With long hot days and soaring summer temperatures comes the risk of dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn, not only for you but for your pets too. Here are some simple tips to help ensure your cat remains healthy, cool and comfortable this summer.
1. Shade your house
Close the blinds and curtains to keep the sun out and keep your home cooler. An added bonus is that you’ll also reduce your electricity costs as your air-conditioner won’t need to work so hard to cool the room. If your cat usually goes outside during the day, ensure there is adequate shade available near the house. Please keep outdoor cats indoors during a heat wave – cats love to bask in the sun and are unaware of the dangers of heat stroke and sunburn.
2. Leave the fan or air conditioning on
Keep your cat cool and circulate the air with a floor or ceiling fan. On very hot days you may like to leave the air conditioning on; to save power restrict the air conditioning and your cat to one room – rooms with tiled floors such as the bathroom, laundry and kitchen are ideal, as they’re much cooler.
3. Raise your cat’s bed
Elevate your cat’s bed off the floor and create a more comfortable sleeping environment by allowing the air to circulate underneath the bed. You can either purchase a bed with legs, or consider installing a cat hammock – they are simple to make and easy to hang from the walls or ceiling.
4. Hydration is essential
Make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh drinking water throughout the day, especially if you’re out at work or intend to be away from the house for more than a few hours. It is often a good idea to leave multiple water bowls (out of direct sunlight of course) in various locations around the house.
5. Ice cubes are cool
Add a few ice cubes to your cat’s drinking bowl to keep their water chilled for a few hours. For a cool, tasty and hydrating treat, you can freeze ice cubes of chicken or beef stock. I also give my cats a few ice cubes to play with on the kitchen floor – they’ll usually lick them or play a game of ice-cube hockey with their paws – it’s a great way to keep your cat cool!
6. Consider a lion cut
It’s not much fun wearing a fur-coat in summer and your cat can’t strip down to a short and singlet. You may want to consider a visit to the grooming salon for a lion cut, which basically involves shaving your cat’s body, but leaving the face / neck, legs and tip of the tail unshaven. Last year, in the heat of the Queensland summer (which reached 44C / 111F), my cats had lion cuts, which cooled them down significantly – being ‘naked’ gave them renewed energy and their appetites returned. Lion Cuts are not just a fashion statement, although Ava (pictured below) does look fabulous! My cats are ‘indoor only’ – please be careful of shaving any cat that spends time outside as without a layer of fur for protection you will increase their risk of sunburn. Sunscreen isn’t advisable, as most cats will lick it off and it is potentially toxic.
7. Use cold packs
Fill a hot water bottle with ice cold water or freeze a bottle of water and place it near your cat’s bedding for added coolness and comfort during the day. Alternatively you can freeze a damp towel or use an unopened packet of frozen peas. Avoid commercial gel packs though, as it is too easy for your cat to pierce the plastic covering with their sharp claws and accidentally ingest the contents.
8. Cool your cat with a damp towel
Stroke your cat from head to tail with a cool, dampened towel or cloth to help cool them down. Whilst cats generally don’t like water, most will tolerate this if they can feel the cooling benefit.
9. Minimise playtime
Don’t engage your cat in any strenuous playtime activity, encourage rest and relaxation instead. A game of ice-cube hockey allows them to play with a few ice cubes on a tiled floor and is the perfect game to cool them down. Just make sure you mop up afterwards, so you don’t slip on the puddle.
10. Never leave your cat in a parked car
The temperature inside a locked car rises quickly, and cats will overheat in a matter of minutes. If you have to take your cat in the car (e.g. to a vet appointment) then turn the air conditioning on and make sure the air-flow reaches your cat’s carrier. It’s also advisable to travel at the coolest times of the day – early morning and evening are best.
Importantly, know the symptoms of heat stroke
If your cat seems to be having difficulty breathing, is panting excessively, drooling, appears to be drunk or seems to be losing consciousness you need to get to a vet immediately. These are signs of heat stroke, which can be potentially fatal if not treated straight away.
How do you keep your cat cool and comfortable during summer? Please share…
Top image: Lisa Brewster via Flickr