You might have seen me mention this before, but KitKat was supposed to be a British shorthair. I’ve never minded that she turned out to be the fluffiest cat that ever fluffed (though my carpet has suffered somewhat because she likes to scrape off dead fur by rolling all over it), but it did add some concerns to my already worry-warty ways.
Chiefly: how the heck do you keep a cat with that much fur cool in the summer?
Cats are mostly self-managing (and it honestly seems like she’s faring through the British heatwave far better than I could ever hope to), but it still never hurts to give them a little help.
But first things first:
Learn how to recognise heat exhaustion
[C]ats do not tolerate heat any better than people. [They can] only pant or sweat through their foot pads in order to get rid of excess heat. As the body temperature rises, the cat will suffer heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke. If the body temperature is not brought down quickly, serious organ damage or death could result.
- Sweaty feet
- High temperature
There are other symptoms, but they seem to be less common and, thus, less obvious.
So what are some ways you can help your cat stay cool?
1. Buy them some sunglasses
I’m only joking about this one.
Or am I?
Don’t you think KitKat would look awesome in a real pair of shades?
No, but seriously:
2. Make sure your kitty has plenty of fresh water
KitKat currently has four bowls dotted around the house, and I ask my carers to make sure they’re emptied out and refilled with cool water two or three times every day.
(Three of her bowls are actually just plastic food containers without the lids. Trust a cat to prefer the cheapest supplies you can find after testing out the more expensive ones!)
3. Get a pet water fountain
I’ve tried two water fountains for KitKat, but she refuses to drink from them because she’s a fussy little fluff bomb.
Other cats, however, love drinking from fountains because they prefer fresh moving water.
Despite KitKat’s lacklustre reception, I still highly recommend fountains for cats. The water in ours was always cold, which is especially important in the summer, and they help prevent dehydration by encouraging cats to drink more (which has many other health benefits for them, too).
4. Put your kitty on a wet-food-only diet
Wild cats get most of their water from their food, and domestic cats are really no different. The best way to ensure they’re not dehydrating is to give them just the food that has a high water content (which dry food obviously doesn’t).
KitKat was originally on a wet and dry diet because I couldn’t decide which was the best for her, but she got cystitis twice in the space of three months.
She hasn’t had it again since I took away the dry stuff (though that might also have something to do with the extra water stations dotted around the house).
Update (20/1/2021): Since writing this post all the way back in 2016, KitKat has started eating dry food again. (I forgot there was a bag in the spare room. A carer found that she had been helping herself so we started putting out a bowl of the stuff again.)
Obviously, some kitties don’t like wet food so you’re kind of stuck with the kibble. You could try watering down their biscuits into mush to increase their water intake, or you could just accept that your cat is never going to give you an easy life and find another means of hydrating them.
5. Feed them little and often
Further to putting your cat on a diet of just wet food, make sure to put down small meals frequently throughout the day. Just like us, eating triggers thirst in cats so they’re more likely to want a drink after a good nosh.
6. Make catsicles
The basic principle is to make icy versions of whatever will get the cat to drink/eat it. Chris’s video for Cole & Marmalade is probably the easiest tutorial I’ve seen because you’ll have most of the ingredients anyway.
You may have to experiment with different types of catsicle, especially if your cat is finicky like mine. Plain water probably won’t do the trick (dammit, KitKat), so try different treats and foods to see which they prefer.
But remember: if you want to try a milksicle, get lactose-free or the special cat milk so they don’t wind up with diarrhoea. (Unless you’re one of the lucky few whose kitties aren’t lactose-intolerant. ¬_¬)
7. Make water balloonsicles
The video I originally linked has since disappeared, but the basic principle is: fill a balloon with water, freeze it, remove the balloon, and put the resulting ice ball in a dish for your kitties to lick. Some cats go nuts for it, others… not so much.
We tried this for KitKat. The first one wasn’t quite frozen and exploded all over the carer who retrieved it from the freezer. (Oops?) The second melted before KitKat showed any real interest in it. The third…
Actually, I can’t remember what happened to the third, but it probably wasn’t good. And then I ran out of balloons and decided not to buy any more because KitKat wasn’t interested anyway.
But you never know! Your kitty might love licking an ice ball. It’s worth a shot for the price of a pack of balloons. (And even if your cat doesn’t like it, the leftover balloons can still provide endless hours of fun for you and a friend if you’re easily entertained like me!)
Just, you know, make sure they’re properly, fully frozen before you try to get them out of the freezer. Unless you want to cool yourself off, too?
8. Give them a bath to cool off in
Have you ever noticed how kids’ paddling pools are always on sale in the summer? That’s because, unless you have access to a proper pool, they’re the best way to cool off while having fun.
I never thought about this for cats, but I’ve seen a few people suggest paddling pools for helping dogs stay cool so it’s really not that much of a stretch to the feline equivalent.
While most cats don’t like water, some do and they may well appreciate soaking in a cold tub. Even if they don’t, the pool can provide a bit of shade around the lip and plenty of water to drink throughout the day. You might even find your cat dipping a paw to cool off, and the water may soak up enough heat to make the area a good spot to chill.
lol. Get it? A good spot to chill?
Anyway, if money is an issue, you could always do as catlady_k says in her caption there and re-use the paddling pool for playtime later on.
It’s totally a win-win! ;D
For more advice
For more tips and advice, try the Pet Health Network’s Help Your Cat Beat the Summer Heat. Catster also has some awesome suggestions in their article, 10 ways to help your cat beat the summer heat (I’m sensing a pattern here), and The Guardian has a few good tips for cats, dogs, and even small pets like bunnies.