Holistic Summer Guide To Safe and Happy Cats
While dogs may enjoy playing Frisbie in the park, swimming in the lake and other summer fun, most cats have less fun and attention. School is out; families spend more time together in the backyard or on vacation. That usually means less time spent with their cats and indoor only cats being creatures of habit, miss their humans and their usual routine. Let’s make this summer safe and happy for your cats.
For Indoor/Outdoor Cats
- Allow NO unneutered/unspayed cat outdoors. Spay/neuter all kittens and cats.
- Be sure they wear visible ID and are micro-chipped.
- Use only well-fitting break-away collars.
- GPS trackers like TAGG provide added security.
- Treat cats with a topical flea/tick product monthly.
- Keep cats indoors at night even if you have a safe, fenced in yard.
- If you have a catio, make sure there is a shaded area.
- Summer is great time to teach a cat to walk on leash.
- Consider doing agility training in the backyard.
- Leave fresh bowls of water outside in shady spot.
Behavioral issues are more likely to crop up when routines are changed. Anxiety, separation anxiety and varieties of aggression can result. More animals roam in the summer from neighborhood pets to wildlife. This is the most likely time for incidents of direct aggression and redirected aggression to occur. When an indoor cat is agitated by an inaccessible outdoor animal, they may lash out to the nearest person or pet (redirected aggression).
Run-ins with other animals can result in a variety of skirmishes from playful to deadly. An unspayed or unneutered cat is guaranteed to increase the kitten population when shelters are bursting at the seams during summer. A small claw swipe can easily turn into a hidden abscess. All the more reason for more frequent pet exams. During normal petting or play sessions take the opportunity to observe anything amiss i.e. sore spots, itchy areas, hair loss to excess grooming or limping. An easy, five-minute DIY home exam by my vet shows how in this Video.
HOLIDAY HOME ALONE?
Most cats hate the sight of a suitcase. They know someone is going away. When making vacation or other travel plans, plan well in advance for cat care. Good cat sitters are booked weeks or months in advance. Most dogs love a good kennel or doggie hotel but cats aren’t pack animals and would rather stay at home.
- Professional pet sitters are an excellent option. I recommend visits of at least 2 per day. Many pet sitters offer virtual kitty cams or other digital interface so clients can interact with their pets. The peace of mind knowing your cat is well cared for is priceless. If opting for free or bartered service with a neighbor or friend to cat sit have a clear understanding of what is expected with written instructions. Include contact info for your vet and local emergency clinic.
- Live-in professional pet sitting is an ideal but expensive option. Be creative. Perhaps there is a family member or friend who likes cats, would like a change of scene and happily move in for a week or three. Connect with other cat lovers locally i.e. via MeetUp.com groups to exchange cat sitting services.
- For cat lovers who weekend at their beach or country home must decide which option is best: bringing the cat or providing at home cat care. No, it’s not okay to leave your cat alone for the weekend. Anything can happen from a sudden illness, accident or home related issue i.e. burglary, electrical short, A/C breakdown, fire or flooding.
I’ve known cats who happily travel by car every weekend to their second home but most do not. If you are leaving for any period of time communicate with to calmly reassure your cat that you are going away for X amount of time, someone will take care of them, you will return and you love them.
- If you are taking kitty with you on a car trip: a safe, well-ventilated and secured carrier, travel size litter box, scoop and litter in plastic container (I like recycling quart-size yogurt containers), plastic bags, paper towels, moist towelettes, familiar smelling cat bed or pillow, brush, water, food, treats and any meds or supplements in small plastic travel containers.
- Spray calming pheromone products like Feliway inside the carrier, the vehicle and add a plugin version of the pheromone product at the destination.
- Never leave a cat unattended in a car even with the windows open. The temperature in a vehicle even with the windows open on a hot day can rise to 120 F in a few minutes.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
Cats are lovers of heat but on hot days, a cat’s temperature can quickly surge past the normal 110.5 – 102.5 F to heatstroke.
- Watch for signs of heat stroke: open-mouthed panting, thick saliva, bright red tongue, rapid heartbeat and lethargy. If your cat seems over-heated bring them to a cool area, apply a cold, wet washcloth and if symptoms persist, call a vet.
- Young kittens, senior, or sick cats are more prone becoming dehydrated and at risk for heatstroke. If there is a severe heat weather advisory, this extends to our pets. Use common sense.
- When leaving home for work or any extended period, make sure to leave the A/C on or open windows and turning on ceiling and other fans. For floor or table models of fans, check the cords for signs of being chewed.
