Heat stroke in cats

Heat stroke in cats is an extremely serious condition. It occurs when your cat’s internal body temperature is higher than normal. It is less common in cats compared to dogs, but they are still at risk. 

Heat stroke requires immediate attention, or it can be fatal. If symptoms develop, remove your cat from the heat or sun, start cooling down, and contact your local vet. The most common cause is overheating during play or exercise.


Home treatment

What to do if your cat has heat stroke

Act calmly and quickly. With heat stroke, the faster the treatment, the more likely a full recovery is.

  • Stop any exercise and move immediately into a shaded and cool area.
  • Try to keep your cat as relaxed as possible, stress can worsen the problem.
  • Allow access to cool, fresh water for drinking.
  • Apply or spray cool water (tap water around 15-16℃) slowly on the body. Especially the tummy and inner thighs. You can use a cloth or towel to do this but do not leave the cloth on the body. Avoid the nose and mouth area.
  • Use a fan to cool or open all the windows to create a breeze.

Get your cat to your nearest vet practice as soon as possible. Make sure to use the air conditioning in the car or open all the windows.



What is heat stroke in cats?

Heat stroke can also be known as hyperthermia, sunstroke, or heat-related illness.

  • Normal body temperature for cats should be between 38 and 39.2℃ (101-102.5℉). Heat stroke symptoms usually occur above 40℃.
  • The most common cause is overheating during play or exercise.
  • It can also be caused by sitting in the sun or heat for too long. This can be outdoors, inside a vehicle, or in a building.
  • We mostly see this problem during the warm summer months, but it can happen at any time of the year.
  • Heat stroke can affect cats of all ages, genders, and breeds. Brachycephalic (short-snouted) cats are much more likely to suffer from the condition.
heat stroke in cats
Brachycephalic cats are more at risk of heat stroke


Cats are different from humans in the way they cool themselves down. Instead of having sweat glands all over the body, they can only sweat through the paw pads. They cool down by cleaning themselves, shedding, and stretching out in cool areas. Panting can help cool the body down, but this can also be one of the first symptoms we see with heat stroke.

  • A rise in body temperature can lead to serious damage to the internal organs. This can result in internal bleeding, coma, and death.
  • Immediate treatment is vital. The longer the body temperature is too high, the more damage there is to the body’s organs and tissues.

Heat stroke is not the same as having a high temperature or fever, which are normally due to infections.



Symptoms of heat stroke in cats

Your cat may show one, some, or all of the following signs of heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Shaking, agitation, or lethargy
  • Bright red or very pale gums
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Reluctance to move, weakness, and muscle tremors
  • Confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, or collapse
Symptoms of heat stroke in cats
Drooling and mouth breathing are common signs of heat stroke in cats


Are some cats more at risk of heat stroke than others?

The following traits can mean your cat is more prone to developing heat stroke:

  • Obesity
  • Very young or older cats
  • Thick, long, or heavy fur
  • Underlying heart, lung, or airway problems, including feline asthma
  • Cats with paw pad disease
  • Particular breeds: Persians, Scottish Folds, and Himalayans



How is heat stroke diagnosed in cats?

Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and history of recent exercise or being in a warm environment.

A high temperature on arrival at the vet practice also confirms this diagnosis. This may not always be present if cooling treatment has been started at home.


Vet treatment

What’s the treatment for heat stroke in cats?

If you suspect your cat has heat stroke, it is vital that you take them to your local vet for treatment immediately.

Further medications and treatments may be necessary depending on the symptoms:

  • Fluids via a drip help with cooling and protect vital organs.
  • Medications to stop any seizures.
  • Blood and urine tests to check certain organs for damage.
  • Other treatments such as oxygen, sedation, tummy protectants, and antibiotics may be necessary.

Your cat may need to be hospitalised for several days. Once stable, they will be allowed home, but they will need careful monitoring. They may also need a repeat check with your local veterinarian.

Most mild cases should make a full recovery if treatment is started quickly.



How to help your cat stay cool and reduce the risk of heat stroke

Tips to help prevent heat stroke in cats

At home

  • Ensure constant access to multiple bowls of fresh drinking water. A water fountain can help encourage drinking.
  • Ensure constant access to a cool, shaded room.
  • Close the blinds and use fans or AC to improve ventilation.
  • Brush your cat daily. If your cat has a long or heavy coat, consider getting it clipped for the warmer months.
  • Add ice cubes to the drinking water and give frozen treats.
  • Get a cooling mat and place it in their favourite place to sleep.
  • Keep your cat in a healthy body condition. See our guide below.

Body Condition Score (BCS) is a scale that gives a practical evaluation of the fat coverage of your cat’s body. By checking how easy or not it is to feel certain bony areas of the body, a score is then produced. There are several scales, from 1 to 5 or 1 to 9. The ideal body condition lies in the middle, so either 3/5 or 5/9.

The body areas normally checked for fat coverage are:

1. ribs and spine

2. hips and shoulders

3. waist

Body condition scoring (BCS) in cats

Here are a few tips on how to do it.

With your pet in a standing position:

  • Place your hands on the rib cage and gently feel for each rib, without pressing too hard
  • Feel the waist and look from the top and the side (if you have a very furry breed, it may be harder to assess)
  • Feel the spine, which runs down the middle of the back
  • Feel the top of the hips and shoulders


  • Place any outdoor toys or beds in the shade.
  • Make sure they have constant access to fresh water.
  • Try to keep them indoors during the hottest time of day, close the blinds or use AC if you have it.
  • If your cat is at a higher risk, such as being elderly or having a heart condition, keep them indoors during the hot weather as long as it doesn’t cause stress.

When travelling

Cats can die in hot cars, even with the windows open or in the shade.

  • Never leave your cat alone in the car.
  • Allow constant access to drinking water.
  • Keep windows open or the AC on.
  • Make sure your cat has a cool, shaded spot in the car while you are driving.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel, especially travelling during the hottest part of the day.

Cat owners need to be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and take action if they develop!

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Our Joii team are available 24 hours a day for advice. Call us now if you have any questions about preventing heat stroke.


When to worry

When you should be worried about heat stroke in cats

Seek help immediately from a vet if your cat starts to show severe signs of heat stroke:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Foaming at the mouth or bright red gums
  • Confusion, seizures and collapse

These cases will require treatment and monitoring at your local vet practice


Call us and speak to one of our Joii vets if:

  • Your cat has mild symptoms such as panting or low energy and you are unsure what to do.
  • Your cat has previously had heat stroke and you have any questions about it.
  • You need any advice about how to keep your cat cool in the warm weather.
  • You have any questions about what frozen treats can be used safely.
  • You would like weight-loss advice for your cat.
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