How To Keep A Cat Cool In The Car

You might be wondering how to keep a cat cool in the car when it’s 100 degrees outside? This is the what I’ve been wondering, especially, since we’re getting ready to take a long road trip.

The summertime can get really hot inside of a car, this is why you NEVER want to leave them alone inside. You’ll also want to make sure they are properly hydrated and optimizing the air circulation in your vehicle.

Both dogs and cats are prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. As a pet owner, it’s important to be able to spot the signs.

Can Cats Handle Hot Weather?

Just like humans, cats’ cannot tolerate extremely hot weather. Cats will pant and sweat through their foot pads to help get rid of excess sweat. If the feline cannot get relief from the heat, and their temperature keeps rising, they will eventually suffer exhaustion and heat stroke.

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Cat Overheating Symptoms To Be Aware Of

If Fluffy is starting to feel some discomfort from the heat, they will start to:

  • Become restless and start trying to find a cool spot they can lay in.
  • Begin panting, drooling, or excessively grooming themselves to get relief.
  • Their rectal temperature will become slightly elevated.

Once their body temperature rises, they will start showing signs of heat exhaustion, which include:

  • Rapid breathing and pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering and inability to walk without stumbling
  • Redness of the mouth and tongue
  • Lethargy

If their body temperature continues to rise, they can eventually collapse and have seizures or slip into a coma.

This video will show you a cat that is showing signs of heat exhaustion. However, it’s important to remember that every breed is different. Some will show you signs in advance, while others may not start exhibiting any signs at all.

What Is A Safe Temperature For Cats?

If you’re driving with a cat, you can rest assured that Fluffy will be comfortable at around 75 to 85 degrees. As long as their body temperature remains around 100℉, they are fine. When their temperature drops below 90℉, they are too cold.

Keeping your feline friend comfortable while you’re traveling with your cat can be somewhat of a balancing act.

These tips will help ensure that both you and your four-legged friend have a safe and comfortable journey.

How Do Cats Cool Down?

Unfortunately, cats are not very good at cooling down their body temperature, and can quickly become overheated. They don’t sweat through their skin as we do.

When you’re traveling with your cat, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they are comfortable Here are some steps that you can take to ensure that your furbaby does not suffer from heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Properly Hydrate Your Cat Before Traveling

Before jumping in the vehicle and hitting the road with your cat, take some precautionary measures when traveling in the heat.

Avoid feeding them at least 2-3 hours before your road trip. Traveling on a full belly can attribute to motion sickness. Make sure that they are well hydrated before putting them in the automobile.

If he refuses to drink, try to encourage him. You can do so by:

  • Letting him drink from a running faucet. Some cats love standing on the countertop and drink when the water is running.
  • Try letting him drink from the toilet bowl. (I know that sounds disgusting, but some pets love it and as long as there are no chemicals inside, they should be fine.)
  • Try adding some ice cubes to the water. (some cats prefer drinking cold water)
  • Change the water bowl and see if it encourages them to drink. Believe it or not, the type of water bowl can cause the water to taste differently for your feline.

Try getting them to drink some water before you put them in the carrier. Give them some time to see if they need to use the litter box.

If your vehicle has been sitting in the sun, you’ll want to run the air conditioner before putting Fluffy inside. Let the vehicle run and get the temperature to a comfortable 72-75 degrees.

Groom Them Before The Car Ride

Before going on a long trip, take the time to brush your cat’s body. Daily brushing can help keep your cat’s hair mat free.

This is especially important for long-haired cats that are prone to matted hair. You may even want to consider taking them to groomers to ensure that their hair will not trap the heat and cause heat stroke symptoms.

I’d recommend packing a hair shedding tool, which you can use on your cat while on vacation. It’s easy to use and you can comb them quickly every morning before starting on the journey.

You’d be surprised at how much a cat can shed in just a day.

If your cat needs a trim, you may want to consider using an electric shaver for cats to keep them comfortable in the heat. This is a great way to get rid of all that excess hair that can attribute to your cat getting heat stroke.

Optimize Air Circulation In The Vehicle

Most newer model vehicles make it easy to keep the automobile comfortable because they have temperature settings for the front and back of the vehicle.

This means that you can set a comfortable temperature in the back of the vehicle where your cat is sitting in their car carrier.

However, if you’re in an older model vehicle, then the temperature can only be controlled in the front. You’ll need to make sure that the air flow from the AC reaches the backseat where Fluffy is.

You can also try cracking the windows to increase air circulation. This will only work if you’re not in an area that has high humidity.

If your vehicle doesn’t have air conditioner then you’ll have to improvise to keep your feline cool. Invest in a small portable fan that you can plug into a cigarette lighter.

You can also purchase a charger with a cellphone adapter in case you need to charge your phone while running the fan. Place the fan directly in front of your cat’s carrier to help keep them cool.

Use A Window Shade to Block The Direct Sunlight

Your car can get really hot, even while driving. The temperature inside the vehicle will usually depend on the position of the sun. Try using sunshades like mothers use to protect their babies.

If your cat carrier is sitting in the backseat, a sunshade for the windows can help block out the sun. Being able to block out the sun can help cool the back seat by 10℉ or more.

Window shades can be used for so much more than keeping your cat cool in the car. They can be used to keep your passengers, kids, or infants cool. Install them on both rear passenger side windows as well as the side door window.

Just make sure that they don’t block your peripheral vision while driving.

Apply Sunscreen To Protect Their Skin

Just like humans, cats with pink skin and coats are predisposed to skin cancers and sunburns.

