Most cats enjoy lounging in the sun during hot weather, but there are some summertime hazards you should be aware of to keep your pet safe.
Cats originate from the desert and are generally comfortable in the heat; most cats love nothing more than stretching out to soak up the sun’s rays.
While their independent nature gives the impression they can look after themselves, there are a few things you need to be careful of during the summer months.
Many households, particularly those with children, set up a paddling pool in the garden during hot weather. However, pet owners should be careful of leaving it unattended as it can pose a risk to inquisitive cats.
High-sided pools can be difficult for them to climb out of if they fall in, and most cats aren’t strong swimmers due to their aversion to water. Pool covers can look like a solid surface too, tempting them to jump up and cause a collapse.
It’s worth remembering that common garden tools, including lawnmowers, strimmers, secateurs, loppers and chainsaws, are extremely dangerous and should never be used around cats. In fact, the loud noises that garden machinery creates can cause stress in many pets.
Pesticides, fertilisers, weed killer and slug pellets can also be highly toxic, so it’s essential to keep your cat from exploring areas of the garden that need them. You may want to build a barrier around your allotment or vegetable patch to ensure they don’t run into trouble.
Your compost heap will be full of bacteria that can be dangerous for cats, so make sure it’s properly fenced off to keep them safe.
Long-haired breeds can be a magnet for leaves, grass seeds and other natural debris that can become stuck in their fur. If left alone, these can cause matting which can be uncomfortable, even painful, for your cat. Make sure you groom them regularly, being sure to gently remove anything lodged in their coat.
Just like humans, cats can suffer from sunburn if they’re not properly protected. Breeds with short or white hair with pink ears are most at risk, so you need to be extra careful to shield them from the sun’s rays.
Applying cat-friendly sun cream to sensitive areas of the body (nose, lips and tips of the ears), and keeping them out of the sun during the hottest part of the day is essential.
Bites and stings
Bees and wasps
Bees and wasps are vital for pollinating our natural environment. But while we’re aware of the risk of being stung, cats aren’t. Your cat may get stung at some point, particularly as these flying insects can be a source of curiosity and entertainment.
Most of the time, a sting will cause only minor pain and irritation. If this is the case, you may not need to visit your vet. Don’t try to pick out the sting with tweezers, as this can squeeze more venom out. Instead, use a rigid piece of card to gently scrape the stinger away. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply to the area to reduce swelling and ease the pain.
However, if your pet is stung several times inside the mouth or throat, it can be serious and requires a trip to your vet. Your cat may also have a severe allergic reaction to the chemicals in the sting.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- general weakness
- difficulty breathing
- excessive swelling
If your cat is having an allergic reaction, contact your local vet immediately, as the swelling can block their airway.
Ticks become more prevalent between May and October and are most likely found in grassy, wooded areas. It’s important to thoroughly check your cat for ticks if they’ve been in such environments as they can sometimes pass on Lyme Disease.
If you spot a tick, don’t be tempted to remove it with tweezers; ticks latch on tightly and you can end up removing its body but leaving part of the mouth, causing irritation and infection. Instead, ask your vet for a specialist tick remover. If a tick is removed within 24 hours, infection can be prevented.
To protect your cat, use an effective parasite treatment that kills ticks within two days. These come in many forms, and your vet will be able to prescribe you with a treatment that’s best suited to your pet.
Opening windows help us keep the house cool, but they can pose a falling risk to cats who enjoy sitting on the windowsill.
Try and limit the number of windows you open, sticking to small, high up hatches that aren’t accessible to cats. Never leave large windows open when you leave the house.
An increase in outdoor neighbourhood activity means garages, sheds and cars are often left open. Inquisitive cats love to explore new spaces, so it’s easy for people to accidentally lock your cat in without realising.
If possible, try and be aware of where your cat goes during the day and ask your neighbours to double check they’re cat-free whenever they lock up.
Blue-green algae on lakes and ponds is widely reported, but did you know that this toxin also thrives in garden ponds, bird baths and pots?
Be sure to look out for bacterial ‘blooms’ on the water’s surface (clumps of greenish-brown flakes or scum with a pea soup consistency) and keep your cat well away from any contaminated water.
Regularly refreshing any standing water sources in your garden during hot weather will stop the bacteria from forming. Exposure to blue-green algae is often fatal to pets and can cause long-term health problems even if they survive.
Cats moult more in summer, meaning they need to groom themselves more often. This means hairballs can become increasingly frequent during warm weather, causing dry coughing, constipation, lethargy, appetite loss and depression.
Regularly grooming your cat, especially long-haired breeds, will lessen the need for self-grooming while fostering a great bond between you and your pet.
While heatstroke in cats is rare, it can happen when your cat is no longer able to regulate their temperature.
Since they don’t pant like dogs, and usually don’t like getting wet, your cat’s only option to cool down is by drinking or sweating through their paw pads. Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling, very red gums, vomiting or diarrhoea and weakness. If left unchecked, heatstroke can be fatal.
Most pet owners know not to leave their cat in a hot car, even with the window open, but there are other ways you can help prevent the onset of heatstroke.
Keeping your cat well groomed, particularly breeds with very thick, long fur will prevent them from becoming too hot in warm weather. Giving them access to plenty of fresh, clean water throughout the house and garden, and on long journeys, will keep them hydrated and cool.
Make sure they have plenty of shaded spots in the garden to sit in, away from direct sunlight, for when things get too hot.
The great British barbecue is synonymous with summer, but it’s important to be mindful of the hazards it can create for your cat.
Keep charcoal and gas canisters well out of paw’s reach, and don’t allow your cat to come too close to the hot barbecue itself; charcoal barbecues can spit unexpectedly.
The abundance of food around can be irresistible to some cats, but cooked and uncooked fat trimmings can cause pancreatitis. Don’t forget that onions are highly toxic to cats too.
With all this in mind, let your friends and family know not to feed their leftovers to the cat. Instead, having a few healthy cat treats nearby will let you include them in the fun without the risk.
For more advice about keeping your cat safe this summer, speak to your local Medivet practice.
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