Keeping cats cool in summer can sometimes be a challenge! Even with their lovely warm fur coats, cats do like to sit and soak up the sun!
However, in summer it is especially important to take care of our feline friends, so that they do not get overexposed to the sun and heat. Cats who are more senior, longhaired, overweight, or who have a health condition that could make them more susceptible to heat stroke, may also need additional heat precautions.
Heatstroke happens when a cat becomes too hot, and can no longer regulate their body temperature. If left unchecked, heatstroke can be dangerous. So it’s very important to be able to recognise the signs, such as:
- Heavy panting
- Very red gums
- A rapid pulse
- Glazed eyes
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
… and if you see these signs, or suspect that your cat may have heatstroke:
- Contact your vet immediately
- Move your cat to a cool place, like a shady, air-conditioned room
- Give them small amounts of water to drink
- Spray them with room temperature water – it is important not to use ice or freezing cold water, as this could induce shock.
10 Tips to keep cats cool in the summer
Of course, the best protection from too much sun is prevention! So as the weather warms up, be sure to follow these tips to keep your kitty cool:
1. Provide plenty of shade
- Cats will seek out shady spots if they are available to them, so make sure you provide plenty of shade in the garden. Dense plants and bushes can provide good shady cover for your cat. You may well spot them rolling in the dirt – soil is cooler under the top layer, so rolling around will disturb the soil and bring the cooler layer to the top.
- You can also create shade with a garden umbrella, gazebo, or even drape a sheet across furniture to create a shady spot. Entice your cat into the shade by laying down damp towels and a water bowl, along with a tasty treat!
- Keep your house cool by closing curtains or blinds to keep the sun’s rays out, particularly on the sunny side of the house.
- If temperatures rise too high, try keeping your cat indoors and shaded until the cooler parts of the day, such as early mornings and in the evening when the sun is going down.
- Some breeds of cats (like the Maine Coon or Turkish Van) may be drawn to water more than others. Fresh water must always be available to all cats, however, so make sure your kitty has access to drink, even if they need some encouragement.
- Place plenty of bowls with fresh clean water around the garden and house. Remember – cats may prefer ceramic or glass bowls with wide rims (to prevent their whiskers getting wet or touching the sides). You can try putting an ice cube into the bowl to keep the water cool (or use food flavoured ice cubes to add interest to the water and encourage drinking). Ice cubes are also fun to play with on a hard surface, so plan ahead and freeze them into a ball shape to roll across the floor for your cat to catch.
- Many cats love running water! A cat safe water fountain is a great way to keep them cool if they play with the water, and will help to keep them hydrated when they drink. However, caution should be taken with decorative garden water fountains as they may be deep, or contain bacteria - or even antifreeze (which you should avoid around pets) - if they are outdoors all year round.
- Cats with short or white hair, or areas of skin that are less protected by their coat, can be sensitive to the sun and can develop sunburn. You can use cat-specific sun cream to protect their skin in these vulnerable areas (make sure it is cat safe; without zinc oxide or salicylates). It is also wise to keep cats out of the sun’s rays during the hottest part of the day. Speak to your vet if you are unsure if your cat needs sun cream.
- Use fans or air conditioning to keep your home cool, and open windows and doors on the shady side of the house, keeping them closed on the sunny side.
- Placing a frozen water bottle in front of a fan is another way to circulate cool air.
- Only use fans that have a grill over the blades. To avoid fans being knocked over, floor-based ones are safer.
- If you live in an apartment with a balcony, you will want to keep doors open in the summer, but make sure you make it safe and secure to avoid any kitty accidents.
- Freeze a plastic bottle of water, wrap it in a towel and place it in one of your cat’s favourite places, or in a cardboard box laid on its side – cats love a cardboard box! Make sure that the bottle lid is on tightly and doesn’t leak, and that the bottle remains covered.
- As an alternative to purchasing a cool mat, try soaking a towel in cold water, squeeze all the water out and gently dab the towel over your cat’s fur. Most cats do not like wet fur, so make sure you do not soak them.
- Plug in FELIWAY Optimum in this room to provide enhanced serenity to your cat as they relax in this cool area.
- You may find that your cat grooms more frequently in hot weather. This is their way of keeping cool; when the saliva evaporates off their fur it cools them down.
- You can help by grooming them more frequently, particularly if your cat has a thick coat; regular brushing will get rid of any dead hair and tangles in their coat, which trap heat.
- Your cat may have found a cool spot in a shed or garage, so make sure they don’t get locked in there. Always check they are not inside before you lock up, as becoming trapped inside could quickly lead to heatstroke, especially if the area is not ventilated.
- If you find your cat snoozing during the hottest part of the day, do not disturb them! Keep an eye that the sun doesn’t creep over them while they are asleep – you can even place an additional shade over them to prevent this from happening.
- Unless a trip is essential, avoid taking your cat on a car journey. If it cannot be avoided:
- Open the windows to cool the car down before you put the cat inside.
- Make sure the air-conditioning reaches the cat carrier. If you do not have air-conditioning, open all windows slightly to create an air flow through the car. Do not have windows opened wide, as this would be an easy escape route for your cat if they get stressed.
- Place an ice block (wrapped in a towel) underneath the cat’s blanket, so that the cold will come through the blanket while you are travelling.
- If it’s a long journey, take regular breaks to give your cat water.
What other precautions should you take in the summer months?
- Extreme hot weather conditions
Some areas are prone to extreme heat and wildfires during summer months. As well as taking the above steps to ensure your kitty stays safe, here are some safety tips for wildfire areas:
- Stay aware of the status of fires in your area – sign up for local network messages/alerts on social media, radio and TV.
- Create a buddy system with neighbours – let them have a key to your home so they can collect your cat on your behalf if a wildfire strikes when you are not at home.
- Have fire-dousing tools within reach.
- Have cat travel equipment to hand – cat carrier, a cat ‘disaster-prepared’ bag with essentials such as food, water, medication, cat tray and litter, bedding, and FELIWAY Help!, which will help to keep your cat calm in emergency situations.
- Have a pet first-aid kit ready to manage any fire-related issues.
- Practise evacuating your home with your cat.
- Have a prepared escape route/plan (where your cat can stay, e.g. with friends/family away from the area under threat).
- Prevent access to the outdoors at times of threat – make sure your cat has access to all they need indoors during this time (e.g. litter trays, scratching posts, opportunities to play).
- Keep a close watch out for any signs of smoke-related issues (eyes, coughing, nasal discharge), burns to skin and respiratory tract.
- Keep your vet contact details up to date and have emergency contact details to hand.
- Make sure your cat is microchipped in case they are lost during this time (and of course, that your contact details connected to the microchip are up to date).
- Cover the carrier with a wet blanket/towel to protect your cat if you have to move from your house to the car to escape.
- Be aware of air quality alerts – if the alert says for you to stay indoors, your cat should too!
With these tips, you and your cat should have a safe, cool summer together!