Well, I tried to take Rhapsody to cool off in air conditioning during
the hottest part of this afternoon, and I nearly killed him in the
It was 90F in my bedroom, according to the thermometer on my atomic
clock. Rhapsody had eaten breakfast earlier, licked his bowl clean,
groomed himself, and even briefly played with a ping pong ball. But as
afternoon wore on and the temperature climbed, he was just lying on
his side breathing fast (but not open-mouthed).
I had an errand to do at the university, and the staff there know I
don't have air conditioning and had invited me to come work in their
nice cool office for a while. I packed up my laptop and the paperwork
I had to do, and set off. I thought it would be a good thing to take
Rhapsody with me, so he could also spend some time in the nice cool
air conditioned office. It seemed like a good idea at the time!
But my van doesn't have a working air conditioner either, and I'm sure
the temperature inside it was at least 120F, possibly even higher.
Rather than cook Rhapsody in the van just to drive him to an air
conditioned office, I decided to leave the van in the driveway and go
to campus (a couple of miles away) in my power wheelchair. I don't use
the wheelchair inside the house. It stays in my van so I can use it
when out and about. I didn't even bring Rhapsody into the ovenlike van
for the few minutes it took to deploy the wheelchair lift and get the
chair out. I let him stay in the shade of the front porch while I got
Then off we went. I started out holding Rhapsody on my lap, wearing
his harness and with the leash looped over the arm of the wheelchair.
He quickly scrambled to his preferred perch under the wheelchair seat,
on top of the battery box. (There's no risk of electrocution there.
The batteries and cables are secured inside the box. The wheel motors
are also safely contained where no feline body parts can get injured
About halfway to the university, while crossing through a park, I
leaned over and peeked under the seat to see how Rhapsody was doing.
YIKES! He was panting heavily with gaping open mouth. I stopped my
chair in a shady spot under a tree, got down on the ground, and
dragged Rhapsody out. In the process I discovered that the space
between the battery box and the chair seat had trapped a pocket of hot
air from inside my van. I had left the van home so as not to cook
Rhapsody on a 5-minute drive from home to campus, and the silly cat
had cooked himself in a pocket of van-heated air for the much longer
time it took to travel by wheelchair instead of by van!
I put Rhapsody on the grass in the shade. He kept trying to go back
under the chair seat. I wouldn't let him. After a while he was no
longer gasping, so I held him firmly on my lap and continued on,
stopping at a drinking fountain to wipe some cool water on his paw
pads, ears, and tongue.
The rest of the way to campus I stayed in shade as much as I could,
and ended up leaning over him to shield him from direct sun when there
was no shade. Still, he was panting heavily by the time we got there.
Before arriving at the building that was my destination, I ducked into
a building next door where there's a food place, and asked for some
ice water. I took some napkins and again cooled down Rhapsody's paw
pads, and wiped down his head and back. Black fur really sucks in
solar heat! We stayed in that building until Rhapsody once again
stopped panting and was breathing with his mouth closed. During this
time I called my vet's office for cat-cooling instruction.
After Rhapsody was breathing better again, I draped some wet napkins
over his back, stuffed some more under his paws, and went back out
into the heat to the building I'd been aiming for all along. As soon
as I wheeled into the office I asked for a towel or a t-shirt soaked
in cool water. Two people ran and got us more wet paper towels (not
realizing I already had ice water and napkins), and one person ran to
get and soak a t-shirt. I put Rhapsody on the floor in the nice cool
office and wrapped him in the shirt. (Photo at
Thank goodness Rhapsody recovered quickly and was soon breathing
closed-mouthed and more slowly than he had all day. He shook off the
t-shirt, groomed himself, and ate a treat I offered him. I called my
vet's office again and updated them.
One of the people at the office gave us a ride home in her
air-conditioned car. I had to leave my wheelchair at the office and
will need to go back in my van to retrieve it.
Now Rhapsody has had his weekly vitamin B injection, given with about
100 ml of subQ fluid (B complex injections sting unless diluted in
lots of fluid) and has eaten his dinner, and is once again lying on
his bed breathing fast but not open-mouthed.
I *tried* to get him some relief from the heat!
Jim Sinclair jisincla@...