We’re racing toward summer and many of us have been looking forward to spending more time outdoors, swimming in the pool, going to the beach, firing up the grill and enjoying the sun. Of course there’s also the joy of mowing the lawn, fighting off bees and trying to keep the kids entertained during summer break. As you gear up for summer, this is also the time to think about your cat’s safety, whether he is an indoor, indoor/outdoor or strictly outdoor cat. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started:
Flea and Tick Control
If you haven’t already started your cat on a flea preventative, speak to your veterinarian about which product would be best. Even indoor cats are susceptible, especially if you have a dog who could be serving as a flea taxi. Fleas are very hard to spot because cats are such diligent groomers. Check your cat over and look for signs of flea debris. For safety, don’t use any over-the-counter flea control product without talking to your veterinarian first.
Regardless of the season it’s important to keep your cat up-to-date on vaccinations but it’s especially important now that windows and doors will be open more often.
Always make sure there’s fresh water available for your cat. If your cat stays outdoors, keep water bowls in the shade and change them several times a day. For indoor cats, make water as appealing as possible by changing it frequently and washing the bowl every day. If you’re worried that your cat isn’t drinking enough water, consider purchasing a pet water fountain. Many cats enjoy the playtime aspect of the moving water. Additionally, the flowing water stays oxygenated and so it will taste fresh. In very hot weather, keep water cool by dropping a couple of ice cubes in the bowl.
If you’re uncomfortable then chances are your cat is also uncomfortable when it comes to the temperature. Indoor environments can get very stuffy so pay attention to indoor temps. If you don’t have air conditioning at least keep a couple of fans going to circulate the air (make sure they’re safe and placed where the cat can’t get to them). Outdoor cats must have access to shade.
Keep in mind that cats can get sunburned as well and their ear tips are particularly vulnerable. On very hot days, consider keeping your cat indoors for his own safety and comfort.
Safety for Seniors
If you have a senior cat, pay particular attention to making sure he is comfortable. The best place for an older cat is safely indoors (actually, in my opinion, the best place for any cat is safely indoors) where he can stay cool.
Check window screens for any rips or signs of wear that could provide an escape route for a cat. Many cats enjoy sitting in the open window to look outside and you want to ensure that that they won’t easily slip out through a ripped screen. Check the sturdiness of screens as well. A large and determined cat who spots a bird outside may push through the screen. Make sure screens are secure or only open windows enough to let the breeze in. Pet screens and window gates are also available commercially if you want to have your windows fully opened.
Feeding outdoor cats in hot weather can pose a health risk if the food is left out to bake in the sun. There’s also the likelihood of ants, other insects and even unwanted furry creatures helping themselves to your cat’s food. Don’t leave food out to become contaminated.
Groom Your Cat
Frequent grooming allows you to check for parasites, signs of sunburn or any other things that might need attention. For longhaired cats, having mats can add to the discomfort of the heat so regular grooming will help the skin stay healthier.
Check Your Cat’s Paws
Look at your cat’s paw pads for signs of burns from walking on hot asphalt or signs of insect stings.
Grow a Safe Garden
If your cat likes to munch on plants or even likes to munch on the outdoor grass, grow a safe garden of wheat, rye or oat grass in a container.
Have your cat microchipped even if you don’t plan on ever letting him outdoors. With kids at home more and lots of family activity going in and out during the summer it can be easy for an indoor cat to do some door darting. A collar with identification is also a good idea for added insurance. On the ID tag I recommend that you put “indoor cat” so anyone who finds your kitty will know he’s lost.
Never Leave Your Pet in the Car
Surprisingly, even though this warning seems very obvious, so many pets die each year due to heatstroke from being left in unattended vehicles. The temperature inside a parked car can escalate very rapidly and the outcome is often deadly.
Watch for Heatstroke
If you notice your cat is panting, restless or has very sweaty paw pads, it may indicate that the heat is affecting him too much. This can lead to heat exhaustion and can then lead to heatstroke. Always make sure your cat has access to shade, water and cool temperatures.
Other Outdoor Cats
This is the time of year when your neighbors may be letting their cats outside more often and as a result, your indoor cat gets a glimpse of an intruder or two wandering through the yard. The sight of an unfamiliar cat in the yard is a common cause of behavior problems (such as elimination outside of the litter box or redirected aggression). Be aware of this as a potential cause of any sudden behavior problems that may occur in your indoor cat if he enjoys looking out the window.
Don’t Forget Playtime
Your family is spending more time outdoors and having fun but your cat still needs his daily play sessions and interaction with you. Keep on a schedule of daily interactive playtime to help your cat stay mentally and physically stimulated.
Need More Information?
For more specific information on cat health, safety and training, refer to the book Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett.