Hot Weather Info for Community Cats in the Desert

HOT WEATHER INFO FOR COMMUNITY CATS

Summer is a dangerous time for community cats in the desert, like most outdoor animals, because dehydration and heat stroke are always a threat. Following these general guidelines will help unowned, outdoor cats stay hydrated and safe throughout the summer. Information given here was created with the Tucson / Pima County area and climate in mind.

  • Kittens
 PLEASE, when you find outdoor kittens DO NOT REMOVE THEM, READ this FIRST:
 What to Do if You Find Newborn, Infant and Young Kittens  

For further information ONLY AFTER you have visited the above link : https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care-category/cat-care/kittens/

  • Food & Water

Please see general feeding information  here  which includes the most inexpensive places to buy food for community cats in Pima County.   Pet Food Assistance Resources can be found here .

 

WATER!!

It is extremely important that extra sources of clean, fresh water be kept available to cats in areas that will remain cool or at least shaded throughout the day. Water evaporates very quickly in the summer desert heat, so keep bowls out of the sun. Reduce the evaporation rate by using bowls with less surface area that are narrow but deep. You can try putting ice cubes into a water bowl to cool it down.  Too much water is better than not enough. Feeding stations can help provide shade. Examples of these can be found here . 

Remember to rinse and fill water bowls daily. Slimy residue that grows in the water bowl contains all sorts of dangerous stuff, read more about how to keep water bowls clean here  .
FOOD

Don’t leave food out for too long. After about 30 minutes bugs such as flies and ants will start to show up, wet food dries out quickly preventing cats from eating it, and food can go bad within hours (moreso with wet food).  Picking up uneaten food after roughly one hour helps prevent that. If your community cats come and go all day/night, this may not be practical, so try feeding the cats dry food in the summer, it attracts fewer insects.  Leave out only as much dry food as the cats will eat. If you do give wet food, add water to help keep it from drying out.  

Feeding Stations - Feeding stations should be out of sight and protected from the elements.  Info on making these is here. Plastic storage containers, weighted down with a brick or large rock can offer protection for food and water. The awnings for feeding stations only need the front covered which will help protect the food from rain and the elements. Cleanliness in all areas is essential. See info about keeping food and water bowls clean here. 


Bowl Types - Metal can retain heat more than plastic, staying hot longer. Use caution with glassware, since glass dishes can break and you don’t want broken glass around. If you use glassware, try Pyrex since it doesn’t break as easily. Heavy plastic bowls are versatile and easy to clean. You can find inexpensive, larger antimicrobial plastic feeding tubs and bowls at feed stores like AZ Feeds and OK Feed as well as Pet Club and WalMart.

Bugs - You can create your own “bug barrier” by raising bowls off the ground slightly and surrounding them with a narrow line of food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) without chemical additives. It is IMPORTANT that the diatomaceous earth that you use does NOT HAVE ADDED CHEMICALS, so diatomaceous earth sold for swimming pool filters is not safe to use around animals. You can get inexpensive diatomaceous earth that IS safe for animals from feed stores in Tucson such as AZ Feeds & OK Feed.

Moat” bowls, a large outer bowl or pan filled with an inch or two of water with a smaller bowl inside it holding the food, can keep bugs away but you have to make sure the water isn't evaporating in extreme heat and that the moat part gets cleaned out regularly because it can get bits of food in it that sit in the water and form mold and bacteria. A 9×13″ baking pan can work well as an outer bowl; fill it with an inch of water and then place in it almost any size inner bowl. Moat bowls can be easily made and are very inexpensive. 

There are also commercially available ant-proof bowls: recommended ant-proof bowls
  • Shade & Shelter

Try to provide a cool, shady spot for cats to rest in and help them deal with Tucson’s extreme heat. Covering an area from the daytime sun can cool it down by over ten degrees. Hanging a tarp can create shade. Tarps can be purchased inexpensively from Harbor Freight and Costco.

FROZEN WATER BOTTLES in gallon size or larger are a great way to help outdoor cats deal with the heat. Lay them in the shade each day where the cats can lie next to them and stay cool. We have found that setting these frozen bottles out late in the morning or early afternoon is helpful so that they aren't melted by the time the brutal heat peaks in late afternoon to early evening. If you are working and the only time you can set them out is in the morning before you leave, larger bottles will stay frozen longer. Try to replace them with new frozen bottles when you get home from work. We keep 4-6 in the freezer so that we always have a couple frozen. 
  • Trapping Conditions
If you perform Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) during the summer, be mindful of the extreme heat.  Do not leave cats in traps in the car or sun! — they can get heat stroke just like people, dogs and other mammals. Once the cat is trapped, keep her in the shade with a light, breathable trap cover or in an air-conditioned space. According to Dr. Foster and Smith, cats left inside vehicles on hot days are the most common heat stroke victims. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach well above 104 degrees quickly. SOME of the signs that a cat might be overheating include: Rapid breathing or panting, drooling, dilated pupils and vomiting. 

Don’t place traps on surfaces that get extremely hot from the sun, such as asphalt or cement. The metal can absorb the heat and burn the cat’s paws. It is possible for a cat to die from heat stroke when confined in a TNR trap for too long. A simple guideline to follow: if it’s too hot for you, it is too hot for the cats. During summer, even without extreme heat, trapping in the very early morning and then transporting to the vet that same morning is the safest way to trap. Be careful when trapping cats that you don't set traps in areas that attract ants.

HEAT ADVISORIES: Pay attention to when extreme heat advisories are in effect, it is too hot for routine TNR during this time and it is extremely difficult for cats to recover from surgery in extreme heat. If you need to trap a cat that is seriously ill or injured during extremely hot weather, try to trap at night or very early in the morning (if possible) and then pull the trapped cat indoors (inside the trap) immediately to avoid heatstroke! 
  • Health Issues
Watch for health issues that could need medical attention. Look for upper respiratory infection (URI) signs like runny eyes or snotty noses and listen for sneezes. URIs (Common Kitty Cold, Feline Herpes Virus) are very common in the summers here. If you notice cats experiencing eye discharge, a runny or clogged up nose you can start feeding a completely safe supplement called L-lysine immediately! (If you see green or yellow discharge and this supplement doesn't help, the cat NEEDS TO SEE A VET). See here for dosage and more information. 

If a cat seems to be losing weight or if their coat seems matted or unkempt, like they aren’t grooming themselves, it is likely an indication that something is wrong and you should trap that cat and take him/her to a vet immediately. If you aren't sure what to do, AS SOON AS YOU NOTICE THESE THINGS, CALL US at 520-256-0443. It is important that you call and ask for help BEFORE the cat gets so sick that they are in danger of losing an eye, a limb (from infection) or dying! Other health issues to look for are signs of injury. Lots of reproduction occurs throughout the summer here and because of that, females that haven't been sterilized can easily have their health run down because of constant nursing and pregnancy and males that haven't been sterilized can easily become injured from fighting. Again, we would MUCH rather help you get a cat to a vet in the early stages of injury or illness rather than weeks to months after you first noticed a problem and something drastic has to be done!  Call us to get help at 520-256-0443.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/summer-weather-tips/