Keep the Kitty Cool
June 7, 2010 3:52 PM   Subscribe

First summer with a new cat and no AC. How to keep the kitty cool while we're away?

I live in the San Fernando Valley, in a 1950's first-floor apartment with no central air and no insulation. It's cold in the winter and horribly hot from June through August.

The wife and I now have a 2-year-old short-hair cat, and this will be her first summer in the apartment (the cat, not the wife). I'm worried that she will suffer, or be in pain, or even be in real danger when it's 95 degrees inside the house for hours at a time.

I read a similar thread on AskMeFi but many of the answers start with "Open the windows," which we can't do, because we're on the first floor; or "Set your AC for 80 degrees," which we also can't do, because we don't have central air. Some of the advice says to rub the cat with cool water, but no one will be around to do that for at least 9 hours, between the last person leaving for work and the first person returning.

The facts: We have two oscillating floor fans, one box fan, and one swamp cooler. We have one living room wall AC unit that might be able to be put on a timer (though big power-suckers like that often screw up the timers). We also have a ceiling fan in one room.

A lot of posters of the previous thread say that the cat will be fine and no special steps are necessary beyond ice cubes in the water. But I remember last summer when I was absolutely miserable in the house (with the fans, the windows open, and/or the AC blasting) and I don't want my darling little quadruped to suffer. Do cats even experience heat the same way humans do? If she sleeps during the afternoon even on cold days, will she just sleep through the summer heat, too? Or should I construct some kind of "cold room" for her to escape to?

Thanks in advance for your help. My cat will thank you too.
posted by Flying Saucer to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, the cat will get hot, somewhat uncomfortable, and will spend most of her time laying around and sleeping. I think she'll probably be fine, but I hate it when my pets get uncomfortable, too.

Something you could try is getting a couple of big blue ice packs (like the ones that go in coolers), freeze 'em overnight, and use them to make a cool 'kitty bed'. Wrap them up in towels. I've also frozen small plastic water bottles 2/3 full of water, and then left them around for the cats to hang out with. They bat them around, lick off the condensation, and curl up next to them. Both of these methods stay frozen/cold for a very long time, and seem to keep kitties happy.
posted by Knicke at 4:00 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

As long as there's plenty of cool water, your cat will be fine. She may melt, but she'll be fine.
That said, you can minimize her meltiness. What are your floors made of? Is there a large, cool surface that your kitty can spread out on? My boys spread out on my glass table when it's very hot (and I only allow them to do it in the summer!) Do you have heavy shades or curtains? If not, get some and make the entire place as dark as possible during the day. You can also keep a low fan going to circulate the air throughout the day.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:01 PM on June 7, 2010

Just to clarify about the blue ice packs: make sure you get the hard sided ones - the soft sided ones are easily punctured and dangerous to pets. Or just stick with the plastic water bottles if your cat is a chewer.
posted by Knicke at 4:01 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer - I don't have cats but I have ferrets.
Some ideas:
- Try ice packs, wrapped in a thin blanket or towel, near where your cat likes to sleep. Some animals may try to chew through one of those blue-gel ones (could be toxic or at least make a mess) but you can also freeze water in empty plastic bottles. These should at least help for a few hours.
- I haven't really tried this one since the pets weren't too fond of it: try hanging or laying an old wet towel or towels near where they like to rest and preferably near a fan, for cooling by evaporation. I saw similar suggestion to place the wet towel in the freezer for a bit first.
- Apparently you can get "cooling" pet blankets or beds (look like a flat cooling gel pack) but I haven't seen one.
- Make sure all the blinds are down/curtains drawn each morning.
- Maybe place a floor fan facing out of the living room, to pull the coldest air out of there and blow it into other parts of the house.
Good luck!
posted by SarahbytheSea at 4:12 PM on June 7, 2010

Plenty of water (change it every morning) and the ceiling fan and the cat should be fine. Uncomfortable, but fine.

I'd specifically suggest against leaving the box fans running - we had a kitten chew through the cord of a box fan right in front of us & we ended up having to put it down. But I'm sure thats an isolated occurrence, unless your cat is a a chewer.

