It's so hot we're receiving PSAs on how to bake lasagna in our mailboxes to conserve energy. All kidding aside, the heat is an ever-present reminder of how important it is to stay hydrated—we humans, the pets in our care, and visiting winged neighbors.
I try not to complain too much about the heat, especially after spending all winter complaining about the cold. Actually, I don't mind the heat, it's the humidity that seems to be the real misery. Humidity, accompanied by excessive heat, feels like life is being sucked out of every living thing and leaves them languishing in its wake. At least that's my observation.
"Hey old man, come in and cool off a spell"
It's easy when one feels miserable to focus solely on our own discomfort. Having pets, it's important to realize that if you feel miserable, chances are they feel it too. Buster is a long-hair tuxedo cat who is more my friend than a pet. When I am feeling the heat, I look at him and wonder how he must be feeling covered by three layers of fur. As beautiful as it is, it can't always be comfortable.
He is an outdoor cat most of the day, only coming in to eat. I feed him indoors for several reasons. It keeps the birds, insects, and stray animals from eating the food. It also keeps the food cooler. The only time I leave food outside for him is if I plan on being gone for a length of time. Then I would leave some dry food outside for him and he'd get wet food indoors later.
I have to make him come in at night. He'd rather stay outside but with stray cats and coyotes in the area, it's in his best interest to stay inside. He likes to think he's a badass but he'd be no match for a coyote and even if he wins the fight with a stray cat, he could still succumb to any disease the stray might have with the smallest cut that breaks the skin. He's an older cat, a little slower than he used to be, and his vision, while still good, isn't that of a younger cat.
Cats are great at conserving energy and sleep on average 12-18 hours a day. The older the cat, the longer they spend sleeping. While there are plenty of shade trees for Buster to keep cool while he lays around, I try to also provide other options for him. Much of the time, he likes to be near the porch area, so I made him a little 'paw patch'. He likes to lay in boxes so that's what it is, an old crate. I just planted some cat grass and sometimes some catnip mixed in. The grass and dirt are cooler than the porch wood. He loves to lay in it and it keeps him out of my potted plants. It's easy to grow, just add dirt, seed, and water. Maybe a little chicken poop for fertilizer and 'Wala'.
Buster loves to lounge in the flower bed too. It keeps him cool while the tall flowers shield him from any unwelcome or unexpected visitors. Cats love hiding places, to see without being seen. Even so, I still make him come in every few hours on the hottest days to cool off in the air conditioning.
It's so important to pay attention to your pet's needs because they can't tell you when something is wrong with words, often times you have to look for the signs. We've had a heat wave these past few days and I didn't have far to look for signs because Buster has had a tummy ache. The heat can bring on nausea, not just in my boyfriend who spent the day outdoors at a ballgame and was nauseated from it but Buster too.
Buster is an elderly cat so I try my best to encourage him to drink water often and come inside to cool off a while before feeding him. I try to pick the right kinds of food at the right time of day that will be easy on his tummy when it's hot out. Cats have real small stomachs so they don't need a lot of food anyway or all at once. He has dry food readily available but I provide a small meal or snack of wet food a couple of times a day. A small portion of fresh meat with broth in the real early morning hours and his regular wet meal at about noon or just before. Then if he's hungry the remainder of the day/night, he will have dry food available and maybe some snack treats to look forward to.
The wet food, I toss what he doesn't eat within a reasonable amount of time. He usually eats about half (of a small portion) and comes back within 30 minutes or so for the other half. If he doesn't, it's tossed. Otherwise, it would be nasty and nobody wants to eat nasty food. As far as dry food, even though it's available, he doesn't gorge himself. That's why I don't mind leaving the dry food out and it doesn't go bad as fast. He will just nibble occasionally throughout the day/night and drink water and I will toss/replace it when necessary. If he was a more active cat with a raging appetite, I wouldn't keep it readily available. He could eat a regular portion and not be fed again until it was time.
"Let's tame that jungle"
I found out the other day that cats can get sunburned. I haven't known Buster to get sunburned, but his fur is so thick, maybe that's why. Cats lick their fur a lot, sometimes it is for grooming purposes but they also lick their fur as a way to keep cool. This can lead to hairballs, especially during shedding. So, for long-hair cats, it's important to brush them regularly. It prevents their fur from becoming matted, and it thins it out a little which will help them stay a little cooler. Plus, they won't be coughing up hairballs.
NEVER use scissors on a cat unless there is absolutely no other option and you are extremely careful. Cats have whiskers all over their body, not just their face, so you can hurt them unintentionally if you aren't careful.
I use a double-sided brush, a comb with steel teeth, and a professional type grooming tool. The brush is used for his regular daily brushing. I use the comb to remove small burrs and loosen mats. The grooming tool is great, it's what I use to safely thin out his thick fur and remove larger burrs. See my blog post https://www.farmshedblog.com/post/gettin-groomed for more info on grooming, how to do it safely, and dealing with a finicky cat.
Heat stroke is a thing folks, not just for us but for our pets. Whether your pets are indoor pets, outdoor pets, or both always please make sure they have a fresh cool water source year-round. I don't want to come across as preachy but it is a pet peeve of mine to see pets with dirty, old, stagnant water. We can do better than this. Having an animal in our care is a responsibility. In most cases, our pets are our friends and you should always treat friends kindly. My standard rule of thumb is; that if I wouldn't want to drink it, I don't expect them to either. Is there anything worse than being hot and thirsty and having to drink out of a dirty hot water bowl?
Buster is an indoor and outdoor cat, so he has two bowls. He gets fresh filtered water in his bowls daily. On hot days, it's replaced more than once with ice cubes. His bowls are wiped out daily too and washed regularly because they get nasty, especially the outdoor bowl. The outdoor water bowl is placed in an area where it doesn't get direct sunlight with the goal that maybe it will stay a little cooler, not heat up so quickly, and maybe not be a cesspool of nasty bacteria.
"Come one come all and drink your fill"
A birdbath is a great addition to your yard! This is a popular spot with the winged creatures in my area. The bees LOVE it as you can see. The birds too enjoy a place to bathe and get a fresh drink. Sometimes the bees lose their footing and fall in so I placed a piece of wood across it for the bees and small birds to have a sturdy surface to drink safely. It is set off to the side so there is a larger section for birds to bathe.
It is clean, I know it doesn't look that way but I promise it is. I painted it recently but I didn't seal it properly so it is already looking weathered. I had the good sense though not to paint the basin area. I was afraid the paint would be harmful, which it would have been since I didn't seal it. I spray it out really good with the water hose daily while I am out watering my plants. I also fill it two or more times throughout the day because the water either evaporates and/or the birds splash it out.
I have a few other water sources too. The jar fountain I built https://www.farmshedblog.com/post/jar-fountain, a small butterfly waterer hanging in a nearby tree, and another butterfly waterer placed on a cinderblock in one of my flower beds. It's a refurbished old pan I found laying around and added some rocks so they can drink safely.
At any rate, nobody will be thirsty at my place. I hope you find these tips useful and you and your pet(s) can beat the heat. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.