5 summer health hazards that every cat owner should know about

Most cats love nothing better than basking in the summer sunshine! But the warmer months can bring some risks for our feline friends, too. Make sure you’re up to speed on summertime’s biggest health hazards for cats.

1. Prevent dehydration in cats

Cats evolved in warmer climates, so they generally handle the heat pretty well. But even so, they can get heatstroke in very hot weather, while other ailments – such as diabetes, vomiting or diarrhoea – can also cause dehydration in cats. This, in turn, can lead to constipation, urinary tract infections, and also kidney problems in more mature moggies.

Not sure if your cat is well hydrated? The simplest way to prevent dehydration is to provide plenty of clean drinking water. Place several non-plastic water bowls around your home (and garden, too, if your cat spends time there), well away from food and litter trays.

If your cat prefers running water, offer drinks from the tap, or splash out on a cat water fountain. Providing wet cat food, not just dry kibbles, can also increase her fluid intake.

Symptoms of cat dehydration include:

And if you lift the skin between your cat’s shoulder blades, it may remain raised rather than snapping back into place. If you’re worried about your cat, do get them checked out by a vet.

2. Avoid feline heat hazards over the summer

It’s not impossible for cats to overheat in summer, so do read our advice on helping them keep cool, such as providing cooling mats, iced water and regular grooming. It’s also easy for them to find their way into uncomfortably warm places they shouldn’t – such as non-ventilated greenhouses, sheds or cars – and get trapped. On a hot day, this can cause heatstroke, and may even prove fatal.

Barbecues are another hot-weather hazard. The aroma of meat or fish cooking may be tempting to a hungry cat, but just-cooked food and hot coals can cause nasty burns. Keep your cat well away from barbecue areas and never feed them tidbits, as you may increase their interest.

3. Stop your cat getting sunburnt

Felines tend to be sun-worshippers, but just like us, they can also get sunburn. A cat’s ears, nose and eyelids are particularly prone to burning, especially if they are light in colour (think white cats with pink ears and noses), or have little or no fur.

Make sure your cat has access to shady spots when they’re outdoors, and if they insist on sunbathing, apply a specialised cat sunscreen (never a human sunscreen) on any pale, thin-furred areas of skin. If your cat is prone to burning, consider keeping them indoors between 10am and 3pm.

As in humans, sun damage can cause skin cancer in cats. If you notice black crusty patches, non-healing sores or unexplained scabs on your cat’s ears, nose or eyelids, get them checked out by a vet – these could be signs of a cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SSC).

4. Look out for stings and bites in cats

Just like us, cats can be bitten or stung by insects over the summer. A bee or wasp can be an irresistible plaything for a curious kitty, but the game can result in a painful sting – most commonly on the paws or around the mouth.

Although they cause discomfort and swelling, wasp and bee stings aren’t usually dangerous. Get to the vet straight away, though, if your cat is stung inside the mouth or on the throat – where the swelling could constrict the airway – or if they collapse, vomit, struggle to breathe or show other signs of an allergic reaction.

Summer is peak time for parasites, so make sure your cat’s flea and worm treatments are up to date. Cats who roam in long grass may pick up ticks, so check their fur regularly.

Snakes are at their most active during the summer months, so there’s an extremely small, but serious, risk of your cat being bitten by an adder. Symptoms include pain and swelling at the bite area, panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, seizures, abnormal bleeding and collapse. If you suspect your cat has an adder bite, keep them as still as possible and take them to an emergency vet immediately.

5. Remember that some plants are poisonous to cats

Beautiful blooms are one of the joys of summer, but some flowers are toxic to our feline friends. Lilies are a particular risk – not only are all parts of a lily poisonous to cats, but the pollen can brush off onto your pet’s fur as they walk past. When they wash, they ingest the pollen, which can cause kidney damage and even death.

Other popular summer plants that could poison your pet include elder, foxgloves, geraniums, hydrangeas, lily-of-the-valley, oleander, ragwort and even rhubarb. Fortunately, most cats instinctively keep clear of poisonous plants – but if you suspect your cat has been nibbling any of these (or even just drinking the water that the cut flowers have been standing in), do seek veterinary advice.