When we think of preparing outdoor cats for extreme weather conditions, we mostly think of the Winter months; not many of us take the Summer months into consideration. But just as it is important to provide extra care for community cats during the cold season, it is vital to take some precautions when caring for cats during the hot, dry season. Increased temperatures and humidity adds an extra stress for outdoor cats, but by taking a few simple steps, we can ease some of their stress.
The most important thing caretakers can do is to provide fresh, clean water everyday. If possible, change the water two times a day and make sure to sterilize all water and food dishes regularly. Metal containers resist bacteria better than plastic containers; however, metal is a better heat conductor and will warm the water faster. Adding ice can help keep water cooler for longer. Try to make sure the feeding station is in a shady area (or provide one), out of direct sunlight. Feed the cats early in the morning and late in the evening, when temperatures are lowest.
Because a lot of areas tend to experience drought conditions during the Summer, leaving less available water sources for the cats, the amount of wet food that is provided should be increased. Cats naturally do not drink a lot of water; they are meant to stay hydrated from the fluids in their meals (prey). Caretakers should increase a cat's moisture intake during the hot season as much as possible. *Just remember to properly clean up the area after each feeding. Insect activity, especially flies, increases during the Summer, so it is crucial that all uneaten food is disposed of in order to prevent parasite infections.*
All bedding should be changed more frequently due to increased fleas, ticks and other insects. Flea powders can be sprinkled onto bedding and surrounding areas, while medications such as Capstar can be crushed into the cats' food to prevent infestations. For friendly cats or those being TNRed or retrapped for vaccine updates, a monthly topical flea/tick treatment, such as Advantage Multi, is ideal. Most flea/tick medications also treat for ear mites, internal parasites (roundworms, hookworms), and can prevent heartworm disease.
Regular brushing also helps decrease parasite infestations and removes dirt, fur, and dead skin. Brushing helps condition the fur and removing extra fur helps the cat cool quicker. Brushing is only recommended for outdoor cats who are friendly and allow human contact; this should not be attempted with truly feral cats. Brushing can, however, be used as a socialization tool. Regular petting and brushing can build trust with a cat and contribute to her/his adoptability.
The last step in reducing heat-related illnesses for outdoor cats is to refrain from TNRing on days with extreme temperatures and high humidity. Trapping cats can be a stressful event; cats don't need the extra stress of extreme heat. Check local weather forecasts prior to trapping and always set traps during the early and late evening hours; again, when temperatures are at their lowest. Never place a trap in direct sunlight or exposed to the elements. Never leave a trap unattended! It doesn't take long for a cat to succumb to heat stroke when left in a trap during the Summer.