The life of homeless feral cats is always hard, but even more so during harsh weather. In many areas, summertime brings new challenges in the form of fewer water sources as well as intense heat. You can help make life just a little bit easier for these cats by following these tips.
Providing Water for Feral Cats
The most important thing you can do to help feral cats during summertime is to provide them with easy access to plenty of fresh water. Anyone can perform this simple act of kindness, so even if you don't regularly care for a colony of feral cats, consider leaving out a bowl of water.
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Tip #1 - Use a deep bowl
Avoid using a shallow water dish as water can quickly evaporate on a hot and dry day. Stick to large deep bowls and make sure they're not too narrow.
Tip #2 - Add ice to the water
If you live in a very hot area, freeze water in a plastic cup and place the block of ice in the water bowl. This will ensure a fresh supply of water throughout the day, and the cats will probably appreciate the cool drink.
Feeding Feral Cats during Summertime
Hot summer days make bugs and bacteria happy. Food is more likely to attract ants and flies, and wet food will spoil more quickly.
Tip #3 - Leaving food out unattended? Consider dry cat food
Unless you know the cats well and know they will eat the food quickly, you should probably avoid canned food during hot summer days. Left outside for a long time, the food will either dry up or spoil.
Tip #4 - Feed wet food in a shaded area
Direct sunlight can dry canned food quickly and make it unpalatable, so make sure you place dishes of wet food in the shade.
Tip #5 - Add water to canned food
Diluting the food with water can help keep cats hydrated. It will also keep the canned food from drying up too quickly. Don't overdo it and remember the cats need the caloric intake to survive, so you don't want them to take in too much water at the expense of actual nutrients.
Tip #6 - Keep ants away from the food dishes
Ants are more active during summer months and there's nothing they'd like more than a dish full of nutritious cat food. TCS member @catsknowme says that she applies Vaseline around the bottom of the food dishes to discourage ants. @msaimee told us that she uses an outdoor ant and bird-proof pet feeder which keeps both the ants and the starlings away from the cat food.
Provide a shaded shelter
Shelter is a more obvious need during wintertime when cats need a safe warm place to make it through the snow and cold. However, it's also important during summertime, as direct sunlight can quickly raise a cat's body temperature to the point of a heat stroke.
Tip #7 - Provide plenty of shade
Make sure the cats don't have to compete for shade by putting up tarps over the cats' favorite napping spots. When feeding the cats, place the food in the shade and opt for the cooler early morning or evening hours.
Special considerations for TNR
TNR stands for "Trap, Neuter and Return" - the recommended protocol for feral cat care. As experienced caregivers of feral cat colonies know: If you feed, you must also spay and neuter.
Trapping and neutering cats during hot summer days requires special care.
Tip #8 - Never leave a cat in the trap in direct sunlight or a hot place
Cats can heat up and develop a heat stroke very fast, so you should never leave a cat exposed to direct sunlight or to the heat of the day. Keep watch over the traps, and as soon as your cat is in the trap, cover it and move it to a cool area.
Tip #9 - Never leave a cat in a parked car
The temperature inside a parked car can rise very quickly. Never ever leave a cat or any other pet in a parked car, not even for a few minutes. If you trapped a feral cat and need to transport him or her, stay with the cat at all times and make sure the car is air-conditioned and cool.
If you're new to TNR, start by reading this simple guide: Everything you need to know about TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release). Please also visit our Feral Cat Care & Rescue forum where you can get more advice on how to properly and effectively trap and neuter your cats.