Even though heatstroke is more common in dogs than in cats, cats can get it, and it is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Dogs  can regulate their body temperature by panting, at least up to a point, but cats normally don’t pant unless they’re already in respiratory distress. Most cats will instinctively move to cooler locations to cool themselves down, but if they’re unable to escape the heat, their body won’t cool down fast enough.


Heatstroke occurs when the cat’s body temperature rises above 104 degrees, which can cause damage to internal organs and cells and can quickly lead to death.

  • Panting or rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling
  • Excessive grooming
  • Sweaty paws
  • Bright red gums and tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Stumbling
  • Unresponsiveness
  • High fever
  • Collapse
  • Extreme lethargy

Prompt treatment is of the essence

Prompt treatment is of the essence. Get your cat to a veterinarian immediately if you think she has heatstroke. While transporting the cat you can

  • Cover her with towels soaked in cold water.
  • If your cat is conscious, try to get her to drink some cold water. You can use a syringe if possible, or squeeze water from a wet cloth around her mouth.
  • Never use ice packs or immerse your cat in ice cold water to reduce body temperature. The sudden drop in temperature can cause your cat to go into shock.


The best way to prevent heatstroke is to keep your cats inside. If your cat does go outside, make sure she has access to plenty of fresh, cold water, and shady areas. But even indoor cats may suffer from heat exhaustion on really hot days, especially in homes without air conditioning.

For more on how to prevent heatstroke and keep your cats comfortable in hot weather, read Keep Your Cat Cool This Summer

This post was first published in 2011 and has been updated.

Image Pixabay

12 Comments on Heatstroke in Cats: Know the Signs

  1. Thank you Jackson. I’ve always wondered about cats sleeping in the sun. I’ve don’t let my kitties snooze in the sun for long on the balcony during the heat of the day, especially the older ones. Always wondered if I was worrying unnecessarily. Guess not.

  2. My cat had it once. He snuck out of the house and spent about an hour on a hot patio. Very scary. We put cool wet towels on him, cranked up the a/c, he was drinking tons of water and then after about an hour, he was fine. Thank goodness! He used up one of his lives that day. Miss him dearly as he passed away two years. RIP Lee

  3. I had a cat go into heat stroke from laying on an ELECTRIC BLANKET!. Do not use them around cats, the blanket went in the garbage after that.

  4. Thank you for this post and reminding people to look out for cats too! It’s supposed to reach near 100 degrees here in Boston this week. All our cats are blessed to be indoors and have air conditioning. This information will be helpful to people looking out for cats (including the folks I work with in rescue) to help cats that don’t!

  5. Thank you for the information. Good to know. We have air here but; you never know. I vote daily for you.

  6. we just posted a great infographic from Petfinder last week about this same and most important subject.
    Today we are supposed to be into the 90s (all week in fact), the weather is sooooooooo “close” outside. Cody was due to go to the vet for his vaccine today but the heat is one of the reasons that I canceled and am rescheduling for when it is cooler out.
    Granted he would have been in an air conditioned car, but I have a blanket in his carrier and I didn’t want him to be too warm while waiting for the car to cool off.

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