Outdoors can be both fun and laden with risks for your feline friend. As the mercury rises, many new pet parents worry about the safety of their bundles of joy. Most cats get to roam freely, and it can be nerve-wracking to assess if they will be okay. So, how do outdoor cats survive hot summers?
They have been out in the wild for most of history, and if evolution is anything to go by, they must have some defense mechanisms in place. Given that different species tend to adjust their habits to keep themselves safe, cats would also know some stuff, right?
Yes! They do know their survival tactics, which we will explore in the lines below.
But first, a little distinction between outdoor, stray, and feral cats.
Cats survive the outdoors in the summer heat with a combination of their natural thermoregulation mechanism and a couple of behavioral adjustments. It might seem counterintuitive, but their furs are excellent insulators and tend to guard them against both heat and cold. They also manage to stay cool by looking for and hanging around under shade or on cooler surfaces.
Also, you might think they are too naive, but they get it when it is hot. One of their coping mechanisms is to find a cool spot and sleep there during the hottest part of the day, conserving their precious energy. When they do stay awake, they compensate by drinking a lot of water. As they cannot sweat like humans or dogs do, they make up by frequent grooming, where saliva acts like sweat, drying up to cool them off.
Now that we have briefly skimmed through the defense mechanisms cats have in place, it is about time we inspect them a bit more closely.
1. Outdoor Cats Survive Hot Summers by Seeking Shade
Cats like to explore. Seeing the sights, observing the people, and watching birds flying—they just love it. But the weather has its fair share of challenges up its sleeve, hot and humid summers being one of them. Poised to meet their challenges well-prepared, outdoor cats manage by finding shade. You must have seen a feline or two snoozing under a thick shade of trees. Other popular spots they like to occupy include garages, tubs, and sinks.
You must also have noticed cats prefer marble, cement, and other cooler surfaces to lie on. It is just another regulatory mechanism to keep themselves cool as the weather gets hotter and hotter.
If you have a cat that loves to visit the outdoors, help her by providing lots of shade in the garden or backyard (whichever is applicable).
Make Cool Spots
If you have a garage with a suitable enough temperature, make it nice and inviting for the cat. Clean it free of possible pests like fleas, and arrange water and feeding bowls for the cat.
Remove any rugs or carpets from the marble or concrete surfaces so your cat can enjoy herself without feeling too hot.
Although some might find this measure a bit too much, getting your cat microchipped will save you lots of trouble finding her when you are unaware of her whereabouts.
It is especially important because cats run the risk of getting accidentally locked in garages or other close spaces they prefer to hang around.
If your cat has a habit of going out, or if you need to take her out during the day, apply a generous amount of cat-friendly sun cream on them, particularly on areas not protected by their furs, like their muzzle, paw pads, and ears.
Cats sporting lighter shades of coats or the likes of sphynx are particularly at risk from the harmful sun rays.
2. Outdoor Cats Survive Hot Summers by Drinking More water
Humans and animals alike have this instinct to drink more water when it gets hot. It is a natural coolant and helps them to regulate their body temperatures. Cats take the leaf out of the same book and resort to drinking plenty of water in the summers to beat the heat.
As a responsible pet parent, ensure that your kitty has access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Considering water will get warm after some time, keep replacing it with a fresh supply from time to time. If your cat is not drinking water, consult a vet as there may be an underlying health issue.
To make water fun for your cat, you may consider getting a water fountain.
3. Outdoor Cats Survive Hot Summers by Sleeping More
Okay, so cats sleep a lot already, don’t they? They do, but they readjust their sleeping cycle to sustain their energy levels when the heat is just too much to handle. The smart beings that felines are know when it is a good time to lay low and let the worse pass. They seek a nice comfy, cool spot, and nap away the sweltering heat. Emerging rejuvenated to exert their energies when the day has cooled off.
Be very mindful of your outdoor cat’s sleeping spots during the summers. If your cat remains outdoors more often, it may likely fall asleep outside her own space—this may not always be the case, as cats like to sleep in their designated places. But to be on the safe side, it is better to keep a comfy cat hammock in the lawn and arrange proper shading.
Similarly, ensure to keep the temperature comfortable indoors. Install a soft cat bed on an elevated spot in the crossway of air to help them sleep better. If you do not have air conditioning inside your home, it is prudent to use cooling mats when it gets too hot.
4. Outdoor Cats Survive Hot Summers by Grooming More Often
Unlike humans and dogs, cats cannot sweat. Sweating is an important thermoregulation mechanism to cool off the body temperature. Felines make up for it by grooming themselves more often in the summers. Already a fastidious species, cats keep themselves clear of any dirt, shedding fur, and other stuff that might get entangled.
They pay far more attention to themselves when the temperature rises. Not only is it helpful in removing the extra stuff, but it also helps them to cool down. Just like sweating helps reduce the body temperature as it evaporates, the saliva smothered over their furs dissipates in the air cooling their bodies.
This is a straight one. All the felines, particularly the outdoor ones, would appreciate regular grooming. Its importance doubles up in the summers as it prevents them from trapping any additional heat by keeping their fur clean and knot- and matte-free.
Removing clumps of shedding hair facilitates their thermal regulation, helping them to cool themselves more easily.
5. Outdoor Cats Survive Hot Summers by Thermal Regulation Using Their Fur
This one is a little counterintuitive. But cat coats act more like an insulator than as a sort of radiator. It protects them from cold, many times aided by a considerable undercoat, in the colder weather.
Shedding their additional layer and growing a thinner coat in anticipation of the sweltering heat of the summers, cats use the fur to block out much of the heat.
Not attempting to trim it too short would be a good place to start. Cats need their extra layer to keep much of the heat at bay. Seek the services of a professional when it comes to giving your pet a cut. It will help her both look great and keep the necessary length of coat.
Watch out for signs of overheating, such as panting and weariness. If you do notice it, immediately offer fresh drinking water. Wipe your cat with a towel dampened in cold water if it seems willing to make it feel better.
It can be a serious problem and may be identified by looking for signs of drooling, excessive panting, weariness, fever, throwing up, or even fainting. If you think your cat is facing a heatstroke, immediately call for an emergency checkup with the vet.
Susceptibility to Heat-Related Illnesses
Brachycephalic cats (flat-faced cats), obese, elderly or those suffering from an illness, and long-haired breeds are more likely to suffer from a heat-related issue than the rest. Extra care and preventive measure should be put in place to avoid that.
Indoor Games & Treats
Pet parents with outdoor cats need to pull all-out efforts to keep them indoors while the sun is still blaring outside. Occasionally treating them with fruit ice lollies or offering to let them play with ice cubes can be strong incentives to stay indoors.
So, how do outdoor cats survive hot summers, after all? The answer is they are well suited to deal with it thanks to their insulating furs trapping their temperature from dropping, their intuition to drink more water, conserve their energies with more sleep, and dissipate body heat with grooming more often