You’d think a cat who spends her life indoors would be entirely immune to the effects of hot weather, but that’s not the case. Your house cat is more at risk for certain health problems during the summer than at other times of year. Here’s a rundown.
Falling from an open window. Veterinary practices routinely report that during the summer months, they treat more cats for serious injuries because they’ve fallen out of windows. Granted, cats have an uncanny ability to right themselves in the middle of a fall so that they land on their feet. But if they are falling only a couple of stories, they may not have time to regain their balance. And if they fall from a high floor, even if they can correct their body position and land properly, the force of the fall can break bones and make them crumple to the ground, injuring their heads and chest organs in the process.
That’s why, whether you live in a private house or high up in an apartment building, you should make sure the screens are down at all times, and that they are installed snugly and tightly. Firmly push your hand against each screen in your home. You might be surprised at how easily they can pop out if not properly secured.
With the same safety consideration in mind, keep fire escapes off limits, as well as balconies, terraces, or lanais that are not secured with a grill.
Heatstroke. Cats are amazingly good at regulating their body temperature. They lick their fur, and then the saliva evaporates, acting as a body coolant. But the mechanism has its limits. If the air temperature rises higher than a cat’s internal temperature — about 102 degrees Fahrenheit — all the evaporated saliva in the world won’t keep a feline safe.
A cat will do everything she can to find a shady spot in the house where the temperature is lower than, say, near a window. But in certain parts of the country, on certain days of the year, even that might not be enough to keep the ambient temperature lower than the temperature inside her body. That increases her risk for heatstroke, which can be fatal. If it’s going to be one of those unbelievably hot days, or there’s going to be a spate of them, it’s safest to leave the air conditioning on for your pet even if you’re going out.
Sunburn. Window glazing keeps most of the harmful sunburn-causing rays from entering your home, so your cat’s not likely to get burned hanging around indoors. But a lot of indoor cats have access to screened-in patios and other areas with direct exposure to the sun, and for cats with white (or light) faces or ears in particular, that can cause problems. The best bet is to keep your cat indoors during the sunniest part of the day — between around 9 am and 3 pm. And when you do let her onto the patio or screened-in porch, apply sunscreen to her nose and the tips of her ears. That will help prevent not just sunburns but also skin cancer. Make sure the product is cat-safe in case she ends up ingesting it by licking it off.
Flea and tick bites. Fleas and ticks are hazards all year long in most parts of the country but definitely more so in summer. Be certain that your cat has a flea and tick preventative approved in advance by your veterinarian. Keep in mind that even if your cat never exits your home, you might inadvertently bring in insects as you enter.
Note: If mosquitoes are present, consider a heartworm preventative for your cat, advises Tufts veterinary internist Michael Stone, DVM.
Chemical spills in the garage. If you’re casual during the summer months about leaving open the door between the kitchen/mudroom and the garage, your cat has a better chance of making her way in and stepping in poisonous chemicals like antifreeze that she will then lick off and ingest. Keep your pet out of garages and sheds where you store various maintenance and cleaning fluids.