Do cats have sweat glands?

Do cats have a built in cooling system? Unlike dogs that pant excessively, cats appear to have the ability to weather hot temperatures. Cats are seldom (if ever) seen sweating thus people would wonder if these furry animals have sweat glands. Although it may appear otherwise, cats do sweat because they have sweat glands.

The dermal layer of a cat’s skin has two types of glands. These are the sweat glands and the sebaceous glands. Sweat glands are small tubular glands that produce sweat that is then transported to the skin’s surface. There are two kinds of sweat glands – the apocrine sweat glands and the eccrine sweat glands. Keeping the cat cool is not the function of the apocrine glands. These sweat glands found around the hair follicles on the cat’s face, tail and scrotum are coiled tubular structures that produce a milky and odorous secretion. Discharged through the canals of the hair follicles the secretions that contain pheromones are used by cats to communicate with other cats and to sexually attract a potential mate.

Cooling the cat’s body is the main function of the eccrine glands. Eccrine sweat glands are not as large as apocrine glands but these coiled tubular glands are rooted deeply into the dermis. This gland produces a clear and odourless secretion that is called perspiration or sweat. The secretion is mostly water but since it is produced from blood plasma it contains some electrolytes. The secretion produced by the eccrine gland is discharged directly to the skin on a surface opening called pores. The amount of sweat produced depends on the number of glands and on the size of the pores. On humans, eccrine sweat glands are found all over the body but a large concentration of these glands are found on the forehead, on the neck and back as well as on the hands and feet. In cats, eccrine sweat glands are mostly found on the paw pads. Cats are not seen perspiring not only because of the fact that if ever cats do sweat, the sweat will be soaked by the fur. The main reason is that sweat will only be produced by the sweat glands on the cat’s paws. Your kitty will only be able to sweat through its little toes. On very hot days, the wet paw prints of the cat can be seen in the tiled floor. The wet paw prints are proofs that the cat indeed can sweat because they have sweat glands.

The kind of sweat glands cats have cannot efficiently maintain the body temperature within the normal range. The paw pad is not a very large area and therefore would not be expected to have many sweat glands. Moreover, maintaining normal body temperature would be difficult if the cat walks on a hot surface on a sweltering day. So how do cats beat the heat? A cat’s normal body temperature is between 38 and 39ᵒ C while human’s normal body temperature is pegged at about 36.8ᵒ C. This makes a cat more able to tolerate heat. It appears that cats are sensible animals. Cats have the inclination to laze under the sun. These animals would even sleep on roofs. However, on very hot days, cats would look for shaded area. Cats would be seen sleeping under the shade of a tree or on roofed structures. Cats are relentless groomers but these animals will be noticed to groom more during hot weather. Saliva will be used to lick the fur. Cooling will be achieved when the saliva evaporates and dries off from the fur. Just like dogs, cats can also pant when it is terribly hot and in the process, the cat would inhale moist air that will dissipate the heat from the hottest part of the body. Cats have very few sweat glands but these animals have efficient ways of maintaining normal body temperature.

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