Summer might seem like a perfect time of year for outdoor cats. Stray cats and feral cats who live outdoors often struggle to survive in winter, but in summer there are plenty of easy food choices, right?
The most important thing that one can do for neighborhood strays and feral cats is to trap them, have them spayed or neutered, and make sure that someone is caring for these cats, also called community cats. While spaying and neutering is imperative in order to get the outdoor population of felines under control, it’s also important to make sure they have a regular source of food and water so they don’t roam.
Alley Cats Allies, the only national advocacy organization promoting the protection and humane treatment of cats, promotes Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs and sets standards for the care of such cats. They have released tips for helping community cats during the hot summer months.
Alley Cat Allies “reminds cat lovers that they can help keep cats comfortable, hydrated, and cool.” With a few adjustments, says Becky Robinson, the president and founder of the organization, it should be easy for caregivers to help cats this summer.
Cats need extra water
In the hot summer months, cats need more water. It’s important that they have water available at all times. Use multiple water bowls or even pet water fountains. Deeper bowls will help slow evaporation. Refill as needed. If the bowls are kept in the shade, they will stay cooler. Add a few ice cubes to the water for cooling and for cats to play with. Feeding the cats wet cat food instead of dry or adding some water to the dry food will increase their liquid intake.
Bug-proof food dishes
In the summer, insects are a challenge both inside the house and outside. The problem is exacerbated during summer when bugs are everywhere. Water is a great deterrent to ants both inside the house and out. Use a large shallow pan like a pie pan with an inch of water in it to create a moat. Place a bowl filled with food inside it, and the ants will not be able to cross the water to get to the food. Another suggestion to deter slugs and snails is to use baking soda or copper tape (check your hardware store) around the water dish. Find more tips for feeding cats outdoors at www.alleycat.org/ColonyCare-Feeding.
Cats need a cool, shady place to rest
In the dog days of summer, both dogs and cats need to stay cool. For community cats, that means finding shade. Caregivers can help by providing shady places for them. It can be a shed or even under a deck. An outdoor shelter works, too. Alley Cat Allies gives examples and photos of cat shelters and building plans at www.alleycat.orgShelterGallery. Remember to always place shelters on cool surfaces like grass because pavement can heat up and burn delicate paws.
Brushing cats helps rid them of excess fur
Just like all cats, community cats need grooming in the summer to help shed extra fur. If the cats aren’t friendly enough to allow brushing, there are self-grooming brushes for them to rub against. Watch the cats and see where they like to rub. Alley Cats advises, “Then take two sturdy wooden brushes with plastic bristles – such as for cleaning floors – and mount one on each side of the corner at the correct height. Now when the cats rub against that corner, they’ll be rubbing themselves against the brush!”
If a cat is in distress and panting — get help
Cats can overheat in the summer just like people and dogs can. If you see a cat in distress, get medical help. A veterinarian can provide medication or IV fluids if needed.
For more information about summer safety tips for cats, visit www.alleycat.org/SummerWeather.