Causes of thermoregulatory disorders in cats, prevention and treatment

  • Share This
Chris White

    The thermoregulation system plays a crucial role in the life of every warm-blooded creature. The quality of organ functions and metabolic processes necessary for life depends on it to a large extent. Each animal species has its own peculiarities in the operation of this important system. There is certain specificity in temperature regulation in cats. Violations, failures often become the cause of serious problems.It is necessary to know the triggering factors and to prevent their occurrence.

    Specifics of thermoregulation in cats

    Elevated or lower temperatures, humidity disorders, etc. have an adverse effect on the thermoregulatory system. Any of these factors can cause various malfunctions. A cat's body has reserves that allow it to maintain an optimal body temperature. But they will help only if the impact was short-lived and did not exceed a critical level.Changes in optimum body temperature have a negative effect on the functioning of the entire body.

    Dog owners know that if a dog gets hot, it will prevent overheating of the body with its tongue. It will actively evaporate moisture from it, causing the temperature to drop. A cat does not have this option. But it can also cope with short-term heat exposure.

    The main regulator in these pets is breathing. When the temperature rises, the average of 60 breaths and exhalations per minute can rise to 250 cycles. Another helper of the cat is saliva. When overheated, the animal licks its coat, the moisture evaporates and the body cools. These pets also regulate the temperature by perspiration. The glands work particularly intensively on their bodies:

    • paws,
    • muzzle,
    • abdomen.

    Cats cope better than dogs with the effects of dehydration. Even at a water loss of a fifth of the animal's total weight, they can survive if promptly treated. Cats can tolerate a lack of moisture for more than a day.

    Not all breeds can withstand low temperatures, as short-haired, hairless cats cannot maintain an optimal body temperature in the long term. Even kittens, whose thermoregulatory system is weak, cannot cope with this problem.


    Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause brain dysfunction due to overheating. There are breeds of animals that are susceptible to harmful UV rays. Unstable thermoregulation can be an individual characteristic. The risk of sunstroke is increased if there is no access to drinking water or if the animal has limitedactivity.

    Signs of this failure are:

    • elevated temperature,
    • rapid breathing,
    • a lack of coordination,
    • a general weakening,
    • sweating,
    • decreased muscle tone.

    In case of sunstroke the cat should be taken urgently to a cool place with good ventilation. The head should be poured with cold water or put a compress in the form of a moistened cloth or ice pack. The animal should be watered. If help is given in time, after two to three hours the symptoms of sunstroke will pass. But the weakened body remains a few days.

    Severe sunstroke can lead to coma, fainting, with dilated pupils and no reflexes. Asphyxia, heart failure and death may occur.

    To prevent sunstroke, limit your cat's exposure to the sun on hot days and accustom it to walks in the sun gradually. It is important to provide access to water in hot weather and fill its bowl regularly.

    Thermal shocks

    Kittens and adult animals don't tolerate prolonged stay in rooms with poor ventilation, high air temperature. Owners bringing their pets to exhibitions sometimes have to deal with heatstroke. A trip to a tropical country with a hot climate can cause such a disorder. An animal can get heatstroke in the car, if it stays in an enclosed area forin the sun. It can cause a fever of up to 41 degrees.

    With heatstroke, the following signs appear:

    • shortness of breath,
    • an increased heart rate,
    • fainting spells,
    • vomiting.

    The cat has an absent look, lays down on the floor, no activity.

    If possible, the pet should be immediately put in cold water to lower the temperature. But if such a procedure is not possible, then it is necessary to provide the cat with access to cool air. You can at least wrap it, wash its face with water, put ice on the head, massage it. After the basic signs are removed, the animal should be taken to a vet for examination.

    If the cat has to be transported in the car on long trains, you should carry an adequate supply of drinking water. If the animal stays in the cabin for a long time, air ventilation should be provided.


    Not only overheating but also hypothermia can cause disorders and malfunctions in the body. Hypothermia can be fatal. It is determined by a decreased body temperature, slow heartbeat. There are several signs that can be used to determine hypothermia:

    • curling the cat into a tight ball;
    • ruffling;
    • the appearance of muscle tremors;
    • Pallor of mucous membranes, parts of skin not covered with fur.

    Hypothermia is often one of the symptoms of disease, disorders of organs, systems. If the cat has not been exposed to the cold for a long time, it should be taken to a veterinary clinic to determine the cause of the thermoregulatory disorders.

    The greatest risk of hypothermia is in kittens whose mother dies. In the first days of life, their own thermoregulatory system does not work well, and the heat supplier is the cat. If the kitten has become cold, you should hold him in your arms until he warms up. If you need to raise the babies without their mother, you should install an infrared lamp, which will provide a heat supply. You canUse heaters, electric heaters. A water warmer is not the best option, as it cools down quite quickly. But if there are no other devices, you will have to use this method, change the water regularly.

    The activity of natural thermoregulation in cats decreases as they age. Older animals have a greater risk of hypothermia, especially if they live in cold climates. In order to prevent hypothermia and colds, the cat must have constant access to an artificial heat source, a safe heater.

    Nature has endowed cats with a good thermoregulatory system. But this does not mean that it should be subjected to tests. Attention should be paid to the prevention of disorders, exclude the impact of negative factors on the pet, prevent the occurrence of problems.

    Hi, I'm Chris White. I blog about animals and work as a professional writer. I've always been interested in the natural world, and love sharing what I learn with others. I have a BSc in Zoology from the University of Bristol, and worked as a research scientist for several years before becoming a full-time writer. My writing has appeared in publications such as BBC Wildlife Magazine, BBC Earth, The Guardian, and The Observer. I'm also passionate about animal conservation, and have volunteered with several organisations including the Born Free Foundation and Viva!