How to Keep Cats Cool in Summer

Overheating isn’t a problem you encounter often in cats. But when it does happen—and it easily can with certain breeds—the consequences can be disastrous. So how do you keep a cat cool in the summer?

How can you keep a cat cool in summer? Keeping your cat indoors and turning on the air conditioning is the best way. Alternatively, keep windows open at night before closing and covering them in the day to keep your house cool. Provide fresh water and cool treats for your cat to cool it down from the inside out, and create a cool and shady place for your cat to retreat when it’s hot. Keep your cat out of hot spots like the loft, groom it regularly to keep its coat thin, or shave its hair altogether (as people do with Persians and other long-haired breeds). If your cat displays any signs of heat stress (drooling, unsteadiness, lethargy and panting) then cool it down with cool water and take it to the vet when it’s safe to do so.

The guide below briefly describes why cats struggle with hot weather, and which breeds are particularly susceptible. We’ll then run over 11 great tips on cooling your cat down in hot weather!

Note: if your cat is experiencing heat stress or heat stroke, do not read this guide. Instead, take steps to cool it down as soon as possible: move it to a cool room, bathe it in cool water, or wrap it in a cold, damp towel. Don’t take it to the vet if it is very hot outside and/or in your car, as this could make the problem worse; instead get the vet to come to you, or ask them for advice on how to get your cat to them safely.

Can Cats Handle Hot Weather?

Cats are good at taking care of themselves. But some things they can’t handle.

Your cat is built to survive outside. It may have lived its entire life indoors, but biologically speaking, it’s still a wild animal. It could therefore survive through winters, spring, summer and fall. It avoids the worst of the summer heat by hunting at dusk and at night; it avoids the worst of the cold by taking shelter.

But your cat isn’t perfect. It’s better at staying warm than it is at cooling down. It doesn’t sweat, and it rarely pants, even when hot. It’s possible for cats to experience heat stroke and even death. So, keeping cats safe in hot weather is the owners’ responsibility as much as the cats’.

Are Some Cat Breeds Susceptible to Hot Weather?

Some breeds are better at dealing with hot weather than others. Those with thin coats or no fur at all are obviously better, since a cat’s coat traps warmth; with no coat or less coat to trap heat, the cat can cool down more quickly and stands less chance of overheating in the first place. There are also other issues you need to be aware of in summer that cats can experience. Cats that struggle in the summer include:

  • Flat-faced cat breeds. These cats, like their canine equivalents, struggle to breathe. This problem becomes worse in the summer. Persians, Himalayans and Scottish Folds are examples of flat-faced breeds.
  • Fluffy cat breeds. Fluffy cat breeds hold onto heat better because they have thicker coats. Some breeds have both thick coats and flat faces, like Persians, making these cats especially susceptible to summer heat.
  • Overweight cats. The more fat a cat is carrying, the more heat it holds onto. Any cat can become overweight, and those with thick coats, flat faces or both can too.
  • Older cat or those with health problems. These cats are generally susceptible to everything, not just summer heat.

If your cat falls into one or more of these categories, you must take special care of it in the summer. Otherwise, it could experience heat stroke.

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Too Hot?

Cats are very good at keeping the symptoms of ill health hidden. This is an evolutionary adaptation that cats developed. While cats are predators, they aren’t apex predators, meaning that there are predators that eat cats. Predators typically look for prey that is hurt or unwell, as these animals are easier to catch; as a result, cats have learned to hide the symptoms of being sick or being hurt.

You therefore may not notice that your cat is too hot until it experiences severe complications of heat stroke. These include:

  • Panting
  • Drooling/salivating
  • Unsteadiness in walking
  • Lethargy (not moving much)
  • Death

Needless to say, if you spot any of these symptoms, you should a) try to alleviate them and b) get your cat to the vet as soon as it’s safe to do so.

How Can I Cool My Cat Down in Hot Weather?

Your cat can’t do everything for itself, particularly if it’s an indoor cat. Your cat’s health is your responsibility, and overheating can have serious consequences. So how do you keep a cat cool in the summer?

Let’s find out…

1) Air Conditioning

The best way to keep your house cool is with air conditioning. Both AC for a single room, and systems that cool your whole house, can help you keep your indoor cat’s temperature down. Ensure that it’s at least on for the hottest parts of the day, and keep windows and doors closed so that the AC works better.

