Summer is here at last. It’s the season of vacations, cookouts, pools, and lazy sun-drenched afternoon naps. It’s also the season of severe thunderstorms, extreme heat, and poison ivy. Here are some tips that will help you and your cat have a safe, enjoyable summer together.

First and foremost, always keep your cat inside. House cats allowed to be outside have shorter lifespans than inside cats, and face a number of dangers from foxes to distracted drivers. The single best way to protect cats is to keep them indoors. Just in case your cat gets out, keep a collar and tag on her at all times. Make sure the tag has your up-to-date contact information on it. If your cat is microchipped, update your contact information with the manufacturer.

Keep your cat cool during extreme heat with fans, ice in her water bowl, or special frozen treats. Make sure she can get to the cooler parts of the house, like rooms with tiled floors or spaces that don’t get direct sunlight. Restrict playtime to mornings and evenings, and be sure to brush kitty often, even if she has short hair.  If your cat is panting, staggering, restless, vomiting, or has very red gums, take her to the vet right away – she might have heat stroke, which can be extremely dangerous or even fatal for cats.

During parties, when your guests may be moving in and out of the house often, confine your cat to a bedroom, with plenty of food, water, toys, and cozy napping spots. It’s easy for a cat to slip out an open door, especially with lots of people in the house who are thinking about other things.  This will also help keep kitty away from human food, flowers, and other party supplies that might not be good for her.

The Fourth of July can be stressful for cats because of increased activity and noises from firecrackers.  Keeping your cat inside and away from fireworks will help reduce her stress and fear, and will reduce her chance of bolting into traffic.

Finally, while we always hope hurricanes will avoid our area, there’s a chance every year that Richmond could get hit. If the worst happens and you need to evacuate with your cat, here are some things you need to know. Make sure her collar and tag are secure and up-to-date (same with her chip). Check that her carrier closes securely and is big enough for her to stand up and lie down in. Bring several days’ worth of food, water, and medicine – assume these won’t be available wherever you end up sheltering, at least not right away. Bring all of her vet records in case she needs to see a vet before you can return home. If you can, call ahead to evacuation shelters and find the ones that accept pets (not all of them will). Drive carefully and avoid standing water and fallen trees or power lines.

With a little bit of effort and planning, you and your cat can have a comfortable, fun summer together this year and for many years to come.

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