With predictions that summer 2017 will be a scorcher in the UK cat parents need to be clued up on how to manage high temperatures.
Cats are actually descended from desert dwelling animals and so are reasonably well equipped for the heat compared to the struggles that dogs can face. However they are not invincible! To maintain levels of hydration is highly important. This may sound obvious but for cat owners who don't have a cat flap, pets can be shut out of the house for long periods of time and will need to source water by themselves. The water doesn't have to necessarily be totally fresh but there should be a choice of places for the cat to be able to drink from, for example a pond or watering can.
The choice of food is also important in maintaining cat's hydration. Fresh food with a high meat content provides much better hydration than dry food and so is particularly good to use during the summer months.
Ensure that you provide adequate shade and cover in your garden to allow cats to stay out of the sun and cool down. They particularly enjoy the shade provided by plants, by stretching out over a moist bed of soil they can cool down quickly! Although always keep an eye on the kinds of plants they are favouring, often they will choose to chew on leaves, some of which can be poisonous to cats!
You may notice that your pet cat appears to be cleaning more regularly than usual, this is to keep fur moist which helps them to cool down. We can also aid them in cooling down by grooming them thoroughly. Lots of fur is shed as the weather warms, particularly in cats with thicker coats. By regularly brushing their coats, we can ensure that they are not carrying any unnecessary fur around with them. Furthermore, in areas that cats grow little or no fur, sun tan lotion can be applied to protect the areas from the sun's rays. Places such as the ears and nose can benefit from protection, although be careful to only use creams free of preservatives and scents as the cat will likely lick the cream off whilst washing itself.
Just like we humans, cats can benefit greatly from using ice in the peak summer months. Drop a few ice cubes into their water bowl before you leave the house to top up the levels of water in your absence whilst also cooling the water. Alternatively, part fill a water bottle and leave it in the freezer until frozen. Wrap the bottle in a towel and leave it where your cat most enjoys laying down - they will appreciate it!
Cats are independent animals for the most part and so signs that the heat is taking its toll can sometimes be hard to spot! It is worth keeping a close eye on them during the hottest days, if you are particularly worried - consider only letting them out of the house during the cooler hours of the day, rather than underneath the midday sunshine!