How to keep cats cool in the summer
Pale-coloured cats are vulnerable to sunburn; particularly on their ears, noses and sparsely haired areas.
Sun damage can lead to skin cancer which may require extensive surgery – even amputation in severe cases.
The best prevention is to keep your cat indoors when the sun is strongest, between 11am and 3pm. Alternatively, cover vulnerable areas or regularly apply a non-toxic waterproof human sunblock or a product specifically for pets. Seek prompt veterinary advice if your cat’s skin looks sore, crusty or scaly.
Your cat needs access to clean water at all times, ideally in a large bowl filled to the brim. Older cats are particularly vulnerable to dehydration.
Grooming is important, especially for longhaired animals. A tangle-free coat will protect your pet’s delicate skin and keep them cool. Some animals may need their coats trimming – seek advice from a professional groomer.
Watch your pet for signs of over-heating, including heavy panting and loss of energy. If you recognise these signs, encourage your cat to have a drink.
Signs of heatstroke include collapse, excessive panting, and dribbling. If you suspect your cat is suffering, move them to a cool place, preferably with a draught, wet their coat and contact a vet immediately. Avoid overcooling by using cool, not freezing, water.
Curious cats seek out cooling breezes in the summer, and at this time of year vets treat many cats with serious injuries after falling from heights when their owners open the windows. Sadly, some do not survive their injuries.
To keep your cats safe and the temperature low inside your home during the summer months, either install tip and tilt windows, which allow air into the room without offering access outside to curious cats, or use wire mesh, netting or a screen across windows when they are open to prevent the cats getting out.
If your cat does fall from more than one storey, the animal should be checked by the vet. Even if your cat appears to be fine, there is a risk of internal injuries. Get a check after any fall if your cat seems to be behaving strangely.
Getting shut in
Cats are naturally curious and notorious for their ability to sneak into places where they may not be wanted. There are many tales of cats being shut under floorboards, or into removal vans, or just getting locked into a neighbour’s garden shed. This can have dire consequences, as lack of water can cause dehydration. Older cats are particularly vulnerable because ageing kidneys mean that dehydration occurs rapidly.
The risk of cats getting shut in sheds, greenhouses and garages increases in the summer as cats spend more time out and about. If your cat goes missing it is worth thinking about what has been happening in the neighbourhood recently and making enquiries. Ring around the local vets and animal shelters or welfare societies in case your wanderer has been taken into one of these. Look on the internet as well, as there are several sites where you can report a missing pet.
Make sure your cat is microchipped and that the details are kept up to date significantly increases the chances of you being reunited should your cat go missing.
..and don’t forget your rabbit either!
Consider moving your rabbit inside to keep them cool and out of intense sunlight.
Move your rabbits’ hutch out of the sun into a cooler place (this may even be inside).
A fan can be used to keep the air cool and create airflow, however, do not blow the fan directly onto the rabbits and ensure they have enough room to move away if they wish. A cold, rung out towel can be placed over the run to provide shade and the fan can be blown onto this to help lower the temperature. Be careful to not cover the whole hutch as the rabbits will still need airflow to keep cool and ensure that the towel isn’t dripping wet to avoid drenching your rabbits.
Rabbits are not good swimmers so please don’t encourage them to jump in a pool as the shock could even prove fatal. Instead, try freezing a large bottle of water or ice packs and wrapping them in an old, clean tea towel and place in the hutch. That way, if your rabbits feel hot, they can lie next to the bottle to keep cool.
Consider purchasing a special self-cooling mat which can be placed on the floor of the hutch or run to lower temperatures and provide respite from the heat
Marble tiles or slates are brilliant to introduce into a run and keep it cool so your rabbits can lie on it if needed. Be careful to ensure the tiles remain in the shade, though, as the tiles can become extremely hot if placed in direct sunlight.
Ensure your rabbits have plenty of fresh, cool water to stay hydrated.
Consider soaking your rabbits’ leafy greens in icy water or serve fresh from the fridge so that they’re nice and cold.
Rabbits in the wild live in warrens which are deep underground. By digging soil and getting out of the sunlight rabbits can keep cool. Consider introducing a man-made warren in the run to keep your rabbit happy and cool.
Use a brush to get rid of any excess fur which will make them feel hotter and more uncomfortable in the heat
Dampen your rabbit’s ears with a wet cloth or a fine mist (if they’re comfortable with you doing this). They lose heat through their ears so this will speed up the cooling process.
Warning: Rabbits are at higher risk of myiasis, or fly strike, during the summer months – particularly those that have issues keeping them-selves clean due to old age, arthritis or dental problems. Make sure your rabbits and their bedding is clean at all times. Flies may quickly lay eggs on soiled bedding and the resulting maggots can burrow into your pet’s fur and body cavity, which is potentially fatal.
What are the symptoms of heatstroke in rabbits?
Weakness and lethargy
Reddening of the ears
What should I do if my rabbit suffers heatstroke?
If you suspect your rabbit is suffering from heatstroke, do not submerge your them in cold water as the shock can be fatal. Instead, dampen their fur and ears with cool water and seek veterinary attention immediately.