These can be avoided by keeping your pet out of the direct sunlight and using some sort of pet-friendly sunscreen.

Let Them Have Access to Water In The Vehicle

A well-hydrated cat is less likely to suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. While traveling, make sure that your four-legged friend has access to water.

You can put a small bowl inside the carrier to keep them hydrated during the trip. If he/she doesn’t like drinking during water in the moving vehicle, you can try giving them some wet food.

Wet food is great for hydrating your cat. Canned food contains 78% water, and still provides your feline with the nourishment they require.

Use A Sun Deflector for Your Vehicle

In 70 degrees on a nice sunny day, your vehicle can get up to 104 degrees after being parked for a half an hour. When you arrive at your destination or park in the sun, make sure you use a sunshade to help black the direct sunlight from entering your vehicle.

This will help keep your car more pleasant when entering back into your vehicle. I personally use a sun deflector every summer and it is a great way to keep it cool.

Leather seats can get much hotter than those made with fabric. If you’re not careful, they can burn you and your kitty when you sit down.

Before putting your cat back in the vehicle, make sure that it’s not too hot. If it is, you will want to run the air conditioner to get the temperature to a comfortable level.

Use A Cooling Pad to Keep Their Carrier Comfortable

Invest in a self-cooling mat pad that you can place at the bottom of your cat’s kennel or crate. Some people refer to them as thermal pads because they can be used to create heat or cold for your cat.

Most of these products have a gel-like substance that automatically recharges and provides relief for up to 3 hours. You don’t have to worry about plugging it into a power source to use.

It’s perfect to use while traveling with your cat, at home, or any place that your cat loves to lay down and sleep. If you’re planning on using it for the first time, take the time to get your cat used to it.

At first, your cat will try to avoid it because they don’t know what it is. Just like anything whether it’s a cat harness or cat backpack, you need to introduce it to them and get them accustomed to it.

Consider A Cat Sedative Before The Car Ride

Riding in cars can be very stressful for felines. Increased anxiety can make it difficult for your cat to breathe and cause them to overheat quickly.

Increased feline anxiety can also put unnecessary strain your which results in an increase in a resting heart rate. This means that it will be more challenging to make your cat comfortable, because they will be exerting more energy trying to breathe normally.

If your cat hates riding in cars and nothing you’ve tried seems to work. You may want to consider using sedatives for cats to help ensure that your cat arrives to your destination safely,.

Of course, it’s important to understand how to sedate a cat for travel. If you’re not sure or have never done it before, you will want to check with your veterinarian before your trip.

They will be able to ensure that your cat sleeps the entire trip so you won’t have to worry about dealing with their anxious behaviors while trying to keep them cool.

Make Plenty Of Stops

One of the best ways to keep your cat from overheating is to make sure that you’re making plenty of stops along the way. They’ll have the chance to get out of their carrier and stretch their legs.

There are plenty of smartphone apps that you can download and plan some stops at pet friendly rest areas on your route.

You can even pack a picnic and sit in the shade with your cat. Put their harness on to make sure they don’t try to run away.

Also, make sure that they get plenty of rest while in the shade. Exercising or playing around too much an cause them to get too hot.

This is a good time to thoroughly check your cat and see if they feel hot. If they do, you can try cooling them down by putting water on your hands and rubbing their fur.

Don’t Sleep In Your Vehicle

You might be tempted to try sleeping in your vehicle at a rest area because you want to save money. However, if you’re traveling in the South, it can be hot and humid during the night.

There are plenty of cat friendly hotels that will welcome your four-legged friend. Places like Motel 6 or La Quinta don’t charge pet fees for your cat to stay.

Staying in some type of lodging can help your cat cool down and sleep comfortably.

Plan Your Vacation For The Cooler Months

I know that this can be challenging, especially, if your job only allows you to take vacation during a specific time during the year. When I worked at the post office, I was unable to schedule vacations during the times I wanted, unless I planned well in advance.

I just wasn’t high enough on the seniority pool. So I basically had to take vacations whenever most people weren’t scheduling them.

The hottest months in the United States are June, July, and August. The best time to travel with your feline is the Spring or Fall. The temperatures are neither too hot or cold.

If possible avoid traveling with your cat in the car during those months. Your cat will be more comfortable traveling when it’s cooler. Read my traveling with cats in a car to get more tips to ensure your cat is safe and actually enjoys the ride.

Of course, you want to avoid traveling in the extreme cold as cats don’t do very well in the cold.

Travel During Cooler Hours

Of course, I realize that it’s not always optimal to take vacations based around the comfort level of your feline. Life happens and sometimes we’re expected to travel unexpectedly or just can’t avoid traveling in the heat.

If this is the case, you can consider traveling in the evening when the sun is not as hot. The hottest part of the day during the Summer is around 3:00 PM.

You could get an early start and drive as far as you can before the heat gets unbearable. If you’re a night owl, you can drive in the evening or night when it’s cooler.

At night you’ll realize that there is less traffic and it’s a lot cooler when you roll down your windows.

Bottom Line

Hopefully, these tips will help you keep Fluffy or any of your pets cool while riding in your vehicle during the summer months. Pay attention to how they are behaving and if you start to notice any signs of exhaustion or heat stroke, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Ignoring it can lead to your cat having seizures and possibly even slipping into a coma.

If all else fails and you don’t feel comfortable taking them with you, you might want to consider boarding them or leaving them at home with a family member or a friend.

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References and Further Reading

VetStreet – Summer Hazards for Your Cat