Prolonged exposure to cold results in a drop in body temperature. This is
most likely to occur when a cat
is wet. Hypothermia also occurs with shock, after a long period
under anesthesia, and in newborn kittens. Prolonged chilling
burns up the available energy in the body and predisposes the cat to low blood
The signs of hypothermia are violent shivering followed by listlessness and
lethargy, a rectal temperature below 97°F (36°C), and finally, collapse and
coma. Hypothermic cats can withstand extended periods of cardiac arrest because
the low body temperature lowers the metabolic rate. CPR may be successful in
Heartworm disease, so named because the adult worms live in the right side of
the heart, is common in dogs, less so in cats. In fact, cats may be
accidental hosts only, and certainly they are less perfect hosts for this
parasite than dogs are.
Treatment: Wrap your cat in a blanket or coat and carry him into the house.
If the cat is wet (having fallen into icy water or been out in cold rain), give
him a warm bath. Rub vigorously with towels to dry the skin.
Warm a chilled cat by applying warm water packs, wrapped in towels, to the
armpits, chest, and abdomen. The temperature of the pack should be about that
of a baby’s bottle-warm to the wrist. Take the cat’s rectal temperature every
10 minutes. Continue to change the packs until the rectal temperature reaches
100°F (37.8°C). Do not warm the cat with a hair dryer, which may cause
As the cat begins to move about, give him some honey or a few spoonfuls of a
glucose solution-made by adding 4 teaspoons of sugar to a pint of warm water (7
g of sugar added to 500 ml of warm water). If your cat won’t drink or lick it,
dab a bit of honey or Karo syrup on his gums.
Frostbite is damage to the skin and underlying tissues caused by extreme
cold. It often accompanies hypothermia. It most commonly involves the toes,
ears, scrotum, and tail. These areas are the most exposed and are only lightly
protected by fur. At first, frostbitten skin is pale and white. With the return
of circulation, it becomes red and swollen. Later it may peel. Eventually, it
looks much like a burn, with a line of demarcation between live and dead
tissue. The dead area will turn dark and become hardened and brittle. The
actual extent of the damage may not be apparent for a week or more. The dead
skin separates in one to three weeks.
Treatment: Warm frostbitten areas by immersing in warm (not hot) water for
20 minutes or until the tissue becomes flushed. Never apply snow or ice. Tissue
damage is greatly increased if thawing is followed by refreezing. Do not rub or
massage the affected parts, because the damaged tissue is easily destroyed.
Your cat should be taken to the veterinarian for follow-up care. Topical or
oral antibiotics may be
As sensation returns to the cold areas, they may be painful. Do not let your
cat excessively groom those areas or chew on them.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"