Give Now

A Moment of Science

Do Cats Sweat Or Pant When They Overheat?

When sweat evaporates, it cools the skin, and panting releases heat through the mouth. So how do cats keep from overheating if they don't seem to sweat or pant?

A cat laying on a couch with its paw extended

Photo: conceptworker (flickr)

Cats do sweat...through their paws, but, because paws have too small a surface area to do much cooling, cats have developed additional strategies for coping with heat.

Close your eyes and imagine it’s a hot summer day. You’re sitting on the front porch, peacefully sweating and fanning yourself. Your dog is sprawled out next to you, panting.

You glance over at your cat, who is calmly washing itself – again. You note that while you and your dog are slowly dissolving into puddles, your cat seems unaffected by the heat.

You probably already know that sweating and panting are two mechanisms for regulating body temperature. When sweat evaporates, it cools the skin, and panting releases heat through the mouth. So how do cats keep from overheating if they don’t sweat or pant?

Cats Do Sweat…But Not How You Might Think

The truth is that cats do sweat. They sweat through their paws. A frightened cat may even leave a trail of wet footprints on the ground. However, because paws have too small a surface area to do much cooling, cats have developed additional strategies for coping with heat.

For example, they seek out shady spots and try not to exert themselves. Also, like dogs, cats like to sprawl out on cool surfaces in a way that maximizes coolness and minimizes heat.

As for those frequent baths your cat is taking, they work in the same way that sweating does. When the saliva evaporates off fur, it lowers body temperature.

When Very Hot, Cats Also Pant

Finally, when it’s very very hot, around 90 degrees, and all else fails, cats do start panting. That’s a sure sign that it’s time to go inside, pour yourself a glass of water, and turn on the air conditioner. Don’t forget to give your cat and your dog some water too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathyrn.oneill Kathyrn L. O’Neill

    What you say here is taken as the generally accepted truth, but I have a cat that actually sweats.  His brother and sisters are normal cats, but we have one that sweats all over his body.

  • danawhitesplooge

    My cat has a high body temp and loves really warm places, on hot computers, in the sun. He goes into humid cabinets and his belly sweats.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science