortably in your company.

Trott adds 'If you have an outdoor cat who loves nothing more than playing and hunting in the garden, be sure to have a reliable area of shade for them to rest in on hot days. Whether it's under a table, tree, or garden umbrella, just like us cats need a break from the sunshine every now and then to avoid overheating.

It's also wise to keep their water bowl or drinking fountain in the shade wherever possible, such as moving it away from a warm window that gets the sun all day. Next time you make yourself a cold drink, you could also drop a few ice cubes into their water to help it stay cooler for longer.'

8. Recognize any signs of heatstroke in cats

If your cat has gone off on its usual travels and come back with heat exhaustion, it's essential to spot the signs early on so that you can help restore them. These are common signs of heatstroke in cats according to the RSPCA (opens in new tab)

  • Panting, which increases as heatstroke progresses
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness (cats may pace)
  • Bright red tongue
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting, diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Little to no urine production
  • Coma

Should your cat display any of the above signs, take she/he into a cool room where possible and call your vet. Meanwhile, encourage your cat to drink water but you don't want to cause additional stress so try not to be forceful.

If your cat has a cat flap so goes in and out whenever it pleases and if you're not always around to see how they are doing, consider installing a pet camera so that you can keep a caring and watchful eye over your cat from your desk or even local coffee shop.

9 . Pre-cool cars if you need to travel

If you need to take your cat to the vet for heatstroke or for a pre-exising condition/check-up when it is particularly hot, ensure it is air-conditioned and cool beforehand to not exacerbate the problem.

10. Consider pet sunscreen for cats at risk

You can buy pet-specific suncream for cats (opens in new tab) and other animals and you should consider applying it to short-haired breeds that are more sensitive to the sun – focusing on the nose, stomach, ears, groin and any other areas where there is less or  no fur at all. Always ensure the product is specifically intended for use on cats and we'd recommend a small patch test before applying it to other areas on your cat.

How do I keep my cat cool without AC? 

Aside from creating shady, ventilated areas where your cat can stay cool and relaxed, Trott shares how some cold treats can help bring feline temperatures down, without AC: 'Finally, a fun way to keep your cat happy in hot weather is to freeze their favourite creamy treats and make 'cat pops'. While you cool off with a popsicle, why not give them their own? This is not only a welcome refreshment on a hot day but also makes their fresh, perishable treats last much longer.'

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Deputy Editor of Realhomes.com and joined in January 2020. Her love of interior design stemmed from a childhood spent dreaming up weird and wonderful ways to renovate her grandma’s house in France – a greenhouse roof was involved – and it was spending time around very good-looking house plants and in a hardworking kitchen garden that gave her a green thumb. When Camille isn’t sipping coffee and/or writing, she is seeking out cool new Facebook Marketplace finds or tapping into her other creative outlets: painting and clay throwing. She currently rents in North London with her French cat and two others, and hopes to one day renovate the most sustainable house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild, lavish garden and chickens, of course.

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