Preventing heatstroke in cats: What you should know

4 August 2023 - 4 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Team ManyPets on 4 August 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Cat laying on a cushion

Cat heatstroke is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. It occurs when a cat's body temperature rises significantly above the normal range.

Unlike humans, cats have a limited ability to sweat. That means they can't cool down as efficiently and are particularly susceptible to heatstroke if they become trapped somewhere too warm.

Heatstroke can be extremely serious. Complications include organ failure and even death if it’s not addressed quickly.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your cat safe.

What causes heatstroke in cats?

Cats are at increased risk of heatstroke if they’re exposed to:

  • High temperatures

  • Lack of shade

  • Inadequate ventilation

Although it’s common for dogs to develop heatstroke due to overexertion, in cats it’s usually as a result of curling up somewhere warm to sleep like a greenhouse or car and becoming trapped.

The risk is made worse if they don’t have access to fresh water.

Which cats are at higher risk?

Some physical characteristics and underlying health conditions can also contribute to a cat's risk of heatstroke.

There is a higher heatstroke risk for:

These cats may have a reduced ability to cope with heat and a diminished capacity to cool down.

Our claims data shows that heatstroke in cats is pretty rare compared to dogs. Historically, just 3% of our heatstroke claims are for cats.

Certain behaviours can increase a cat's risk of heatstroke.

For example, if your cat is very active during the hottest part of the day, or they don't drink enough water, they can be more prone to overheating.

It's really important to keep a close eye on your cat during hot weather so that you can encourage them to rest, snooze in the shade and rehydrate.

Recognising the signs of heatstroke in cats

If you know the signs of heatstroke, you’ll have a better chance of taking swift action that could save your cat’s life.

Physical symptoms of heatstroke in cats can vary but often include:

  • Weakness

  • Panting

  • Drooling

  • Increased heart rate

  • Skin that feels hot to the touch

In severe cases, cats may experience:

  • Seizures

  • Trembling

  • Collapse

  • unconsciousness

  • Disorientation

  • Red gums

What to do if you think your cat has heatstroke

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If your cat shows signs of heatstroke, get them to a vet without delay. You may need to use an emergency vet if it’s outside normal vet hours.

In the meantime, follow these steps:

Move your cat to a cooler environment immediately, such as an air-conditioned room or a shady spot.

Offer fresh, cool water, but don't force your cat to drink.

You can also use cool water to gently lower your cat's body temperature. Apply the water to your cat's fur and skin using a cloth or a spray bottle.

Even if your cat appears to be recovering, they should still be checked by a vet, as complications can occur after the initial heatstroke episode.

How do vets treat heatstroke in cats?

First your vet will take steps to cool your cat and help them to rehydrate.

They may use intravenous fluids to help cool your cat and prevent dehydration. They may also use other cooling techniques, such as a fan.

After initial treatment, your vet will probably want to monitor your cat closely for any complications. This may involve regular check-ups and tests to monitor your cat's organ function and overall health.

It's important to follow your vet's advice and keep a close eye on your cat during the recovery period.

Heatstroke prevention

As an owner, you should be vigilant about the risk of heatstroke and take steps to prevent it. Lots of our tips to keep your dog cool in hot weather will also work for your cat.

Create a safe and comfortable environment for your cat by providing plenty of shade and fresh water, especially during hot weather. You could also give your cat a cooling mat to lie on.

You should also make sure your cat has a cool, well-ventilated place to rest. Encouraging your cat to rest during the hottest parts of the day can also help prevent heatstroke.

Try to schedule playtime and exercise when it’s cooler in the early morning or late evening instead.

Regular vet check-ups can help identify any health conditions that might increase your cat's risk of heatstroke. Your vet can provide advice on managing these conditions and reducing your cat's risk.

Does pet insurance cover heatstroke for cats

As long as your cat was covered at the time they were affected by heatstroke, your pet insurance should help to cover the cost.

All our cat insurance policies have an annual vet fee limit that refreshes each year. That means they are suitable for ongoing conditions, as well as sudden emergencies like heatstroke.

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Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

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Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.