How Hot is Too Hot for Cats

Cats are naturally attracted to heat. However, they cannot tell when the heat is too much already. It is important that we as cat owners know how hot is too hot for cats to avoid life-threatening conditions.

How Hot is Too Hot for Cats?

Cats are warmer than humans. On average, shorthaired cats have a body temperature of 100°F. to 102.5°F. Breeds with long hair, such as Persian and Balinese, typically have higher temperatures. Fair enough since a thicker coat indeed provide better warmth.

While temperature that is a little over the average should be fine for cats, when it exceeds the average or reaches more than 105°F, this should be a cause for alarm.

A cat that overheats is likely to experience symptoms such as breathing difficulties and loss of appetite due to hyperthermia. Worse, it could lead to heatstroke.

Determining how hot is too hot for cats

What is Hyperthermia in Cats?

Hyperthermia is heat stress that occurs when cats exceed their normal temperature too much. When left unmanaged, this condition could escalate to heatstroke. Both conditions are fatal and need immediate attention.

What Causes Hyperthermia

Exposure to extreme external heat like a fireplace and sunlight is the most likely cause of hyperthermia. As cats love warm environments, we would notice that they usually linger in these areas. However, because they naturally have warmer temperatures plus when they get too much exposure to heat, they sometimes fail to self-regulate. 

While cases of hyperthermia in cats are most common during the summertime, it’s still possible to occur at any time of the year.

Symptoms of Hyperthermia

Unfortunately for cats, while they love basking in the comforts of warmth, they do not know how hot is too hot for them. Sometimes, until it’s too late. When our feline friends begin to show the following symptoms, then there is a good chance that it is already suffering from hyperthermia.

Watch out for these:

  • Restless behavior
  • Panting
  • Excessive verbalizations
  • Unexplained aggression or irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Higher heart rate
  • Sweaty paws

Hyperthermia Care

As soon as we begin to see signs of hyperthermia, the first thing we should do is to cool down our cat. Alleviate the symptoms of hyperthermia immediately to avoid a rising temperature that leads to heatstroke.

Cat sitting on an outdoor bench

When our cat’s temperature reaches 104°F, then we can perform the following procedures to begin the cooling down process. 

  1. Use a wet cloth to pet our cat.
  2. Let it lie on a cold surface such as a rubber mat or floor tiles.
  3. Give it water to drink.
  4. Adjust home air-conditioning to a lower setting or use a fan.
  5. If possible, bathe our cat to alleviate heat immediately.

What is Heat Stroke in Cats?

When hyperthermia is left unmanaged, our cat’s temperature will continue to rise and cause heatstroke. Heatstroke, a severe case of hyperthermia, displays almost the same symptoms as hyperthermia, but maybe with the presence of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Drooling
  • Delirium
  • Temperature of more than 104°F

First Aid for Heat Stroke in Cats

When we are certain that our cat is not well because of heatstroke, then we must start the cooling down process immediately. We can use the procedures described above along with these tips for when our cat is suffering from heatstroke.

  1. Record temperature checks for a vet reference.
  2. Continue with the cooling down process as we make our way to the vet.
  3. We may use a sprayer and spritz warm water around our cat’s body.
  4. Prepare a towel to dry our cat once the temperature reaches 103.5°F
  5. Avoid excessive cooling in cats, or this may lead to a different case called hypothermia. 

How Do You Check Temperature in Cats?

The easiest way to tell our cat’s temperature is by using a thermometer. However, there are also ways to tell if a cat is experiencing heat stress should a thermometer be not around.

Checking Temperature in Cats Using a Thermometer

As cats begin to feel uncomfortable with the rising temperature, it may be difficult to get their temperature, although it is a must. Here are ways to make it easier.

Cat lounging on a pavement
  1. Use a blanket to wrap around our cat to discourage aggressive behavior. If not, we may need assistance from another person.
  2. Use a rectal thermometer to get the temperature, only apply a generous amount of lubricant.
  3. Gently insert the thermometer into its anus.
  4. Leave it there for a couple of minutes for a more appropriate reading.
  5. Gently remove the thermometer, and record the reading before cleaning.

Identifying Heat Stress in Cats with Manual Checks

Should a thermometer be not available, we can tell if our cat is beginning to overheat in the following ways.

  1. Check the nose for moisture. Dryness indicates overheating if not dehydration. To identify if our cat is suffering from dehydration, gently press our cat’s back with the fur lifted up. If it returns to normal immediately, then, it is not dehydrated.
  2. Check the ear temperature. Normally, the cat ears feel warm. When they overheat, the difference in hotness is very distinguishable. 
  3. A body that is warmer than usual indicates overheating. we have to make sure, though, it has not just risen from a nap on a warm surface.

How Do You Keep Cats Comfortable and Cool?

Heat stress is common in cats and may occur at any time of the year. However, it is most often on summer days. Regardless, it is best to keep our cats cool and comfortable at all times to avoid the risks of hyperthermia and heatstroke. 

  • Give your cat enough water to drink: Make sure our cat always has access to clean drinking water. On hotter days, you may drop a couple of ice cubes in his drinking water to alleviate body heat faster.
  • Ensure a cool environment for your cat: Adjust the air-conditioning system at home to a cooler setting especially on hot, humid days. In general, the temperature at home should be between 75-78°F, you can set it to 78°F with a long-haired breed. We can also use a fan to keep our cat cool and comfy.
  • Do not leave the cat outside to play for a long time: Our cats would not even know how much is too hot for them, especially when they are enjoying outdoor sunshine. We can take them inside after enough play and exercise, and rehydrate. Also, our cats should never be left inside a car or other enclosed spaces without enough ventilation.
  • Provide cool space for resting: The cat bed should be slightly elevated to ensure air circulation. If not, air would be trapped underneath and only promote heat stress

Conclusion

On average, cats have a body temperature ranging between 100°F. to 102.5°F. With too much heat, they fail to self-regulate sometimes. A temperature that exceeds the normal range is an indication of hyperthermia, and more than 105°F could lead to heatstroke.

Doctor Joe Alcorn received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 1981, and founded Care Animal Hospital in 1991 in Temecula, California. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.