Hot days call for all sorts of measures to beat the heat. Besides drinking plenty of water, we sweat, dogs pant, and cats? Well, they might retire into a shadier spot or dash inside. Chances are, you’ve never seen your cat show any sign that she’s actually sweating it out.
As a result, you might wonder: Do cats sweat? And if not, how do cats cool down?
Keep reading to learn whether or not cats sweat and how they manage to keep cool no matter the weather, with insight from experts in feline physiology.
Do Cats Sweat?
First, know this—although you might not be able to see it, cats do indeed sweat, says Dr. Kristi Flynn, an assistant professor in the department of veterinary clinical sciences at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota.
But as it turns out, the overall answer is somewhat complicated, says Dr. Joseph Taboada, associate dean for curriculum and academic affairs and professor of companion animal internal medicine at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge.
There’s a reason you’ve never seen your cat shake off beads of perspiration in the summertime. Exactly where, why, and how cats sweat is a little different compared to humans.
Do Cats Have Sweat Glands?
Like us, cats have sweat glands, but theirs aren’t located all over their body. Rather, cats’ sweat glands are found in only a few relatively hairless areas such as between their foot pads, around their lips, and on the skin surrounding their anus, says Taboada.
So, how do cats sweat? This is where it gets a little complicated. Cats don’t typically sweat in the same way that we do to cool off—often, it’s more of a response to stress, Taboada adds.
When a cat feels scared or stressed out, her body releases stress hormones which in turn trigger her sweat glands to release sweat. “Because of this, a stressed cat in the clinic will sometimes leave little wet pawprints on a stainless steel table,” he says.
Still, even though cats don’t sweat so much to beat the heat, they do need to maintain a stable body temperature. All mammals—humans, dogs, and cats alike—need to keep their body temperature in check as a part of homeostasis, or the body’s internal balance necessary for essential chemical processes. A cat’s body temperature needs to stay within a normal range of about 100.5 to 102.5 degrees.
How Do Cats Keep Cool?
“The primary way that cats cool themselves is by licking themselves,” says Taboada. This is why you may notice your cat grooming herself more often throughout warm spring and summer months, he says.
As it turns out, your cat doesn’t just lick her fur coat to remove stray hairs or pests like fleas. With every sweep of her tongue, she leaves behind saliva which helps cool her off as it evaporates off of her skin, according to a 2018 study in PNAS.
Cats also cool themselves by retiring to cooler areas and taking a break from play and other activities when it’s hot. “They’ll find a cool spot and hunker down, using less energy and, as a result, making less heat,” explains Taboada.
An important note: While dogs often use panting to cool down, cats don’t, says Flynn. You might notice your kitten or cat panting after particularly vigorous play (which is fine), but if there’s no apparent cause for her panting, it could be a sign of a deeper health issue like feline asthma. If you find your cat panting, she could be in serious distress, so take her into see a veterinarian immediately, says Flynn.
Tips for Helping Your Cat Stay Cool
As a pet parent, it’s pretty easy to keep your cat safe and healthy throughout the year.
Make sure your cat always has a full water bowl to rehydrate, as well as access to a cool and shady area inside in order to escape the heat, says Flynn.
And if you see wet paw prints that could indicate anxiety in your cat, consider asking yourself why your cat might be feeling stressed out.