Today is the first day of summer and much of the country is already in the middle of a heatwave. Here in Chicago they are saying it’s the hottest June in 35 years. Summer provides many challenges to properly caring for feral cats and animals in general. Between the heat, the insects, and all the noisy outdoor activities there are lots of dangers to indoor and outdoor animals.
Below are my top 5 Summer Care Tips for Cats
Provide plenty of water: This is always important, but truly essential in the summer month. Make sure there is plenty of fresh cold water for your cats to drink whether they are indoors or outdoors. Since cats have a tendency to not like drinking out of water bowls (at least mine don’t), there are a few tricks to ensure your cat gets plenty of water. Provide indoor cats with a source of running water such as the kitchen faucet or a pet fountain. You can also mix a spoonful of water into wet food before serving it. I do this with my feral cats all the time, in the winter because the water freezes so fast, and in the summer because it is so hot. Another trick I use is to put ice cubes in the water. I had a feral cat who loved to play with the ice cubes. Even if they don’t play with the ice cubes it helps to keep the water cool.
Provide shaded outdoor areas: If you are caring for feral cats or have animals that spend most of their time outside make there are are plenty of shaded spots for them to relax. Bushes and trees are a great cool place for animals to relax, but don’t underestimate the power of a patio umbrella, tarp or even the shade thrown by chairs. My feral cats love to sleep under our grill (which is covered) and under a plastic table covered in a tarp. I would think both these spots would be too warm, but they love to lounge their in the summer heat, away from the sun.
Fleas and Ticks: These little pests can become a huge nuisance if not properly cared for. All animals should have regular preventative flea and tick treatments, to help stop any infestations before they start. Since it is not possible or plausible for most feral caregivers to provide regular flea and tick treatments directly to the cats, they can take steps to treat the environment. I saw signs of flea dirt on my cats and picked up some dichotomous powder to sprinkle in their sleeping areas. The directions saw to apply directly to the animals, so I know this won’t hurt the cats. Apparently the fleas breath it in and it kills them (I won’t go into details, as my vet did when describing how it works. Just know its safe for animals but not for the fleas).
Food: Feeding outdoor cats can be tricky at the best of times. Heat, bugs and active wildlife can add to the problems during the summer. Alley Cat Allies recommends following the 30 min rule for feeding. Any food not eaten after 30 minutes gets picked up and removed. This is an important tip year round. You don’t want to attract any unwanted visitors such as dogs, raccoons, rats or insects. Never leave food out all day, or unattended, especially if the cats you are feeding are not on your property. Pick up all food at night so as not to attract raccoons, rats, and other wildlife. Alley Cat Allies also suggests using an elevated food bowl or feeding station to keep ants and other insects out of the food bowls. You can learn more about their feeding suggestions here.
Trapping: If you do trap cats in the summer make sure you don’t leave the trap in direct sunlight on hot days. Also don’t leave the trap on surfaces such as asphalt that will give off heat, as this can heat the bars of the trap and burn the cat’s paws. If you are considering trapping on a hot day make sure you have someplace cool and ventilated for the cat to stay until its appointment. If the only place you have to keep your cat is a garage, consider waiting to trap until a cooler day. Remember cats in traps are already stressed, adding the stress of heat can be deadly.
There are so many simple things you can do to keep your feral cats and pets cool and healthy this summer. Take tiny steps to ensure no problems later! Make sure you know the signs of heat stroke in cats, both for your indoor and outdoor cats!
One final word, though it doesn’t directly relate to feral cats. NEVER under any circumstances leave a cat, dog, or small child alone in a car. Even if you crack the window on your car. It takes a matter of minutes for the car to heat up like an oven. Since animals and children cannot cool themselves like adult humans do, and are powerless to remove themselves from this situation, this can lead to heatstroke, brain damage, dehydration and Think of it, you don’t like to sit in your car on a hot day without the AC on. Imagine sitting in a hot car with a fur coat on.