Community cats are well-adapted to living outdoors, but as summer sets in and temperatures begin to heat up, there are a few simple tips you can use to help outdoor cats stay cool and comfortable in the summer heat:
Provide an outdoor shelter as a refuge from the sun
- Cats are great at finding places to escape the summer sun. Provide easy access to shaded places, such as under a deck or porch, for them to rest and eat.
- Provide an outdoor cat shelter, which are easy and inexpensive to build. You can see do-it-yourself (DIY) examples and photos of cat shelters and shelter building plans at www.alleycat.org/ShelterGallery—including a “5-minute shelter” made from a Styrofoam cooler. Some manufacturers sell pre-built cat shelters, but even a large plastic storage tub will work with simple modifications.
Provide extra water to keep the cats hydrated
- In the summertime, water should be taken very seriously by cat caregivers. Cats can dehydrate quickly, so leave out plenty of sources of water and replenish it as necessary.
- You can prevent water from evaporating by setting water bowls in the shade and out of the sun, and by using narrow, deep water bowls rather than wide, shallow bowls.
- Pet water fountains are a great idea, as they encourage cats to drink more. You can also drop a few ice cubes into the water to keep the water cool (as long as the cats aren’t bothered by the ice!).
Adjust the cats’ food to meet the challenges of summer
- If you feed cats outdoors, try not to leave the food out for too long. After about 30 minutes, bugs will start to show up. Pick up any uneaten food after roughly 45 minutes, while leaving a little more time for the slow eaters.
- Consider feeding cats dry food during the summer, as it does not dry out or attract insects as much as wet food. Give the cats plenty of extra water to compensate.
- Many companies make “ant-proof bowls” designed specifically for feeding cats outdoors. Some have moats of water or other complications that make it hard for the ants to get to the food.
- You can also create your own “ant barrier” by surrounding the cat’s food bowl with a line of food-grade diatomaceous earth without chemical additives, which are available at some natural food stores and pet supply companies. Find more tips for feeding cats outdoors at www.alleycat.org/ColonyCare-Feeding.
Tips for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in the summer
- All cats should be neutered and vaccinated. If you are trapping in the summer months, it is important to be extra careful. A cat left in a trap in the heat is at risk of heatstroke, which can be deadly.
- For the safety of the cats, keep them in the shade or in an air-conditioned space, and never leave cats in a car while trapping other cats.
- Don’t leave traps on surfaces which absorb the sun’s heat—the metal bars of the trap can heat up and burn the cats’ paws. Grass and other surfaces which don’t conduct heat are ideal for trapping in the summer.