Hot weather can dramatically affect a cat’s behavior. Changes can include activation of mating behaviors, lethargy, reduced appetite, increased water consumption, seeking shade, their paw pads sweating. Also look out for behavioral signs of sunburn and heatstroke from sun and heat exposure.
However, you can do much to protect your cat from the dangerous effects of hot weather and keep them acting normally. In addition, knowing the signs of heat-induced illness in a cat and what to do about it can save the animal’s life.
First, let’s take a look at seven different cat behaviors you are more likely to see in warm and hot weather. Then, we’ll look at behavioral signs of a cat that’s getting overexposed to heat and how to keep your cat cool and comfortable when the temperature rises.
7 Ways Hot Weather Affects Cat Behavior
Cats enjoy being warm and cozy, but too much heat is not good for them. For most cats, extended exposure to temperatures above 90ºF (32ºC) becomes uncomfortable and potentially dangerous to their welfare.
When exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged time, a cat cannot cool off quickly enough and can become dehydrated and develop heatstroke.
Unlike humans who sweat through the skin to cool off, cats must cool themselves by panting, sweating on the pads of their paws, seeking shade and cool areas, and drinking water.
Hot weather can also have other effects on a cat’s behavior. Here are the seven most common.
1. Signs of Dehydration
One of the most dangerous ways hot weather can affect a cat and how it acts is dehydration. Like humans, hot weather increases a cat’s need for fresh water intake, and when a cat gets dehydrated, its behavior changes.
Dehydration involves the loss of water from the body and also loss of essential minerals.
Adult cats need approximately 4-ounces of water daily per 5 pounds of body weight. Cats eating wet food get some moisture from their food and therefore need to drink a bit less than cats eating dry food.
Common behaviors and symptoms of dehydration in a cat include:
- Lack of appetite
- Restlessness and moving around seeking shade and cool areas
In addition, these physical symptoms of dehydration may also be present:
- Loose skin that ‘tents’ if you pull on it
- Hollow-looking eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
Cats need an easily accessible bowl of fresh, cool water located in a comfortable spot where they can relax and drink as much as they want whenever they want.
They also need ready access to shade and moderate temperatures to stay cool and prevent dehydration.
Humans and cats have a similar comfort zone for temperature, so if it’s warm to you, it’s probably also warm for a cat.
Cats are often attracted to drink more when they have multiple water sources, including some on tables or other elevated spots where they are allowed to go. My cats have always liked having a water bowl on a table near where they sleep, and it seems they drink more water when it’s easily available.
Many cats also like drinking and playing with moving streams of water, and you can find small water fountains for cats online and in pet stores.
Consider setting one up to keep your feline happy, well-hydrated, and cool in the heat.
However, if you suspect your cat is dehydrated, move it to a cool location and offer it water right away. If it does not drink and recover quickly, take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible, especially if you suspect the animal has suffered heatstroke.
2. The behavior of Cats with Heatstroke
Heatstroke happens when the body is exposed to high external temperatures, and it cannot cool off quickly enough to maintain a stable internal temperature. Heatstroke can be fatal if not treated.
Cats get heatstroke and other heat-induced illness. However, they will usually do their best to avoid overheating if they have somewhere cool to go and plenty of water to drink.
Here are behaviors and signs you might see in a cat that is getting too hot and in danger of heatstroke:
- Weakness, staggering, and collapse
- Increased water intake
- Seeking shade and cool spots to lie down
- Excessive grooming
The reason for excessive grooming is that cats cool off in part through their tongue, and grooming exposes the tongue to the air. Another vital sign to look for is the dampness of the paw pads, the only area where cats sweat.
Additionally, cats with heatstroke may have an increased heart rate, bright red or dark tongue or gums, vomiting, and internal body temperature over 105ºF (40.5 C) and may become unconscious.
Cats displaying signs of overheating should be moved to a cool location as soon as possible because heatstroke can do permanent organ damage and can quickly lead to death.
The cats most in danger of heatstroke are:
- Older cats
- Pregnant and nursing dams
- Overweight cats
- Animals with respiratory disease, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.
If you suspect your cat has heatstroke, take action immediately. First, move the cat to a cool and shady location or indoors to an air-conditioned environment.
