Can Cats Get Hypothermia?

Can Cats Get Hypothermia

Your cat’s thick fur does a great job protecting your pet from the elements and temperature extremes. This is why you should generally avoid shaving your cat’s coat.

But even with their built-in protection, can cats get hypothermia?

Can cats get hypothermia?

Yes, cats can get hypothermia if they get too cold. They can succumb to hypothermia especially when left in wet and freezing conditions.

Your little furry pal descended from desert wild cats. That is one of the reasons why he prefers to lounge in warm and sunny spots in your home. His coat provides him with ample protection, not only from cold weather. It may sound surprising to some people, but a cat’s fur can also help him keep cool even during the summer’s blistering heat.

When the mercury goes down, your cat’s initial reaction is to curl up. This helps in two ways. First, curling up allows him to conserve energy. Second, it allows him to generate heat. If the cold does not subside, his body will shiver in an attempt to generate more heat. When there is no let-up in the cold temperature, he can succumb to hypothermia. 

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a condition where a person’s or animal’s body temperature lowers to an extreme point.  A feline succumbs to hypothermia when he loses more heat than his body can generate.

Along with the drop in the body temperature, the heart and breathing rates slow down. Both can cause different problems including heart and kidney problems, frostbite, shallow breathing, coma, and even death.

A cat’s tolerance for cold temperature will depend on a few factors. These include how long his fur is, age, weight, and even his breed. Generally, short haired cat breeds get cold faster than those with long, thick fur.

Generally, cats can tolerate a temperature range between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A cat’s normal body temperature is usually between 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If his body temperature begins to move lower than this temperature range for a sustained period, he can succumb to hypothermia.

Hypothermia can be caused by a few things like falling into cold water, high winds, and cold weather. In rare instances, medical conditions like hyperthyroidism may also cause hypothermia. Short haired cats and newborn kittens are more susceptible to this condition. 

What are the signs of hypothermia in cats?

Initially, the signs of hypothermia are not readily apparent. But if a cat cannot find immediate relief from extreme cold temperature, he will soon exhibit the symptoms of hypothermia. These include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Pupil dilation
  • Shivering
  • Slow breathing
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness of the muscles
  • Low body temperature
  • Loss of consciousness

First aid for hypothermia in cats

If you find your cat suffering from hypothermia, you should bring him to the veterinarian for the appropriate treatment. Before going to the clinic, there are a few things that you can do to help your cat.

The first order of business is to try to increase your cat’s body temperature. If he is suffering from hypothermia because he got wet, dry him off.

You can help him increase his body temperature by wrapping him with towels that have been warmed using a dryer. Avoid using direct heat on his body like applying a heating pad

If your cat is still awake, his blood sugar might have also dropped. You can increase his blood sugar level by feeding him with syrup. 

How vets treat hypothermia in cats

Treatment for hypothermia in cats depends on the severity of the condition of each patient.

For mild cases of hypothermia, the vet will raise the cat’s body temperature by wrapping him in an insulating blanket. If the cat’s fur is still wet, his coat will be dried up using towels or a hairdryer set to low. At this point, the feline’s body must not come into contact with a cold surface.

If the cat is suffering from a moderate case of hypothermia, the vet will wrap his body in a towel. The vet may also place heating pads covered with thick fabric to raise the cat’s temperature further. The heating pads need to be wrapped in thick fabric to prevent unnecessary burns.

Finally, if the hypothermia is severe, the vet needs to act fast to prevent long term damage to the cat. At this point, the vet will turn his focus on warming the feline’s internal organs rather than raising the cat’s body temperature. This goal can be achieved through the combination of stomach lavages and enemas using warm water. In addition to these, the vet may also use an IV that contains warm fluids or a ventilator that produces warm air.

The timeframe for recovery will depend on both the severity of the hypothermia as well as how fast treatment has been administered to the cat.

While your cat is recovering, you should watch out for the reemergence of the symptoms of hypothermia.

How to prevent hypothermia in cats

As much as possible, avoid letting your cat go outside when it is raining or snowing heavily. During winter, do not let your cat stay outside for long.

If you have a swimming pool on your property, invest in a covering or any type of barrier that will prevent your cat from accidentally falling into it.  The same thing applies to water containers kept outside. Make sure that these are covered especially during the cooler months.

How to protect feral cats from hypothermia

Your pet is not the only one that can succumb to hypothermia. Feral cats are more likely to succumb to this condition due to a lack of shelter.

If you want to help protect the feral cats in your community from the cold weather, there are a few things that you can do.

First, you can build a makeshift shelter. This shelter does not need to be large or elaborate. A box large enough to accommodate a cat will do, like an unused pet carrier. Just be sure to insulate the box and provide some form of bedding like straw.

If you have money to spare, you can buy heaters or warming pads rated for outdoor use. Alternatively, you can use microwaveable heating pads.

It would also help the feral cats in your community to have access to food and water. Remember, cats have a relatively low success rate and any food given to them will be greatly appreciated.

Cats can succumb to hypothermia

Cats can and do succumb to hypothermia. Even if your pet has thick fur, do not become complacent with the belief that his fur is more than enough to keep him warm during winter. Take the necessary precautions to shield him from extreme cold weather.