Heat Stroke Signs in Cats: What to Do

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;
  • drooling

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.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Pets
What to Do When You See a Dog in a Hot Car


Alexis M.
Alexis Merritt4 years ago

my grandma wont let our cats inside but its the middle of summer and they are having heat stroke. they have shade and cool water, but its not helping much! someone please help. i don't know what to do! (btw I'm 10 so i don;t have my own house)

Dale Overall

Glad that Mittens survived the ordeal and that you were knowledgeable about how to save him.
These are lifesaving tips for those who do not already know about how to act swiftly. People often forget that the heat is dangerous, especially when a pet gets trapped inside a hot structure from where there is often no escape.

Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T6 years ago

Great job saving Mittens, thanks so much for the information!

Lori Santos
Lori Santos6 years ago

Good advice for cat people on heat stroke symptomatic cats. My cat is indoors however there exist others around the complex I live in that are not so lucky to have a parent or daytime place to live. Not aware which, I make sure water is available both day and nights for cats.In the shady side of the building during the heat of the day and after sunset as they will pursue food and water, the time to refresh themselves I try to make sure as I sleep, they have something to nourish themselves through another sunrise of finding safe havens of shelter and shade. Will police take action to remove a pet inside a locked vehicle? I have never heard of such a thing. Are pets often returned to the owners, after taken for protection? I have heard of Child (CPS) and Adult (APS) protection services, but never Pet (PPS) protection services. Is there such a "sister component or arm of behavioral services measures" available to intercede in the arm of "animal services" or the Humane Society before returning the abused pet that would advocate on behalf of these animals? Perhaps PETA? I felt bad my cat was able to run out of the house (able to access the door as I was walking in) shortly after my move into a new home, feeling every bit the guilty party for this mistaken and unplanned access which allowed her to run out the door and be lost. Although unplanned, I still felt guilty. I cannot imagine purposefully placing my pet or child in harms way in the manner of in a locked vehicle on a heated

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

Thank you so much for the info.

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago


Barb Hansen
Ba H6 years ago

great job saving your kitten, but a good cat parent probably wouldn't let a kitten out to get stuck in a neighbors garage. if you were home why did you not notice a missing cat?

Lori S.
Lori Santos6 years ago

Dear Washoe County Pet Services,

On the night of the very same day I went ballistic, after looking up my pet report, and all the missing cats once again for several times when I found out my cat finally had an A number, thinking she was sitting in a giant kennel marked "LOST" somewhere at the Humane Society or where lost cats may be kept before adopted out, I could not reach anyone on the phone, leaving messages, I plead in tears to NOT adopt out my cat, I still want her desperately.

I called the 911 number to get a number where I could reach someone to make sure of the status of my cat, whether lost or in containment, she was still lost. What an emotional ride! The humane society also called back, but thankfully well understood my emotional over-reaction and anxiety. I so wished she was in containment, but was not sure that was her status.

At 28 days lost, I am honestly beginning to give up hope. At almost a month, and knowing I have to place another 30 days soon I would not see her.

Since we had moved from Honolulu only 5 days before she was out the door in a windstorm one evening before the 4th of July, grew frantic and hopeful at the same moment.
Not only was it windy the night, the area foreign and new after a long flight 5 days previous.
The scent not likely to last long in the wind storm itself that night.
Close to the Fourth of July, people were blowing firecrackers in the distance, of which she is fearful.
The apartment complex well lit ther

Lori S.
Lori Santos6 years ago

My cat has returned after being lost for 28 days! It would not be so amazing if it were not for the gracious kindness ans assistance I received from members of CARE2 that gave me some fab advice taking the time to contact and assist with info and advice. Here in detail is the story of her travails in being lost and return last night. I receive email updates from Care2 and wanted to extend my deepest appreciation for my baby's return. My life was utterly miserable without her in my life! She is thinner and does remember who I am, fell into old behaviors immediate, missed me too most obviously! If your companion is ever lost, DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE! CALL OUT EVERY DAY AS I DID, regardless of what neighbors and family may think may think or say as I did. People kept saying "the coyotes got her." I believed she was nearby and could hear what I was saying when I was leaving the house in daylight, although I also believed she was holed up somewhere during the day and coming out at night for the food I put out, hoping she may follow the other cats to it. Yes, I did waiver between lost hope and hope she was near in hiding but getting to know her knew home too! NEVER GIVE UP HOPE that your cat has much to do to sustain life and keep busy with adapting and self preservation, before returning to you as a second priority in their tasking. Above all, habituate your pet to positive reinforcement with treats for a task well done, repeatedly, whether coming to your call or your kisses and appr

Kynthia R.
Kynthia Rosgeal6 years ago

We have an older indoor/outdoor cat. She is independent cuss so keeping her indoors is difficult at best, impossible at least.

Our methods.
1. plenty of fresh water
2. doggie/cat door so she can come and go at her leisure. If we aren't home she isn't locked out.
3. Food where only she can get at it. Food is necessary as water to maintian a healthy system in any animal.

We live in Las Vegas where out temps are routinely over 100 degrees and most of those days are very sunny. Our little fur friend is intelligent enough to know to serve herself plenty of water, but she is also a cat, and getting trapped somewhere is a huge fear. She is also claw-less (NO we did not do that, she came to use that way) so I often worry about her defending herself, but she seems to do just fine.