But Help! we hear you cry… How can I keep my cat cool in the summer without AC!? Not everybody lives in a country where air conditioning is common or affordable. So what other options do you have?

2) Keeping a House Cool Without Air Con

There are simple ways to keep a house cool even without new-fangled air conditioning! The trick is to know what to do and when.

People make the mistake of opening all the windows and doors during the day to let air flow through. But that’s actually a mistake. That’s because during the day, the air is hot outside too; even if it’s a couple of degrees cooler, the air that comes in will quickly warm up anyway. What works far better is this:

  • Keep windows open at night if possible; let the night air in somehow. The night air is cool, or at least cooler than in the day, so you want to let it in.
  • Close the windows in the morning so that the cool air stays in. You want to keep a hold of the cool air from last night. It will warm up by the evening as you do things like cook or shower, but it shouldn’t warm up to warmer than outside.
  • Keep all windows covered over with shades during the day. This stops the sunlight coming in. The sun comes in and hits everything in the room, warming it up. If the window is covered, all that gets hot are the blinds or curtains.

This won’t be as effective as air conditioning. But it can make the summer heat more manageable.

3) Create a Cool, Shady Retreat

This next trick is like the one above, but in miniature. The idea is to create a cool and shady hideaway that your cat can head to if it overheats. This should be somewhere that stays cool throughout the day; so if your basement is normally cooler than the rest of your house, it could be there. It should be shady, and shouldn’t hold onto too much heat like a greenhouse would. You could pop your cat’s bed inside so that it knows it can quite literally chill out in there.

Not all cats will take to a retreat like this. Cats don’t do things solely because we think they should. But if your cat gets the idea, this is a good way of keeping it cool.

4) Cool Treats for Cats (& Fresh Water, Too)

If you want to know how to keep outdoor cats cool in hot weather, this is one of the best ways.

So, you may not know this, but cats don’t sweat. Animals with fur generally don’t because the sweat would get stuck in their fur. Sweat works because of air flow: as a breeze passes over the sweat on your brow, some of the sweat evaporates, and the energy transfer that underlies the process means that your brow cools down. But that doesn’t work for animals with fur.

That means your cat needs to find another way to stay cool. One way is panting, but this only has a tiny effect.

This is where you can help. By giving your cat something cold to ingest, you cool it down from the inside. That cooling effect then passes through your cat’s body by way of its blood stream; the cool stuff in your cat’s stomach/gut cools down the blood there, which then flows all around its body. Fresh cold water is perhaps the best cool treat there is, but you can feed your cat any treat, or even its regular food, from the fridge. Some people even freeze cat food in ice cube trays and feed those to their cats!

If your cat won’t drink water from a bowl, try getting a cat fountain. Cats much prefer running water to still water, which is a hangover from living in the wild: still water has bacteria and fungal growths in it.

5) Provide Shade Outside

You can’t control your outdoor cat when it’s outside. What you can do is ensure that there are cool spaces it can head to if it wants to. You can do this by setting up a shaded area of one kind or another that’s easy for your cat to access.

There may already be shady areas for your cat in your yard. If you have a big outdoor table—one that isn’t made of glass—then your cat can hide underneath that, or the chairs that make up the set. If you have a tree, then that will provide natural shade that your cat can take advantage of too.

But if you don’t already have these things, set something up that your cat can hide underneath. It could be something as simple as a cardboard box with a hole cut in the front, or a towel pegged up like a tent: it doesn’t matter. So long as your cat has somewhere in your yard that it can stay in the shade, it should be fine, especially if you’re also providing cool treats and fresh water.

6) Be Aware of ‘Hot Spots’

Each house has certain areas that are warmer than others. Yours might be in the basement, right next to the boiler. Or, it might be in the insulated loft. Or, it might be in a room with big windows that gets lots of midday/early afternoon sun. Stopping your cat’s access to these warm parts of the home is essential during hot summers.

There are hot spots outside, too. Sheds can get very, very hot in the summer sun, as can greenhouses.

Besides keeping your cat out of these hot spots, you should also double-, triple- and maybe even quadruple-check that you don’t accidentally shut your cat in one of them. Doing so is comparable to leaving a dog in a hot car. So if you use your shed or basement on a boiling hot day, make sure you aren’t leaving your cat in there after you’re gone.