If you're very concerned about it, just open a window. Personally, I'd have them open anyway - who wants to come home to a 100 degree unventilated home after a day of work?
posted by ish__ at 4:14 PM on June 7, 2010

Haha, about Cat Pie Hurts's for a cool surface to sleep on, I just saw another suggestion online to let your cat sleep in the bathroom sink :) The Internets has SO many photos of cats in sinks!
posted by SarahbytheSea at 4:17 PM on June 7, 2010

Valley girl here -- have lived in the valley for 15+ years, always with cats. Until 7 years ago we had no AC, and my husband and I were at work all day while the cats were in our hot home. I was always too scared to leave a box fan running -- fire hazards, my own personal neurosis. Kitties were totally fine. They just get low to the floor and relax. At one point, one of them decided that sitting in the bathtub was the way to go. Just make sure there's plenty of water.

Honestly, I can't imagine any cat of mine hanging out by a wet towel or freezer pack.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:22 PM on June 7, 2010

The Internets has SO many photos of cats in sinks!

Yes it does.

posted by Johnny Assay at 5:49 PM on June 7, 2010

I think your cat will be fine without doing anything special. As long as your house doesn't get so hot it would actually kill somebody sitting around in it, I don't think it's anything to worry about. Put the fans on for yourselves, not for the cat.

The cats I've had have never appreciate the coolness I offer them - our house will be freaking hot, so we put the air conditioner on, but all the cat wants to do is go into some closed off room or upstairs where it's 20 degrees hotter. Just warning you that if you construct a cold room, your cat might not be interested in it. Their actions aren't always the most logical things to us humans. I have to think the heat just doesn't bug them as much as it bugs us.
posted by wondermouse at 5:55 PM on June 7, 2010

We live in Florida and my two cats are just as apt to sleep in the garage that has no ac or the lanai that has no ac and is humid as well as hot.
posted by Jezebella at 6:19 PM on June 7, 2010

I've had the same experience as wondermouse. Our finished basement, which is accessible to the cats, is very cool during the summer. Still, I come home from work and find the cats splayed out on the living room carpet looking like they just toppled over from heat exhaustion.

If your bathroom floor is tiled, maybe you could leave the door open. She'll know the floor is cool in there and it could offer a nice break from carpet and furniture if she's so inclined. I'd personally be fine with leaving a ceiling fan on, but I personally won't run free-standing fans unless I'm at home. I think with plenty of fresh water and a cool floor, she'll be fine while you're at work.
posted by contrariwise at 6:47 PM on June 7, 2010

The cat doesn't care.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:00 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you get a slab or a couple of tiles of marble? That can provide a cool smooth surface for her. That said, cats tend to LIKE it hot. 95 degrees is nothing to most of them.
posted by The otter lady at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2010

Apparently you can get "cooling" pet blankets or beds (look like a flat cooling gel pack) but I haven't seen one.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 7:12 PM on June 7

They're called chillows. My dog has one and he likes it.
posted by Joad at 7:47 PM on June 7, 2010

From Wikipedia:

However, several features of cats' physiology are unusual and are probably due to their descent from desert-dwelling species. For instance, cats are able to tolerate quite high temperatures: humans generally start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature passes about 44.5 °C (112 °F); in contrast cats show no discomfort until their skin reaches around 52 °C (126 °F), and can tolerate temperatures of up to 56 °C (133 °F) if they have access to water.

