My poor little kitten, Mittens, almost died yesterday from heat exhaustion. Mittens likes the occasional jaunt in the great outdoors, but yesterday, he got stuck in a neighbor’s garage for a few hours in nearly 100-degree heat. Luckily, I was home, found him on our lawn panting heavily with a raspberry-red tongue and immediately recognized and treated his life-threatening symptoms, which for the record in a cat are:
- bright red gums and tongue;
- tongue panting like a dog (cats do not normally pant); hyperventilated breathing/heaving;
- racing heartbeat;
- lethargy, weakness and/or wobbliness;
- hot paws;
If a cat is showing these symptoms you have a serious emergency on your hands. Heading immediately to the vet is the first choice, but if time is of the essence, you can try to stabilize your cat as I did:
- I brought Mittens into our air-conditioned house.
- He would not drink water on his own (this is not unusual with heat exhaustion), so I used a childís rinsed Tylenol syringe to give him water. I dribbled the water slowly into the corner of his mouth. He fortunately responded by lapping the water. I gave him about five syringes full of room temperature water.
- Then I wet down his fur, his nose, ears and paws with room-temperature water. (Overly cold water could shock an overheated catís system).
- I then put a damp towel over his body and softly spoke encouraging words to him.
All through this process he lay limp, his sides heaving, his heart racing and he presented no resistance to the cat insult of getting wet, which frightened me terribly.
However, within minutes his breathing calmed. I then called the vet and was told I did the right thing and probably saved his life.
Within 10-15 minutes, he was up grooming his fur and chowing down a bowl of food! The vet did mention that if his breathing changed again, if he vomited, or was just acting odd I should bring him in for an immediate evaluation.
I am very grateful cats seem to come pre-packaged with nine lives, as Mr. Mittens most certainly used one of those lives yesterday.
In this summerís scorching heat, please know where your pets are (best in an air-conditioned house), check garages and sheds before shutting them and do not leave animals outside without shade and water. Please do not learn the hard way, as I almost did.
It also goes without saying (but I will say it again because every year hundreds of pets die in cars from heat stroke), do not EVER leave cats or other pets in enclosed cars during summer heat. An enclosed car can become a 160-degree furnace within minutes! If you see an animal trapped in a car on a very hot day, take citizen action and call animal services or even the police.
After this scary incident, I must say, I am more than ready for the cooling days of fall – and I am sure Mr. Mittens would second that thought. Unfortunately, we are barely into July and the current heat wave toasting our nation doesn’t look like it is going to abate anytime soon — so please keep an extra eye on your felines if they are outdoors for a summer romp.