Fur Coats and Hot Weather

Ginger cat sitting in the sun in a golden field

How To Keep Cats Cool and Safe in the Summer Months

It’s not often that we get hot weather here in the UK but when we do it’s important for us to spare a thought for our cats in their fur coats and think about what we can do to help them keep safe and cool.

With this in mind I’ve put together the following guidelines.

Yes, cats can get sunburned too! Particularly vulnerable are cats with white and light-coloured coats. Being a redhead myself I have first-hand experience of sunburn and heat stroke and wouldn’t want my equally pale cat to suffer those consequences. So, if your cat is the outdoorsy type make sure you apply sunscreen to his ear tips and nose. Most sunscreens aren’t pet-safe, so it’s vital that you speak to your vet before buying one.

Woman wearing pink jumper applying sunscreen to the ears of a white Siamese cat on her lap

A cat’s paw pads are very sensitive and can burn easily, so if your cat has been outside walking on hot paving it’s a good idea to check them for signs of burns.

Like us, cats will seek shade in particularly hot and sunny weather so make sure they have a few shady spots in the garden that they can escape to.

Siamese cat sitting on grass in a shady spot in the garden

For cats whose outdoor space is within an enclosure, shade is absolutely essential, and they must also be able to access the house whenever they wish.

Signs that your cat may be suffering from heatstroke include panting or rapid breathing, sweaty paw pads, restlessness or lethargy, diarrhoea, sickness or drooling. If you notice any of these symptoms ring your vet for advice.

Water, Water, Water!
I can’t overestimate the importance of having multiple drinking stations around your home – irrespective of the weather! Change the water daily and keep the bowls filled to the rim.

As well having access to water indoors, cats usually respond well to having a dedicated outdoor receptacle to drink from. I always leave a bowl outside to collect rainwater – this is much more palatable for cats than our chlorinated tap water! In hot weather you can help keep the water cool by placing the bowls in shaded areas and even popping one or two ice cubes in them.

Close up of cat lying on a desk with tongue poking out

In hot weather try to avoid feeding cats outdoors as the food is likely to become contaminated if left outside, not to mention all the insects it will attract!

Fleas and Ticks
Speaking of insects, it’s likely that the summer months will mean more outdoors time for our cats so ensuring they are adequately protected again fleas and ticks is important. Many over the counter flea and tick treatments aren’t as effective as those prescribed by vets – so do speak to your vet first.

Neighbouring Cats
Remember, if your cat is spending more time outside, it’s likely that your neighbours’ cats will have the same idea. So be prepared for more confrontations and potential behaviour issues such as house soiling. For this reason, even if your cat is an outdoor toileter, I would always recommend having an indoor litter tray.

If your cat likes to sit indoors looking out of your full-length glass patio doors I would also advise placing decorative static film on the bottom third. This will help to prevent incidences of redirected aggression should an outside cat come up to the doors and decides to stick two paws up at your cat on the other side.

Two cats confronting each other on either side of a glass window

The Great Indoors
If your cat will tolerate it, keeping him indoors on the hottest days is a good option. If any of the rooms in your home have tiled floors, ensure he has access to these. On days like this some cats may even choose to spend their time inside. Having curtains closed during the day will go some way to keeping indoor temperatures at a level that can be tolerated by both you and your cat. And yes, some cats like fans too, but it’s probably best not to position a fan directly in front of your cat!

Window Safety
If you have an indoor-only cat then using pet window screens will allow you to open the window for a nice cool breeze, without risking a feline escape. Ensure that these are regularly checked for signs of wear, or tears through which your cat could wriggle. Otherwise, if you live in a high-rise apartment the consequences could be devastating.

Never Leave Your Pet in the Car
Sadly it seems that every summer there appears a news story about a pet having succumbed to the heat having been left in a car. The temperature inside a parked car can heat up rapidly, so never leave a cat unattended in a vehicle, even for a few minutes.

Feline Golden Oldies
Our lovely senior cats may suffer more from the heat than their younger counterparts, so it’s best for them to stay indoors on a cool, soft surface. I found a gel-filled cool pad to be useful for my senior Siamese.

Old white cat sitting on a wall in the sun

Here’s to nice cool times for our cats in hot weather, when we get it…!

Clare Hemington

Clare has worked in the field of cat behaviour for sixteen years. She is an accredited Cat Behaviourist and respected member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers. Clare believes that understanding cat behaviour is key to their overall welfare. Through consultation and education her aim is to share information with owners that enables them to give their cat a life that is as happy as it possibly can be. Clare is also founder and owner of Honeysuckle cat toys. Toys made from Tatarian honeysuckle wood which provide wonderful natural enrichment for cats.

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