Also, a cat's normal body temperature is higher than ours: 101.5 °F. I'd make sure your cat has access to water, open windows (preferably with some airflow), and shade. You'll be fine.
posted by sbutler at 7:56 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

seconding sbutler

Don't assume your cat feels the heat the same way you do. Cats are made for hot weather. Mine used to spend her days in an apartment that registered well above 100F with little air circulation pretty much 24 hours a day for days at a time (we were there too, and it bothered her much less than it did us). As long as she had water, she didn't seem to mind. As it is now, even when its 85F, she still seeks out the warm spots (running laptops, cable converter and other heat generating items).
posted by scrute at 8:09 PM on June 7, 2010

Buy a chillow and ask your local groomer to shave the cat. Yes, cat looks stupid, but she will be exponentially cooler.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2010

I wouldn't worry too much. I lived in a small apartment with no AC during a blistering summer in NC. I was completely miserable, but the cat was perfectly happy. She was usually stretched out and sleeping on the floor whenever I came home from work (which was also about 9 hours, from 8:30-5:30). I live in a house with a screened-up back porch now, and the cat would much rather spend a hot afternoon lying in the sunshine on the porch than in the arctic paradise of the air-conditioned indoors. As long as she has a cool surface to lie on (my old apartment had wooden floors), she'll be perfectly happy. 95 degrees is nothing to a cat.
posted by duvatney at 9:12 PM on June 7, 2010

Cats like it hot. Their body temperature is higher than ours. You've never noticed that the cat always finds the hottest place in the house to sleep? That they enjoy sunbathing in the spot of sunlight coming through the window? (That comes across snarky, I don't mean it to be.)

This is one of the reasons they don't like being bathed. A warm shower to us is like stepping into ice water for them. I had to bathe our cat once, and it was obviously not pleased. Yet, it tolerated it when I turned the water up to "uncomfortable" for me.
posted by gjc at 5:32 AM on June 8, 2010

another vote for the cat doesn't care. mine will lie on the bathroom tile floor but otherwise they're fine. it's the dogs that can't stand the heat.

ps you are required to post a photo of your kitty whenever you ask a cat-related question. IT'S THE LAW.
posted by desjardins at 7:38 AM on June 8, 2010

I doubt the cat will mind. But I know when our a/c went out last summer one of my dogs looked so miserable I put ice packs on her, so I understand your concern. Since you're planning ahead, it seems there are a variety of cooling products you can buy (they're listed for dogs, but I see no reason some wouldn't work for cats).
posted by thejanna at 8:16 AM on June 8, 2010

Buy a chillow and ask your local groomer to shave the cat. Yes, cat looks stupid, but she will be exponentially cooler.

Noooooo. Don't shave the cat. The cat will be fine and would most likely prefer not to be shaven. And if you got a chillow for her, she probably wouldn't use it unless you sprinkled catnip on it (in which case she'd tear at the thing until she falls asleep on it, but that would work for anything you sprinkle catnip on).

I've had several cats, and really all of them have done just fine in hot conditions. They hate the cold much more than they hate heat. When your place gets really cold, leave out a blanket that your cat can sleep under if she wants. And if your apartment gets a ton of sun and that's part of the reason why it gets so hot, put up light-blocking curtains on some of the windows. Maybe not all of them, though, especially if she likes to look out of them. And the kitty most likely enjoys natural light, too.

Unless your cat has some sort of medical problem that is exacerbated by heat, like asthma, she will be fine! If you really don't believe those of us who are saying this, see how she does in the place when it's hot while you're around. Chances are she'll just sprawl out on the floor or on a table.
posted by wondermouse at 9:48 AM on June 8, 2010

Yeah, no shaving the kitty. I had mine shaved (no, this is not NSFW!) because he had a ton of hairballs and uh, got junk stuck to his trunk. It looked hilarious and probably helped re: his hygiene but his fur took a long time to grow back and grew in irregularly. Regular brushing promotes bonding and will help kitty feel cooler.
posted by ShadePlant at 2:13 PM on June 8, 2010

Response by poster: ps you are required to post a photo of your kitty whenever you ask a cat-related question. IT'S THE LAW.

Better yet -- here's a video.

Recent? No.

Cute? Yes.

(And there are four more videos on her YouTube channel; she's quite prolific.)
posted by Flying Saucer at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2010

Not to jack this thread, but i also have a living space with no A/C and in my case, no electricity... my cat was panting from the heat yesterday - I didn't know cats *could* pant! I was terribly worried about him... but he seems fine today. I'm glad I read this thread though because I was starting to freak about him.
posted by patheral at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2010

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