Cats are okay with indoor temperatures significantly higher than what we might like, even though fur usually covers their entire bodies. Some may even prefer it. That’s one of the reasons they enjoy settling into tight spaces; body heat can’t escape as easily. But can it get too hot?
In just about all cases, no, says Tufts emergency and critical care veterinarian Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM. Even if a cat is left in a house without air conditioning, she will generally find a way to keep herself cool enough as long as you leave her with fresh water (into which you have placed an ice cube or two), and as long as there are areas out of direct sunlight and perhaps a cool tile floor to lie on.
Granted, there are situations in which it is not safe for a cat to be left without circulating air, for instance, in the desert southwest where temperatures can easily reach well over 100 degrees. A feline’s normal body temperature hovers between 100 and 102.5 degrees, and you don’t want the ambient air temperature to rise above that. Especially for very young cats, old cats, those that are overweight, and those with medical conditions like congestive heart failure, those super-high temperatures can prove dangerous. Cats with flat faces, like Persians, are also more prone to becoming overheated. They can’t pant as effectively as other felines. You also never want to leave any cat in the car during the summer, Dr. Rozanski says.
But in most cases, you don’t need to be concerned. As long as your cat has opportunities to get out of direct sunlight, she will be fine. In fact, heatstroke is much more rare in cats than dogs. For a cat’s comfort, it’s probably more important to leave the heat on for a cat during the winter than to leave the air conditioning on in the summer.
While cats are not generally prone to becoming overheated, they can get sunburns. Those with white faces and ears are particularly vulnerable and can end up with a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma if not protected. If your pet likes to hang out in a screened-in porch or other area with direct sunlight, apply sunscreen on the bridge of her nose and ear tips to help prevent burns. Just make sure with your veterinarian that the product is safe for use on felines. Its ingredients will go through your pet’s digestive system if she licks off some of the topical agent and ends up swallowing it. Definitely keep zinc oxide off your cat. It can cause stomach upset and other problems.
I have 2 Tonkinese brothers, 12 years old. They love to bask in the sun, particularly the morning sun in my laundry room window. I have put a bed on the counter just for them. Last week, I went in to check on them. Pewter, my blue mink, had left the bed. Truffle, natural point, was laying in the hall on the hardwood floor, something neither cat ever does. They rarely lay on any floor, they like to be UP. I felt him, and he was extremely warm, I was alarmed. His ears were on fire. I laid him on my bathroom tile floor, and he laid there for about 15 minutes, calm and very quiet. I got a cool wash cloth and rubbed him down all over several times ( rewetting the washcloth to make it cool). He perked up a bit, but was still very subdued. I left him alone, and kept checking on him frequently. He was back to normal within about 2 hours. I am guessing they laid in that hot sun for 3 hours or so. They have laid in that sunny window for years, no problems. I am guessing age is catching up with Truffle. Now, I am very vigilant not to let them lay in that bed too long on sunny days.