Cat, road trip, hot weather, weak AC in the car
May 23, 2014 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Moving this weekend! With a cat. Three hours in the car. Air conditioning in the car is not awesome. What can I do to ensure the safety of the cat?

The AC will eventually get the car to a comfortable temperature, but it takes a while. It'll take about 30min to get the interior temperature to where it wants to be.

It's Memorial Day weekend in Oklahoma, so it'll probably be decently warm outside (mid-80s). I'm worried about the cat in the car during the trip. For a solid hour we'll be on the turnpike with very limited opportunities to get OFF the turnpike.

What can we do to mitigate this? Put an ice pack under his carrier (made of cloth, not a hardshell) to keep it and him cool? Keep the windows open until the AC can really start doing it's thing? Drive around for half an hour to get the AC kicking a little bit before we move him into it?

How much danger is the cat in? What are the warning signs of an overheated feline? How rapidly do we go from "uncomfortable" to "dangerous"? If we find ourselves in a bad situation heat/cat-wise, what do we do? What else do I need to know?
posted by radiosilents to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
almost forgot : obligatory pictures of said cat are located here
posted by radiosilents at 3:34 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you can survive in the car, so can the cat. Cats are actually quite tolerant of heat. Just don't leave her in the car unattended AT ALL. If you get out, so does she, even if you're carrying around the carrier outside. You might want to consider a harness for her as well, so you can open car doors without worrying you'll lose her.

You can offer her water, but she might not drink it. If she's panting, she needs to cool off. If it were my panting cat, I'd take a cool washcloth to the pads of the feet, but i have no idea if thats the accepted practice, just something i thought of now that might work and couldn't hurt. I'd also dampen/soak the fur, which will annoy her to cleaning it off and therefore hydrating herself. But I really wouldn't worry too much, like I said if you're ok, so's the cat.
posted by cgg at 3:38 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Get a Furminator! My cat's a shorthair like yours, and it still manages to pull giant balls of hair out of his undercoat. They generally have them at Petsmart/Petco/similar stores. It'll thin out his coat considerably.
posted by almostmanda at 3:50 PM on May 23, 2014

Can you try to let the car sit running with the AC for some time to cool it off before you get in it?

Also maybe see if the cat will use one of those water bottle hangy-drippy things that you usually see in bunny cages.
posted by radioamy at 4:24 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have some cash, take the car to a local mom and pop repair shop and have them inspect the AC system and recharge it. This should be like.. $80-150. Could possibly even be less if they just go "oh yep" and charge it up quickly.

Because yea, Unless by "car" you mean "15 passenger former church van"... the AC should be strong enough to get it down to seriously ass-freezing temps within a couple minutes at most, even if it's a wimpy 1.4l economy car with a tiny AC. The fact that it's not(unless this is a model with notoriously bad AC, which google would instantly reveal) makes me think that a quick inspection and recharge will instantly assuage your concerns here.

This is of course ignoring the fact that cats aren't overheated unless they're panting, and that cats are originally desert animals which can withstand way more heat than you'd probably comfortably sit through.
posted by emptythought at 4:37 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Like others have said, cats are pretty robust heat-wise. You could fill some bottles with water and keep them cool and occasionally give him a wet towel to cuddle against if he wants. Sometimes I keep a damp teacloth on the bathroom floor in the summer--my cat likes to hang out there (presumably because the tile is cool) and once in a blue moon he seems to like the teacloth.

I think you probably ought to be more concerned about him being pissed off about being in a hot car than about heatstroke (though cats can get heatstroke), so maybe take steps to cool the car off a bit more than usual before putting him in the car.

(FWIW, my mom drove from Minneapolis to Chicago to Connecticut to Vermont with a cat one summer and didn't do anything in particular. He wasn't happy about it, but was fine. My mom had a litter box and some water in the back of the station wagon and let him avail himself of those when she stopped. But for three hours, you shouldn't have to worry about that.)
posted by hoyland at 5:04 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the summer here, it sometimes gets into the mid-forties (Celsius), which is around 115 F. We try to keep our cat inside then, but she sometimes escapes and lies in the sun, because she is stoopid.

A couple of times we have found her there with her eyes glazed, panting, hardly responsive. I assume it is heatstroke. The vet had us immerse her paws in cold water, and rub her down with a wet cold cloth. She actually loves the cloth rubbing, and so we tend to do it whenever it is really hot, even if she isn't outside. I guess it feels like a wet tongue licking her?

