HEALTH & CARE

How Do Cats Sweat: Yes, They Do That Too

cat is hot
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

When you think about the pools of sweat that run down your body on a sizzling day, followed by the cooling effect that follows, you can’t help wondering if your cat undergoes the same process. It’s hard to see this through their thick fur, right? There is actually nothing to see because while cats sweat, they don’t do it in the way that you may think. This begs the question: how do cats sweat?

We have researched and discovered information that is sure to interest you. Cats don’t depend on sweating as much as we do to regulate their body temperatures; other processes come to play. We understand how important this is for you as a cat parent because you need to know when you need to step in to help your cat cool down.

Do you know that cats have two types of sweat glands? We will expound on the role of each in your cat’s body. We will also explain the different ways in which your cat cools down. Despite the intelligent measures by your cat to keep cool, there are times when the heat is too much. What do you watch out for and how do you help your kitty? Indulge yourself below.

The Mechanism of Sweating

cat sweating

Mammals, cats included, produce fluids that are secreted on the skin. This perspiration, also known as sweat, originates from glands that are distributed below the skin surface around the body. Cats, just like humans, have two types of glands involved in sweating: the eccrine and apocrine sweat glands.

These glands fall into the same category as salivary and mammary glands known as exocrine glands. These basically means that they secrete fluids directly onto the outer surfaces of the body. Eccrine and apocrine glands vary in number, distribution, and roles from one species to another.

#1: Apocrine Sweat Glands

These are glands associated with a cat’s scent. They are found on each hair follicle; however they are more concentrated on the face, lower back, tail, and scrotal area but absent on the nasal plane. These are tubular structures that stem from the dermal layer of the skin. They secrete oily fluids that are laden with proteins and lipids.

The secretion is periodical and influenced by adrenaline in the body. On the skin surface, it mixes with hormonal secretions from sebum glands which also open onto hair follicles. The fatty mixture sticks to the fur, allowing bacteria to glow and degrade it. This microbial activity produces an odor that is unique to your furry friend.

This oily sweat does not aid in cooling the body. It acts as a pheromone which cats use to mark their territory and also attract mates. The fatty substance also solidifies on the skin to act as a chemical barrier. This together with fur provides protection for the delicate skin against the harsh environment.

#2: Eccrine Sweat Glands

You have probably seen sweat on the paws of your furry friend. This perspiration is known as the sensible sweat. The designation is due to the fact that it’s produced when there is an increase in a cat’s internal body temperature. It also occurs after a feline has played for a long time or exposed himself to the hot sun, just like humans.

Eccrine sweat glands are the ones responsible for the phenomena. They are smaller in size and also differ in their function compared to the apocrine sweat glands. In humans, the glands number in millions and are distributed all over the body. However, they are fewer in cats and only found on the paw pads.

The glands are spiral-shaped ducts that originate deep in the dermal layer of the skin and open on the skin surface as sweat pores. Their secretion is primarily water but has some electrolytes—mostly sodium. Sweat is similar to blood plasma since it’s derived from it. The main difference being that it does not contain proteins and fatty acids.

When the body’s core temperature increases, the hypothalamus, through the nervous system, stimulates the glands into action. This natural response to heat stimuli results in the lowering the body temperature.

Energy is required to evaporate the sweat from the skin. This results in the cooling of the body—a process known as evaporative cooling. Humans can effectively cool their bodies through sweating due to the large numbers of eccrine sweat glands. Cats, however, only get to sweat on their paws. This surface area is not enough to cool them, but cats have other means to cool themselves.

How Do Cats Cool Themselves in Hot Weather?

When it’s too hot, biological processes kick in to cool the body, sweating being one of them. Humans and higher primates as wells as some mammals like horses sweat enough to cool their bodies. Your furry friend, on the other hand, evolved as a desert animal and as such he is capable of cooling himself down without breaking a sweat!

So how do felines cool themselves?

#1: Insulation by Their Fur

white furry cat lying on floor

Humans get to choose what to wear depending on the weather. Your furry friend, on the other hand, has to ‘wear’ his fur all year long. You probably pity him during the hot sun, imagining that he must be baking in the thick fur. His coat is actually there to protect him.

It keeps the direct sun rays from hitting his skin. At the same time, it also insulates him from the hot air. This allows his skin to remain at a temperature lower than his surroundings.

If you have a Bambino or a Sphynx cat, beware that they need extra care to keep them cool during the hot months. Hairless cats lack adequate coat cover and are prone to sunburns as well as heatstroke if left in the fierce sun.

#2: Conserving Energy

cat lying on floor

Whether it’s hot or cold, you have to work and generally be busy with your day to day activities. Cats, on the other hand, don’t bear such responsibilities, and they know it. During those hot spells, they keep their core temperatures down by being inactive.

They will avoid playing and be sluggish as a way of conserving their energy and staying cool. Cats do sleep for long hours but will increase the periods when it’s hot too as a way of keeping their body temperature low.

See Also: How Much Do Cats Sleep

#3: Natural Adaptation

orange cat in the sun

As evolution pushed our furry mates from the desert to our couches, they maintained some natural traits that gave them an edge in the hot weather. A cat’s normal temperature ranges between 100.4oF to 102.5oF. Their normal lower limit is over a degree higher than the upper limit of humans (99oF). This allows them to tolerate hot weather better.

Higher body temperatures mean that when you are fanning yourself or taking a dip in the pool to cool down, your cat could just be walking leisurely in the sun to feel warm. Some can actually still be comfortable at 104oF.

