Photo: conceptworker (flickr)
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.