“Summertime, and the living is easy…” apparently, although as I write this I can hear the rain hitting the windows. We all love the Summer – warmer weather, the chance to be outdoors, longer evenings, a chance for holidays and time away from work….
Summer is also usually a good season for our pet cats – whether it’s indoor cats following the sun’s rays around inside the home, or outdoor cats on the prowl in the garden or thick undergrowth. Most cats will tend to be a bit more active during the Summer months – we see this when many cats tip the scales at lower body weight than during the Winter months.
But the Summer months can also pose some problems to cats that all cat owners should consider.
Fleas: Most cat owners are now aware that fleas can be an all year round parasite challenge – but that challenge is at its greatest during the Summer months. Higher numbers of cats spending time outdoors in better weather, plus the abundance of wildlife that can carry fleas mean that your outdoor puss is more likely to come into contact with this pesky parasite. Also, the flea lifecycle speeds up in response to warmth and humidity, so this accelerates the growth in flea numbers. One flea on your cat can lay >200 eggs. These drop off, develop and hatch in amongst carpets and furnishings, and then emerge as new adult fleas to jump back onto your cat – or even yourself. In this way a very small flea challenge can lead to an indoor infestation! It’s essential to use an effective flea treatment – so that rules out flea powders – and your vet can provide the one best suited to your cat and you.
Ticks: are becoming much more prevalent in central Scotland than they ever were, and that’s due to change in climate – it’s warmer and more humid than ever before. Ticks lie in wait on grass or bracken or heather and hop onto unsuspecting passers by. They are predominantly a parasite of sheep, deer or cattle but will happily attach onto and feed from cats, dogs, rabbits, people(!) – they are fairly undiscerning! Once attached they feed by sucking blood from their host, but they can also pass on disease. The best known is Lyme’s Disease, which can make people, dogs and cats very unwell and is difficult both to diagnose and to treat. Prevention is better than cure, so if you live – or are visiting – a “tick area” then you should treat your cat with a preventative. These come in form of sprays, collars or tablets and again your vety will advise you what will suit your cat best.
Bee and Wasp stings: May cats find the buzzing insects just too tempting and may get more than they bargained for. Cats do get stung and react in different ways – some will develop a tender swelling at the site, others can even develop a fullblown anaphylactic shock, so it’s important to be aware. If you suspect your cat has been stung adopt the maxim – if in doubt – check it out and have your vet examine and treat accordingly. If you witness the stinging episode you can employ some home first aid – the antidote to a wasp sting is vinegar, and to a bee sting is bicarbonate of soda (but nowadays how many folk have this among their baking ingredients??).
Sunburn: I saw another puss yesterday with damage to the margins of its ears – this was due to sunburn. The ear edges were red, crusty and tender. We normally associate this with white cats but this poor guy – called Lucky(!) – was ginger and white, but half of his ear areas were white, and these had become damaged by the sun. So if your cat has white ears, it is wise to apply some high factor sunblock before they go outdoors each day during the Summer.
Fights: better night time weather increases the numbers of cats outdoors which in turn increases the risk of cat fights, so check your cat over daily when they return from their outdoor adventures.
Barbeques:- one of my own favourite bits about Summer. There can often be scraps left after or around a Barbie, and we have seen some cats presented because they have eaten bones – spare ribs can stick in the throat, or chicken bones can get stuck in the mouth! Take care to keep all BBQ foods out of reach of your cats.
Overheating: This is a much more common problem with dogs, but any cat in a car on a hot day is at risk of overheating – with potentially fatal consequences! If the temperature outside a car reaches 20 degrees then that inside the car can easily reach 40 degrees when the engine and air con is switched off. So take care, and don’t leave them there!!
Wandering: Cats are naturally curious and are at risk of wandering, or of being shut in neighbours’ garages or sheds. Your best chance of having him/her returned safely is to make sure they have a Microchip identity – and that your address details are up to date!
Many of these topics can be dealt with by a visit to your vet, when a health check and all parasite risks can be covered. Then we can all enjoy the long, hot Summer!
Mike Hall is Vet and Partner at BRAID VETS EDINBURGH