- Provide plenty of fresh water daily in numerous locations. Add ice cubes as a treat. They’re fun to play with. Water fountains are popular and keep all bowls clean to avoid bacteria. If hand washing, wash and rinse until squeaky clean.
- Keep toilet bowl lids down and watch outdoor water sources that may be contaminated.
- Consider buying a gel cooling mat
- Cats can get sunburn and skin cancer especially one with pink ears and noses.
- Keep cats indoors during peak UV times between 10AM to 2PM.
SUMMER BREEZE MAKES ME FEEL FINE
All cats love window whiffies, the chance to smell the pleasures of fresh air. With warm weather and open windows, check all screens and window sashes including sliding glass doors are secure and in good repair. Cats have no fear of heights and will walk on the narrowest ledge, balcony railing or fence. Cats falling out windows is so common it has its own name: highrise syndrome. Creating a safe catio can be a wonderful summer project for the whole family. Place child-proof window protection if living on a high floor. Creating a safe catio can be a wonderful DIY summer project for the whole family. Catios range from small units that fit outside a window to room size enclosures attached to the home. A screened in porch in another safe outdoor alternative.
Porches, decks, balconies and gardens are places of relaxation but can harbor unsuspecting dangers from citronella candles, insect repellent especially with DEET, sunscreen, weed control, pesticides, ant and slug bait. Store anything toxic or unsafe away from curious kitties. That includes coolers of alcoholic drinks or food like raw chicken for a BBQ.
ITCHY, ICKY AND MEOW
Summer is bug season. Insects, fleas, ticks, scabies, mites, mosquitoes, bee stings, spider bites oh my! Even indoor-only cats are at risk. Tapeworms can occur from ingesting fleas. Mosquitoes can carry the West Nile Virus (WNV). While ticks are unpleasant for cats, the good news is there have been no cases of cats contracting Lyme Disease from ticks. Preventative flea/tick treatment is best. There are many choices from the topical chemicals to natural oils and diatomaceous earth.
It's natural for cats to leap after moths, pounce on spiders, play with stink bugs or paw at ants. Cat don't have the ick reaction humans to bugs. Tiny critters that move trigger a cat's hunting instinct and they're all fair game. Wasp and bee sting leaving a toxic venom, flies carry disease and the mesmerizing glow of fireflies spell danger. Most insects are not a cause for alarm but some can be potentially lethal to cats.
In our garden fireflies put on a magical lightshow and one found its way indoors the other day. I quickly caught and released it before the cats could have a glow in the dark party. Did you know if a cat eats a handful fireflies it could be deadly? The firefly aka lightening bug glow from toxic chemical compounds called lucibufagins.
Allergies to bees stings and bug bites are rare but avoid risks. For minor skin irritations or abrasions, I rely on the gentle, natural healing of Vetericyn
Gardens are an outdoor cat’s summer playroom. I grow catnip in my herb garden and like many cats, my cats love eating and regurgitating grass but we garden organically and never spray any pesticides. My large garden contains some toxic plants like Asiatic lilies but it’s more likely the deer to eat them than cats. To be on the safer side, note the ASPCA list of plants toxic to cats
- Poison ivy is increasingly common in many gardens and while it’s rare for cats to be impacted, if they brush against it, they can cross-contaminate objects. If you suspect your cat has been in contact with poison ivy or poison oak or sumac, wipe then them down with a wet cloth. After a serious romp in poison ivy a bath with a gentle oatmeal shampoo is recommended.
Summer or seasonal allergies can crop up for cats. The most common one is Aspergillus mold from dust, pollen and grass clippings. Feline acne or dermatitis can occur eating or drinking out of plastic bowls. Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are a healthier choice.
FIREWORKS AND THUNDERSTORMS
What’s exciting for humans can be a nightmare for cats. Loud noise from a live band, cranked up volume on a stereo, thunderstorms or fireworks are no cause for celebration for cats. Remember cats have a far superior sense of hearing and senior cats are especially sensitive to changes. July 1st in Canada and July the 4th in the U.S. are the big fireworks days but noisy celebrations remain popular throughout the season. The American Humane Association (AHA) reports that July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters and more pets are reported missing or lost at this time. During noisy times this summer, provide cozy spots for kitty to hide and turn down the volume. Extra skittish cats can be calmed by Thundershirts, or a thin towel sprayed with Feliway and tightly wrapped around a cat burrito-style. Flower essences like Rescue Remedy offer gentle relief. A few drops added to drinking water all summer will help with stress.
With a little commonsense and mindfulness, our cats can enjoy summer as much as we do. It’s a great time to teach a cat to walk on leash or teach agility training in the backyard. There’s nothing like a cat on a lap to help us slow down to smell the roses. Have a safe, happy and healthy summer!
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