#4: Increased Grooming

cat licking itself

Felines are known to spend considerable time looking after their appearance. Grooming keeps them clean and their coats shiny. This behavior becomes more important when temperatures are soaring.

Licking their fur wets it with saliva similar to sweating in humans. As the moisture evaporates, it leaves them cooler. Cats rarely pant as dogs do in hot weather; grooming, however, mimics the behavior.

Saliva evaporating from the tongue cools it. Blood temperature also lowers during grooming as the tongue has numerous blood vessels running through it, which come into contact with cool air.

#5: Resting on Cool Surfaces

orange cat lying on tiles

Felines are sensible animals, and they know their environment well. They know which areas of the house are warm or cool at any given time. It’s common to find them lazing on cold tiles or sleeping at the bottom of your tub.

They usually stretch out with their stomach touching the cool surface. Their underbelly is less furry and has a large surface area. The excess heat is lost by conduction from contact with cold surfaces. When cats are outdoors, they avoid the sunny spots and spend their time resting in the shade.

#6: Increasing Their Water Intake

cat drinking water

Basically, cats drink very little compared to other animals like dogs. Their comparatively smaller bodies require little water to stay hydrated. When it’s hot, though, they drink more water to keep cool.

See Also: How Much Water Should Cats Drink

How to Keep your Cat Cool in Hot Weather

If you are sweating buckets, don’t just assume that your cat is doing fine simply because you don’t see him sweating. Below are some measures to help your him stay cool in hot weather.

#1: Elevate Your Cat’s Bed and Set it Away from the Walls

The floor tiles and walls are cold during winter and the opposite happens in summer. They absorb heat during the day and lose it slowly at night. This leaves them warmer than their surroundings. When elevated air flows below the bed, it keeps it and the cat cool.

#2: Keep Curtains Closed

curtains closed

Cats are curious by nature. They won’t pass a chance to survey what is happening outside the house; mostly they perch on the sill and gaze out. In hot weather, this curiosity can be fatal. Direct sunrays will warm him up. Close the curtains from the sun-facing side.

#3: Reduce Playtime

In normal conditions 15-30 minutes of playtime is enough to exhaust your cat. When it’s hot, he can overexert himself in less than 10 minutes. Avoid playing with him during the day and at nighttime, reduce the time to just a few minutes.

#4: Keep Your Kitty’s Water Cool

Cats will drink water to keep themselves cool. Placing a few ice cubes in his water will keep it cool during the day.

#5: Keep the Thermostat Low

Keeping the thermostat low

When you are out the whole day and you leave your kitty all alone in the house, mind the temperatures. Let the thermostat rest at around 90oF, which is below his normal temperature. This should keep a cat comfortable during the day.

You can avoid running a huge power bill by fashioning a DIY AC system. Frozen water in a bottle placed in front of a small box fan is enough to keep a cool breeze in his favorite spot during the day.

Hyperthermia in Cats

cat is very hot

Although cats don’t overheat easily, the heat can still get to them. If immediate measures to bring down the temperatures are not taken, hyperthermia can lead to organ damage or even death.

Here are some tell-tale signs of heat exhaustion that can eventually lead to heatstroke or hyperthermia.

  • Panting: Unlike canines who pant to cool off, cats do it when their bodies are overwhelmed by the hot weather. It’s a cry for help and if not adequately addressed your furry friend may actually die.

  • Exhaustion: The kitty will appear weak and may stagger as he walks. This kind of weakness can even lead to collapse.

  • Diarrhea and Vomiting: In extreme cases, the discharge can be bloody.

  • Rapid Heartbeat and Labored Breathing: These can also be occasioned by elevated core temperature.

  • Excessive Grooming: Grooming helps your kitty stay cool. However, when he does it excessively and continuously in hot weather, it means he is overwhelmed by the heat.

Other symptoms include:

  • Convulsions and unconsciousness

  • Reddening of the tongue and gums

  • Increased drooling

  • Drinking water excessively

See Also: How Hot is too Hot for Cats

Here’s how you can combat hyperthermia:

  • For an unconscious cat, soak him in cool water (not cold) and be sure to keep his nose and mouth out of the water. Put a packet of frozen stuff, probably frozen food, between his legs and rush him to the vet.

  • If he is conscious with signs of heat exhaustion, soak him in cool water and give him plenty of drinking water then rush him to the vet.

  • If the signs are just starting to manifest, take him to a cool place and give him plenty of water to drink.

  • In all the above instances, taking a rectal temperature can help you evaluate your cat better. If it goes beyond 1030F, he requires evaluation by a vet.

Wrap Up

cat cooling down

Cats sweat from two different sweat glands: the apocrine sweat glands and the eccrine sweat glands. The former is responsible for a cat’s natural scent while the latter produces sweat when temperatures are elevated.

The sweat is produced through pores on the paw pads. This surface area is not sufficient to cool down cats in extremely hot weather. Luckily, cats can regulate their own temperatures in several different ways.

Despite this ability, cats may get overwhelmed by excessive heat, which may lead to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke. While there are ways to combat hyperthermia, prevention is certainly better than cure.

You can put several measures in place to ensure that your cat goes through the hot weather comfortably because he truly isn’t getting much help from the sweating department.

How much did you know about cats and sweating? Has your feline had to deal with excess heat? Let’s hear all about it plus any other feedback below. You may also want to check out our related article, how cold is too cold for cats.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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