Three Essential Summer Tips for Cats
Today, we've got three essential summer tips to keep your cat comfortable, healthy and safe as we enter the dog days of summer. These tips boil down to three little words: Hydrate, Furminate and Educate. Here's how:
Just as humans are encouraged to drink lots of water when the weather heats up, so, too, should cats.Always keep fresh water available in several different spots in the house (and outdoors, if your cats spend time outside).
Outside water dishes should be placed in spots with daylong shade. I throw ice cubes into our water dishes when it is super-hot, to ensure that the water stays cool. If you're away from home during the day, freeze a plastic dish of water overnight, and put it out in the morning. The ice will melt during the day, providing a continual source of cool water.
During hot weather, consider adding an additional water source by putting a water dish in the bathtub (or sink), with water slowly dripping into it, and train your cat to use it as a water dish.
Consider a cat fountain with an add-on reservoir which ensures your cat will have a continual source of fresh water. Many Drinkwell fountains have the option of adding a reservoir.
Senior Cats Have Special Hydration Needs
It's especially important to keep senior cats hydrated. They often have compromised kidney and thyroid functions, and keeping them hydrated can save you a trip to the vet. Like many geezer cats, my 18-year-old, Rocky, will nap all day, looking like a melted pool of butter, not stirring to eat or drink. I make a point, every hour or two, to take the water
Eliminate Unhealthy Water Sources
When your cat is thirsty, she'll try to drink anything, whether it's safe for her or not, so eliminate any dangerous sources of water. Indoors, this might include a toilet, if you use chemical self-cleaners (or if family members are lax about flushing), so keep the lid down. Outdoors, empty any standing water receptacles that can harbor dangerous bacteria and parasites.
Not necessarily popular with cats, it does provide a temporary respite from the heat. Soak a medium-sized towel with water until it is saturated. Drape it around your cat, then squeeze out the towel's water onto the cat, and rub a bit so that the water reaches the skin. The towel method is less traumatic than a bath, and quicker and easier to administer.
With each heat wave, your cat's body is likely to shed mountains of fur. This is prime hairball season, so take care to groom your cat daily with the FURminator® or other deshedding tool. There have been cases where hairballs the size of baseballs were removed from the stomachs of cats, and most of these cases are preventable with regular grooming.
Signs of a major hairball problem and possible impaction are retching, inability to poop, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or a swollen abdomen. See your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat is impacted.
Keep tabs on your cats during hot weather, and monitor them for signs of heatstroke. Take a minute or two now to educate yourself about the symptoms and emergency treatment for hyperthermia. Heatstroke is life-threatening, and knowing proper first aid can save your cat's life.
The symptoms of heatstroke in cats include:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Red or pale gums
- Thick, sticky saliva
- Vomiting - sometimes with blood
If you suspect that your cat is a victim of heatstroke, take her temperature. It should be between 100.5 and 101.5 F. A temperature above 104 is a definite warning sign of hyperthermia.
According to Drs Foster and Smith:
A cat with moderate heatstroke (body temperature from 104 to 106F) can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care (normal body temperature is 99.5-102.5F). Severe heatstroke (body temperature over 106F) can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.
If you believe that your cat is suffering from heat stroke, you must first take immediate measures to cool her down. Move her to a cool area, apply wet cold towels or immerse in cold water. Apply ice packs to the head.
Remove the cat from the hot area immediately. Prior to taking him to your veterinarian, lower his temperature by wetting him thoroughly with lukewarm water, then increase air movement around him with a fan. CAUTION: Using very cold water can actually be counterproductive. Cooling too quickly and especially allowing his body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions. The rectal temperature should be checked every 5 minutes. Once the body temperature is 103F, the cooling measures should be stopped and the cat should be dried thoroughly and covered so he does not continue to lose heat. Even if the cat appears to be recovering, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. He should still be examined since he may be dehydrated or have other complications.
Allow free access to water or a children's rehydrating solution if the cat can drink on his own. Do not try to force-feed cold water; the cat may inhale it or choke.
Keep in mind that cats who suffer from heatstroke once increase their risk for getting it again and steps must be taken to prevent it on hot, humid days. Snub-nosed breeds (like Persians and Himalayans) are especially vulnerable.
More Information on Catster:
- Catster's Summer Fun Forum
- Join the FURminator Group on Catster.
- More about heatstroke in Catster's Cat Health Forum
- Got a question about heatstroke? Ask Dr Barchus.
[PHOTOS: POOL: Paragon Bengals; TOILET: Learning to Fly Blog; TABBY WITH FURPILE: Tripper the Psycho Stray Cat; PANTING CAT: Planebuzz]