As we all know, the weather can be extremely unpredictabled - one second it is hot and sunny, the next there is torrential flooding. Whatever the weather, it is important to ensure that cats are safe and cared for.
Cats are very good at taking care of themselves, but sometimes they need a little help. If you are worried about how the weather could affect your cat, please take a look at the tips below that cover heatwaves, floods and winter weather.
Many of us love the warm and sunny weather, as do the majority of cats. However if the temperature becomes extreme, make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water. Replacing the water a few times a day can encourage the cat to drink, and placing multiple bowls around the house and garden will ensure that water is in easy reach where ever your cat may be residing.
Most cats will enjoy a snooze in the sunshine and then retire to a shady spot when they get too hot - after all, they have evolved from desert animals. Ensure your cat has a few cool and shady spots to retreat to dotted around the house and garden - cats will normally find these themselves but helping to provide the spots can help. Simply opening the windows to let in a breeze can also help provide a cool area to rest. Also don't be surprised if you find your cat lying on the tiles on the kitchen floor or in the bath - tiles and materials such as porcelain keep cool and so cats can gravitate towards them when they are a little too hot.
Although most cats can look after themselves, they may be confined to a room or conservatory which gets very hot and heatstroke can sometimes occus. Being aware of the symptoms of heatstroke is always worth while, as then you are prepared for any eventuality. These symptoms include: excessive panting; lethargy; drooling; fever; vomiting; collapse or unconsciousness. If you are worried about your cat or suspect they are suffering from heatstroke, please consult your veterinarian.
Always check sheds, greenhouses and summerhouses before closing them up. Cats can find their way inside if they are looking for a shady spot to cool down in, and it is best to avoid trapping them inside as they could become dehydrated. This will also help prevent the number of cats that worry their owners by going missing for a couple of nights - or until the shed is reopened again. The same goes for checking cars - if you leave your windows open to let the car cool down, always check that a cat hasn't snuck inside before you drive away.
Ensure that your cat is microchipped so that if it ends up locked in someone else's shed or wanders off one evening on a hunt, that you can both be reunited as quickly as possible. If you find a cat in your own shed/summerhouse and it does not have a collar and tag that you can use to ring the owner, take the cat to your local vet. If the cat has a microchip, the vet will be able to detect this and contact the cat's owners.
Floods can hit at any time of year, regardless of the season, and can affect hundreds of homes and families. If you are a cat owner in a flood-affected area or an area that is prone to flooding, we suggest you consider the following:
- Keep your cat indoors, preferably upstairs, until the risk of flooding has subsided.
- Keep a supply of fresh water, food, bedding, litter trays and medication somewhere safe, dry and easily accessible.
- Keep your cat carrier to hand in case you need to vacate your home temporarily.
- Keep your cat’s essential documents (microchip details; vaccination records) in a sealed bag or other waterproof container in an easily accessible location.
If you have to leave your home, take your cat securely in its carrier, making sure to take food, bedding, water, bowls and documentation with you, in case it is some time before you are able to return home.
Snow and colder temperatures
Entering winter typically means a multitude of things – the nights get darker, the temperature gets colder and the weather gets worse. These changes not only affect us but also affect our cats. Below are some practical tips that owners can use to keep their cats safe during the cold winter months.
If you have an older or unwell cat, or the weather becomes very extreme, and your cat is unable to venture outside, it may be useful to provide litter trays in the house. These should be filled with the cat's preferred litter and placed in quiet areas to encourage the cat to use them. If you have a multi-cat household, multiple trays should be provided at different locations around the house (to avoid competition and conflict over territory). Cats are clean animals and so spoiled litter should be removed and replaced as soon as possible. Click here for more advice on litter trays and their use.
Food and water
Over the winter your cat may eat more which will help it with with temperature regulation and insulation however, monitoring weight and body size is still important. Many cats prefer to stay indoors during the cold and wet weather, meaning they may eat more and do less exercise. Providing enrichment and monitoring their weight will ensure that they stay healthy.
Whether your cat is able to venture outside or is kept indoors, providing fresh clean water for it is essential. If you keep a bowl outside, regularly check it to ensure that it hasn't frozen over and ensure that it is clean. Avoid putting chemicals in ponds and water features where possible as cats will often drink from these, which can be harmful and in some cases, fatal (as with antifreeze). Ensure that any spills are cleaned thoroughly as contamination of the fur and paws can also be harmful.
Outdoors or indoors?
Keeping a cat inside when it is used to going out may not always be possible, so if your cat is allowed out then ensure it is microchipped. If cats do get lost or into any trouble and are taken to a shelter/vets, they will be scanned for a microchip that will contain owner details, resulting in their safe return home. If there are roads and pavements near you that are gritted/salted and your cat is likely to wander over them, it is advisable to wipe its feet with a damp towel to remove excess rock salt or other chemicals that could be groomed off and ingested (this could be harmful). Additionally, check their paws regularly for signs of injury, frostbite or dermatitis (sore and irritated paws caused by contact with rock salt etc). Most pet cats sleep in our homes, but if you have a street or feral cat which you feed and which sleeps in the garage/shed rather than the house, make sure that it has a warm bed that is free from drafts, and blankets to keep it warm over night. When temperatures get very low, it is advisable to bring cats indoors to sleep.
In the case of snow/ice storms or very low temperatures, cats should be kept inside to keep them safe. Storms can be very disorientating, and your cat may lose its way or get injured, while freezing temperatures can also result in injury. Keeping cats inside means that you must provide them with enrichment. This can be in the form of a cat tower, scratching post, puzzle ball or toy, which will keep them stimulated (and help them get a little exercise) – see our cat friendly home page for some ideas on enriching their environment. Some household items may be hazardous to cats, so make yourself aware of these. Cats may also find some entertainment from playing with household plants, but again some of these can be hazardous – see our full list here.
Floods don't just happen in winter, but with increased rainfall they can be likely. Please read the above section on floods for some handy tips on caring for your cat in a flood.
Cats enjoy being warm and so will look for 'hotspots'. Warm engines in parked cars attract cats, who may keep themselves toasty by curling up in wheel arches, between the wheels or under the hood. If you have a local cat which does this, before starting your car, always tap on the hood and check between the tyres to ensure that a cat isn't hiding there. As they enjoy being warm, cats may also gravitate towards radiators and fireplaces. Prevent potential burns by protecting your cat from open fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters. You can also place blankets over radiators to keep your cat happy and safe.
Elderly or sick cats
Cats which are inactive, have lost muscle tone/weight or have trouble maintaining their body temperature will need some extra care during the winter. Ensure they have adequate warm, draft free places to sleep and relax – an arthritic cat will especially appreciate a bit of extra warmth. Cats which need a little extra help getting around may find normal tasks like getting through the cat flap harder when the floor is icy and the cat flap is a little harder to push open so be mindful of this and help them where possible. Keeping older and sick cats inside during the cold will help keep them healthy and safe.