Use a cool, damp cloth or a spray bottle to dampen the cat’s body, and then direct air from a fan over the fur to eliminate body heat as fast as possible.
Offer the cat a small amount of water from your hand, a cup, or a feeding syringe. Then take it to a veterinarian for an examination as soon as possible, even if it starts to recover.
An episode of heatstroke can have lasting effects on a cat’s health, and the animal might need follow-up treatment, such as intravenous (IV) fluids, to get stabilized.
3. Cats Can Become Lethargic in Hot Weather
Cats often tend to become lethargic in hot weather. They slow down, move less, and eat less food.
These behaviors aren’t necessarily signs of a problem. Humans and other animals also often eat and do less when it’s hot.
As long as the cat has access to cool, fresh water, a shady place to cool off, and they are not showing signs of dehydration or heatstroke, lethargy in hot weather is usually not something to worry about on its own.
4. Itching from Insects That Appear in Hot Weather
Warm weather increases insect populations, and some insects bite cats, causing them to scratch more.
Insect bites and infestations can also cause a cat to roll around on its back in dusty spots because the dust helps soothe their skin and deters the insects.
The most common warm-weather insects that attack cats are fleas and mosquitos.
Mosquitos can transmit heartworm parasites in cats, a severe and sometimes fatal disease. Therefore, veterinarians recommend preventative heartworm treatment in heartworm and mosquito infestation areas, even for indoor cats.
Sadly, many cases of heartworm in cats do not produce noticeable signs or symptoms. However, you might see a lack of appetite, seizures, weight loss, coughing, and other signs of ill-health in some cases.
Flea Populations Can Increase in Hot Weather
Flea populations also explode in warm weather, and flea bites can cause cats to scratch, chew, and lick their coat for relief.
Fortunately, fleas do not usually spread dangerous diseases to cats as mosquitos do. Still, they are an unpleasant nuisance, and getting on top of an infestation early is key to ending it quickly.
Frequent vacuuming of rugs and furniture and immediate disposal of the vacuum bag in a tightly closed garbage bag is one of the first lines of defense against fleas in the home.
Vacuuming can get rid of adult fleas and their eggs from carpets, rugs, and furniture. However, it’s only one of several steps for successfully alleviating a home of fleas.
Other necessary steps are washing pet bedding and giving pets baths with soap and warm water, which kills fleas and flushes them out of their fur. You can also resort to natural or synthetic pesticides to control a severe infestation.
Diatomaceous earth and pennyroyal oil are natural and relatively safe products for controlling fleas in the home environment, although it’s crucial to use these products cautiously on a pet’s body.
Pest control products for pets may be inadvisable for young, old, pregnant, nursing, and sick animals, so check with your veterinarian before using any pesticides directly on a pet’s body. In addition, always read and carefully follow package directions.
Flea collars can help with outbreaks, but they also wear out and can irritate the skin under the collar. In addition, they may be toxic to humans, especially children.
One way to deal with the problem is to only use a flea collar for a few days or weeks as you take other actions to eliminate the infestation. You can then remove and store the collar in a tightly closed jar or bag for future use and bath the cat to remove any residue in its fur.
Combing your cat with a fine-toothed flea comb and removing adult fleas and eggs is a tedious but successful way to get these pests out of the animal’s hair without resorting to toxic pesticides.
Getting loose hair out of the cat’s coat has other benefits as well, especially for long-haired breeds. For example, combing results in less shedding around the house and keeps the animal cooler in hot weather by removing loose hair.
A suitable method is to comb the cat outdoors on a table or other smooth surface and have a spray bottle of soapy water on hand to drown the fleas and eggs as soon as you dislodge them from the cat’s fur and see them on the table.
5. Cats Prefer to Mate inHot Weather
Longer, warmer days can trigger mating behavior in unneutered cats of both sexes. Cats can mate any time of the year, but most prefer warm weather for this behavior.
The cycle starts with female cats entering a fertile period called estrus or heat, which lasts about a week. The behaviors associated with estrus include:
- Increasing demands for attention and affection from humans
- Raising of rear-end while dropping the front of the body
- Louder than usual meowing and other vocalizations, including weird-sounding noises
- Frequent urination and spraying of urine
- Rolling on the floor or ground.
