Right now, huge swathes of the United States and countries around the world are experiencing an extreme heat wave, with excessive heat warnings and advisories and record-breaking highs in multiple cities. Temperatures are spiking into the triple digits, and experts say relief from the blistering weather may not come for weeks.
At this time, Alley Cat Allies wants to ensure you have the tools and information you need to help community cats outdoors stay cool, comfortable, and safe. Community cats are well-adapted to living outdoors across all varieties of environments and temperatures. However, there are steps we can take to assist them in extreme weather situations.
Provide cats an outdoor shelter as a refuge from the sun
- Direct sunlight is what makes summer weather go from hot to sweltering. Provide easy access to shaded places, such as under a deck or porch, for community cats 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/ShelterGalleryincluding 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.
- To help cats stay extra cool, freeze bottles of water and place them around the shaded areas cats rest and around and under the straw or other bedding in their outdoor shelters. Check on the bottles throughout the day and replace them.
Provide extra water to keep cats hydrated
- At this time, constant access to 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. Cat water fountains are a great idea, as they encourage cats to drink more
- Drop a few ice cubes into the water to keep the water cool (as long as the cats aren’t bothered by the ice!). You can also consider freezing water in bowls and cycling them out so the ice can slowly melt and keep the water cool. Make sure while one bowl melts, cats have another bowl of drinkable fresh water!
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.
- Feed cats dry food, 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 baking soda or 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) for cats in the summer
- 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. If you are experiencing record-breaking high temperatures, use your best judgment. If you would be unsafe spending prolonged time outdoors, do not attempt it. It is also unsafe for cats to be in humane traps for long periods of time under these conditions.
- For the safety of the cats, keep them in their traps in the shade for a limited time and immediately transfer them to an air-conditioned space. Never leave cats in a hot car while trapping other cats.
- Don’t leave traps on surfaces which absorb the sun’s heatthe 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.
Find more information about summer safety for outdoor cats at www.alleycat.org/SummerWeather.