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Why does your cat love the heat?

Today we’re talking about the heat, even though it’s possible that you read this article in full-on winter. This email was originally written on a hot day ;-).

Everyone’s worried about their cats and the heat. I do not but I do like to say something about this subject because I receive a lot of private messages about it and want to reassure these people.

Years ago I read a scientific article (don’t ask me which :)) that cats don’t really show any change in behaviour in reaction to extreme temperatures, neither at -10 nor at +40. That thought always kept being stuck in the back of my mind.

The other day a magazine asked me to write another column about ‘What can I do for my cat in this heat’ and I thought, ‘Oh…’. So I call my wonderful colleague, friend and behaviour biologist Els Peeters and I ask: “Els, help me because what I remember is that cats do not really suffer from heat anyway. And what followed was a super interesting conversation that I would like to share with you.

Do cats suffer from the heat?

Surprisingly, our cats normally do not suffer from the heat. Cats can withstand extreme temperatures very well, as they are savannah animals by nature. Their ‘thermoneutral’ temperature, the temperature at which they feel comfortable, is between 30 and 38°Celsius (= 86-100°F, Els tells me. This means that cats feel at their best when it is warmer than usual, however they should always have the choice to go somewhere cooler if they want.

That is why your cat will enjoy sunbathing, she loves this

Their bodies have also been adapted to this. Your cat’s coat insulates her body in such a way that her body temperature is maintained. That is why it is important to not extensively groom your cat, not only because it’s very unnatural and unnecessary (it is normal for the hairs in her fur to be loose, but that does not mean you need to comb them out!), but also because that undercoat comes in very handy during warm temperatures.

Unfortunately there are still a lot of cat groomers and owners who groom out the underwool of the cat because they think it is supposed to be that way. No! That’s not the point! Fortunately, that undercoat is detached easily, because if your cat gets stuck in a bush, you don’t want her to get hurt. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of that coat, or that this means that you will have less hair around the house all is groomed out. On the contrary, overgrooming means more hair in the house because the cycles of the growth of your cat’s coat is disturbed. If we want to help our cats in the heat, it’s best to stay off the coat.

And what if they’re really bothered by the heat?

If the cat’s too hot, she’s panting. Immediately place her in a cooler room and provide her with plenty of water and some wet food. Pay extra attention to long haired cats and naked cats that have no natural protection against heat.

What to do? Make sure they get hydrated!

You can support your cat to get more moisture in during these temperatures:
– Give extra wet food, there is more moisture in it than dry food.
– Put water and food far apart, otherwise you demotivate your cat to drink. This is something you do not only in hot weather, but is standard advice.
– Put extra water bowls (especially outside) with diameter +20cm with fresh water.
– Put ice cubes in the bowls in addition to providing fresh water.
– Give bottled and filtered water, cats like it better.

You can also take other measures such as:

– Rub your cat’s coat with a moist microfiber cloth. The water evaporates and cools the body. She’ll lick her coat so she’ll get more moisture in that way.
– Keep the cats inside in the middle of the day so they are not exposed to the warmest temperatures of the day.
– Do not let naked cats out at all, unless they have been rubbed in with sunscreen from head to toe and possibly something to cover their bodies against burning. And then still, keep them inside.
– Provide extra hiding spots to cool down outside.

What about older cats?

Cats that are a bit older need more care anyway, but not more than usual because of the warm weather. Keep an extra eye on your cat’s behaviour for sudden subtle changes, go to the vet if you are not sure.
As a professional we recommend a senior check every 6 months because cats show little to no pain and research shows that 7 to 8 cats in 10 older than 10 years can suffer from ailments. Make sure she gets enough fluids in and that she has free access to all her safe places and important resources.

Thanks to the wonderful Els Peeters for the contribution.

Love, Anneleen ♡

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