Summer Safety for Cats

The summer months can be stressful for cats. The heat can make them very uncomfortable and they can become easily stressed by changes in routine and increased household visitors. Whether your cat is young or old, shorthair or longhair, there are a number of things to watch out for.  

Common Summer dangers

The most common summer dangers are heatstroke, dehydration and high-rise syndrome. If you notice any of the symptoms below, it’s important you seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

  • Heat stroke. Cats only sweat through their feet, so they can find it difficult to cool down. If their internal body temperature gets too high they can suffer heat stroke.  Symptoms include panting, staggering, very red gums, restlessness and/or vomiting. If any of these signs develop, you should bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Dehydration. Cats have a natural propensity to drink minimal water, so dehydration is a big risk in summer. Symptoms include sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, dry mouth, depression, elevated heart rate, decreased skin elasticity, panting.
  • High-rise syndrome. Named because it commonly presents in apartment-dwelling cats, high-rise syndrome is a phenomenon whereby a cat sustains injuries after jumping or falling from a substantial height.  There is usually increased incidence of high-rise syndrome in summer due to the number of windows left open and unscreened balconies. While 90% of cats will survive a fall of this type, they can sustain quite serious injuries. 

Tips for keeping your cat safe

All cats – whether indoor or outdoor – need to stay cool and hydrated in the summer months. It’s important you create a space at home that lends itself to the cat’s need.

  • Provide fresh water. During summer, it is important your cat has unrestricted access to fresh water. Cat drinking fountains can be a great solution, as they provide filtrated, fresh water that is akin to water from a tap.  You can also put a few ice cubes in their bowl to keep the water cool for longer.
  • Make a cooling bed. Cats naturally gravitate to the most comfortable sleeping area they can find. You can make a cooling bed by placing a packet of frozen peas under a blanket or cat bed cover.  
  • Wet your cat. On very hot days, cats are at risk of overheating. Wipe your cat down with a cool, wet paper towel or washcloth every couple of hours; the extra moisture will act like a sweat barrier
  • Keep upstairs windows closed. To prevent high-rise syndrome, ensure your cat does not have access to upstairs windows or balconies. If you do have windows, get fly-screens fitted securely.

Outdoor cats

Due to the extra time they spend outside, outdoor cats are more at risk of summer injury and illness than indoor cats.

  • Prevent sunburn. Just like humans, cats can get sunburnt, particularly those with light fur and pink noses. On really hot days, apply cat sun-cream (available at most vets) to the tips of the ears and top of the head.
  • Check your cat’s paws. Footpaths, patios, roads and sand can become extremely hot in the summer. If a surface is too hot for you to walk on, it’s too hot for your cat. Regularly check your pet’s paws to ensure they have not been burnt.  
  • Plant a cat-safe garden. Some garden fertilisers, snail pellets and a number of plants (such as lilies) are poisonous to cats. If your cat goes outside a lot, use garden products that are safe for cats. Catnip gardens are also a great way to distract your cat from other plants.
  • Provide shade. Ensure you have an outdoor area that is shaded and comfortable, including a cat bed or mat. 
  • Parasites. During the summer, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, flies, and other insects are at their peak. It’s a good idea to protect your cat against parasites before the heat of summer kicks in.