So yeah, take some wet cloths in a pack with an icepack to keep them cold, and stroke them over her fur whenever she seems hot.

But I'm pretty sure she's going to be fine.
posted by lollusc at 5:37 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Cats get a lot of their water from food, and they sometimes can't tell if they're thirsty, so I would put some wet food (the kind with plenty of gravy) in her carrier with her.

To reassure you a bit, though, I've had to drive a couple hours in swampy DC/Bmore July heat in my parents' car, which has no air conditioning, with my cat in the backseat. We were also driving to get to the airport for a trans-continental flight followed by yet more driving to get to our apartment, so there wasn't much relief for her after that drive. My cat *was* panting in the car and I was worried about heat stroke, but she was more scared than in danger and was absolutely fine with no food or water (she refused to drink any). Your cat will probably be extremely upset with you for at least some of your drive, but she probably won't be in a lot of danger.
posted by rue72 at 5:44 PM on May 23, 2014

I agree with freezing towels and putting one down for the cat to lie on.

Another note, when cats gets stressed, they also pant. Moving often makes cats stressed. Heat will exacerbate stress. Consider the recharge mentioned above to make your move as low stress as possible.
posted by superfille at 6:00 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't leave the cat in the car without you. Cars get very hot very fast, even with the windows rolled down. Plus, what if something you expected to only take a few minutes ends up taking a lot longer and you come back to baked cat?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:43 PM on May 23, 2014

As long as the cat is otherwise healthy, they'll be fine if you're fine. As others have said, cats are warm weather animals and deal with heat much better than doffs would.

Data point - I got my cat when I lived in Egypt and we lived in a place without air conditioning. She never had a problem with temperatures in the 40s and occasionally 50s (115+F). Granted, she was more used to high temperatures, but 30 minutes as your car cools off is not going to hurt your kitty.
posted by scrute at 7:03 PM on May 23, 2014

I've done this a few times, as I never seem to have cars with good AC. I put refrigerated water bottles in with my cat. It's cold, but not too cold to lie on and are easily bought at gas stations.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:00 PM on May 23, 2014

My show little preference for the air conditioned parts of my house when I lived in Chicago. Fundamentally, if she's healthy, she will be OK with the temperature. If you want to be sure, witch her over to wet food for a couple of days before the trip, to make sure her water levels are up. The stress of being in a car, in a carrier (which is actually less than the stress of being in the car, not in the carrier, but the cat doesn't believe that - that's a whole 'nother issue. I find it takes two or three hours for a cat to accept the situation as fait accomplis - so it's liable to be a long trip in that sense, and this exacerbate the heat situation.

As others have said, panting is a trouble sign, but it can go along with stress as much as with heat - so your big goal should be to avoid having that sustained. I'd prioritize keeping the cat somewhere where she can see you, and not see the road - a blanket or sheet over the carrier might help here. And ideally if you can arrange it so that you can touch the cat to reassure her, that might be helpful, if touch reassures your cat.

You'll both survive. A couple years ago I spent 36 hours (almost) straight in a car with four cats, when all the motels in the town I'd planned to sleep in were full, and I had to overnight in a rest area. We all survived.
posted by wotsac at 9:50 PM on May 23, 2014

Provide water, but I would not put wet food in the car with the cat: she may get carsick or be too unhappy to eat, the food may leak on the carrier or car, and in real heat it will smell. Feed the cat hydrating food the night before; she won't starve in three hours.

Keep the carrier seatbelted in the back seat, out of direct sunlight. Shade from a cloth or those window-cling shades used to shield baby carriers will work fine.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:29 PM on May 23, 2014

Three hours? Kitty should be fine. Just keep water and ice or cold packs handy just in case, but even with a weak AC it'll still be cool enough. Cats are pretty good with heat.

I was going to mention one thing you can check - does your car have a cabin air filter? If so, these things can clog up over time and cause the AC to not work as well because the fan is having a hard time circulating air. If you do have one and it hasn't been changed in a while, you can usually get them for not too much money at the nearby auto parts store and change it out yourself in a fee minutes (depending on the car, of course.)
posted by azpenguin at 6:29 AM on May 24, 2014

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