Male cats do not have estrus cycles, although they are stimulated to mate when females go into their cycle and often spray urine during mating season, especially in areas where females have already sprayed.
Unneutered males also roam the neighborhood searching for a mate, although they usually do not go far. So hot weather might bring unneutered male cats around your house, especially if you have an unneutered female in heat.
The best solution is to keep your female cat indoors during estrus unless you want kittens.
These hot weather mating behaviors in cats are unlikely to happen in animals that are spayed or neutered.
6. How Cats Act When They Have Sunburn
Another way hot weather and sunshine can affect a cat’s behavior is if the animal gets sunburn. It might sound unlikely given a cat’s coat of fur, but too much UV exposure can burn their skin in some situations.
Cats most at risk are outdoor cats with light-colored fur around the eyes, nose, and mouth where the sun’s penetrating rays can most easily reach the skin. Also susceptible are those with thin hair or bald areas and hairless cat varieties like the Sphynx breed.
The primary behavior in a cat with sunburn is not wanting to be touched in the affected area or scratching and licking the burned location. Repeated sunburn can lead to skin cancer, which can be fatal.
Other signs of sunburn in cats are:
- Red skin
- Scaly skin
- Hair loss in the affected area
You can buy sunscreen for cats if yours has a problem with getting sunburned. However, it’s crucial to get a product made for cats and not use a product designed for human skin.
In addition, if your cat has a white face or thin hair, keeping it indoors at midday during the summer can help prevent sunburn. However, sunburn-sensitive cats can also burn sitting inside by a window. So draw the shades if necessary to prevent this.
If your cat gets a severe case of sunburn with scabs and oozing wounds, take it to a vet for treatment. Depending on the severity of the burn, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or an ointment to help the skin heal without getting infected.
7. Cats Expose Areas With Less Fur to Cool Off
Cats also find some weird postures to get comfortable when it’s hot.
Cats cool off the most through their bellies, feet, and areas with less fur, so they often expose these regions to the air when trying to lose some heat from their body.
If on a hot day, your cat lies on its back in the shade or sprawls out on a tile floor in an odd position, this is probably just a way to chill.
How to Care for Your Cat When It’s Hot
Here are easy ways to keep your cat safe and comfortable in hot weather:
- Provide unlimited access to cool, fresh water in a shady place the cat can easily access.
- Bring the animal indoors to an air-conditioned area when it gets hot outside.
- Use fans, AC, open windows, and curtains to keep the temperature comfortable indoors.
- Provide access to outdoor shaded, cool areas, such as on a well-ventilated porch, under trees some trees, on tile floors, or a damp lawn.
- If your cat has long hair, brush it frequently to get rid of loose, heat-trapping hair.
In addition, be sure the cat cannot get stuck in a spot that turns dangerously hot later in the day, such as a greenhouse, vehicle, shed, or other unventilated areas.
Also, keep in mind that cats sometimes retreat to a shady spot without water nearby and then are reluctant to leave and venture into the sunshine to get a drink as the temperature rises.
If your cat likes to hang out in a shady remote spot that’s not near the water bowl, putting an extra bowl of water in the location can help the cat stay hydrated and safe during the heat of the day.
If the cat’s outdoor area lacks natural shade, consider a popup tent, tarp, or awning to create a shady, cool spot. Watering a shaded area in the morning can keep the location cool for hours in the afternoon.
If you have an outdoor cat and the temperature is extreme, it’s a good idea to bring the cat indoors to a cool area during the worst heat of the day.
Cool Games and Products for Cats in Hot Weather
If you have an active cat and keep it indoors during hot weather, it might enjoy some cool games to expend energy and cool off at the same time.
Some cats like chasing ice cubes, and this can be an excellent hot weather activity if your cat enjoys it. Flavoring the ice cubes with your cat’s favorite foods might entice it to give this game a try.
In conclusion, a cat’s behavior can change when it gets hot outside. Common hot weather behaviors in cats include mating behaviors in unneutered animals and the effects of dehydration, heatstroke, and sunburn if the cat becomes overexposed to heat or sun. In addition, hot weather can affect a cat’s eating, drinking, and sleeping behaviors.