7) Groom Your Cat Frequently

A good way of keeping both indoor and outdoor cats cool is to groom them frequently. When you groom your cat, you make its coat thinner, because you get rid of dead and dying hairs. Fewer hairs in the coat means less insulation, meaning your cat has an easier time staying cool.

Cats normally do this on their own by shedding. When winter is over, your cat will shed much of its fur; then when the cold weather rolls around later in the year, it will plump out its coat again. So, your cat will eventually get the thinner coat it needs all by itself.

But in the meantime, you could help it out. Shed hairs don’t instantly boof up into the air like an escape pod blasting away from the main body of a space ship (an odd analogy, but stick with it!) They stay in your cat’s coat until it grooms them away, or they’re pulled away by everyday activity. By combing and brushing your cat’s coat, you get rid of any clinging hairs, which coincidentally prevents your cat from having hairballs.

This is especially important for cats with thick, long coats.

8) Cooling Mats for Cats (Or Wet Towels!)

You should also consider giving your cat something cool to sit on, or sit under. This is something that people commonly do for other pets, especially those that have trouble controlling their body temperature like reptiles. But it works for cats too.

There are big slabs you can buy that you put in the freezer for times like this. They’re made from marble or a similar material that stays cool for a long time after it cools down. You take it from the freezer and put it somewhere your cat will find it, with a covering of something like a towel or a pillow case (otherwise your cat could hurt its toes on it).

If you don’t have one of these, then a wet towel will do much the same thing. Rinse the towel in cold water and wring it out so that it’s damp, but not wet. You can then place it somewhere your cat can find it and it might sit on it, although cats don’t typically like damp things.

9) Limit Exercise on Sunny Days

You should also look to limit how much your cat can exercise on the hottest of hot days. The point, obviously, is to stop your cat from overexerting itself. If you can stop your cat building up a metaphorical sweat, it will deal with the temperature much better.

There are a couple of ways of approaching this. One is to avoid playing with your cat’s toys for the day, even if it wants to play with you.

In truth, this is only really necessary on very hot days. If it’s warm outside and your cat wants to chase a feather around, it should be fine. But if it’s very hot indoors, and your cat is warmer than normal already, avoid making the problem worse with exercise.

10) Trim Your Cat’s Hair

If you have a cat breed with long hair, consider trimming its hair or even shaving it. This stops the cat from overheating in the summer. It’s like how you wear looser, thinner clothes in summer so that you don’t get hot; if your cat’s coat is thinner (albeit not looser!) then it can stay cool too.

The most common way of doing this is by giving your cat a ‘lion cut’. You essentially shave your cat’s body bald, but leave it with a mane of hair around its neck; and, of course, you don’t shave its face. It may seem cruel to do this to a cat, but it’s better than letting it overheat.

If you do want to do this, don’t do it yourself. Have a groomer do it for you. It would be easy to accidentally nick your cat’s skin when you trim it, and it will never let you trim it again. Groomers know what they’re doing and shouldn’t hurt your cat when they trim them.

11) In The Event of Heat Stroke…

Heat stroke is a very serious health condition that could kill your cat. It’s not the same as ‘overheating’ or just needing to cool down; it’s where the body starts to shut down because it gets too hot. All mammals’ organs operate best at a certain temperature, which is the temperature that the body strives to keep them at (often around 100 degrees F/37 degrees C). If they stay too hot for too long, they can’t do what they need to do and start to fail.

As such, if your cat displays the signs of heat stroke, you need to take immediate action. Signs of heat stroke include obvious distress and restlessness, drool around the mouth and nose, heavy panting, unsteadiness in walking, collapse and death. Vomiting can also sometimes occur, and your cat’s tongue may appear red, a result of blood rushing there so that it can cool down. In the event of heat stress, do two things:

  • Cool your cat down as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to put it in cool water, as water conducts heat (i.e. cools or warms things up) quicker than air. Try to do this even if your cat hates water; if you can’t get it into the water, wrap it in a towel that’s wet with cold water.
  • Get your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Heat stress can kill your cat, so if it experiences an episode, it should see the vet.

You must be careful, however, not to make the problem worse by immediately rushing to the vet. That’s because your cat could overheat even more in a cat carrier in the back of a hot car, all while experiencing the stress of travel. You should therefore either get the vet to come to you, or keep your cat cool until it’s safe to take it to the vet yourself.