7 Summer Dangers for Your Outdoor Cat

Summer is in full swing across the U.S., and the heat has come with it.

If you have an outdoor cat, you know she likes her independence and, other than some basic tick and flea prevention, you might think she’s OK on her own during the summer.

It is true that cats are pretty resilient, but summer provides dangers for all pets that she might not be prepared to handle. From heat stroke to poisons introduced by landscaping, there are new outdoor hazards all around her.

Here are seven common summer dangers our veterinarians see. Know these exist to help you make a plan to keep your cat from getting sick this summer.

1. Heat stroke and dehydration
You know your cat is highly intelligent, and she is pretty good at keeping cool on her own, but she needs resources from you to protect herself on the hottest days.

While she can likely find her own shade, it’s best if you provide ample cool and covered areas near your home where she can find a breeze. Additionally, leave out plenty of water for her. Some cat owners will leave out two water dishes — one with water and the other with ice that will melt as the day goes on to provide cool water later in the day.

If possible, consider bringing your outdoor cat indoors during the hottest parts of the day (10 am – 4 pm). Keep an eye on the weather forecast to see spikes in heat. If you see your cat panting, make sure to bring her inside and, if it continues, consult your veterinarian.

One note for all pets in the summer: If you need to take them somewhere, do not leave them inside the car. A car’s temperature can reach 104 degrees in less than 15 minutes on a hot summer day. This is a formula for heat stroke.

2. Cars
This is obvious in all seasons, but in the summer there is more traffic and people tend to speed a bit more. We’ve covered this in the past, but in general outdoor cats have a shorter life expectancy than indoor cats. Car injuries are one of the leading reasons for this. You obviously cannot keep your cat safe all hours of the day, but try to give her safe shelter and play areas near the back of your home, away from traffic areas. Again, if you can bring her indoors, try to do so when the traffic near your home or apartment is highest.

3. Asphalt and Sidewalks (They get Hot!)
On hot days, it’s not uncommon to see the road steam. It’s likely you would never think to walk barefoot on such a hot surface, but your cat doesn’t really have a choice. Sure, as an outdoor cat she’s a little more accustomed to the rough surfaces than you are, but it can still be too hot for her. Remember that she is much closer to the ground than you are, meaning that she really feels heat radiating off surfaces.

She likely knows how to avoid the hottest surfaces, but again, if possible, help your cat by either bringing her indoors or providing an outdoor shelter area that will keep her cool. If there are paths to her food or water that require her to go over hot asphalt or concrete, try to give those areas some cover or shade to help protect her.

4. Fleas, Bees and Ticks
Warm summer weather means pests galore – and they are on the lookout for cats and dogs. Be prepared to manage summertime pet pests like fleas, ticks and even mosquitoes. In most cases, there are safe, effective ways to prevent or eradicate pest infestations that don’t involve dosing your pet with toxic chemicals. Always read the labels on any pest prevention tools you use to make sure they are pet safe.

Additionally, the buzzing of bees can seem quite attractive to your cat, which can get her stung. If there is a lot of swelling, call your veterinarian, who can suggest an office visit or prescribe an over-the-counter medicine. Watch how your cat responds to any swelling. She may scratch the stung area or pull at her fur. Bring your cat to the vet right away if you notice any abnormal behavior or swelling.

5. Cookouts and Parties
The warmer months are the time for block parties, picnics and family gatherings. Everyone loves a cookout, especially your pet, who can find all kinds of table scraps and, if she’s social, make lots of new friends. Some cats avoid parties and others love them!

Food that’s left out, fed or dropped at a cookout can be dangerous for cats. Staples of a BBQ, like onions and garlic, are dangerous for cats.

Even worse, some guests think it’s OK to give scraps to animals at a party. Talk to your guests about what your cat can have. Politely remind them if your pet has a special diet, is allergic to anything or if there are any foods on the table that could cause a health problem. You want to enjoy the party too, not worrying about a cat that’s vomiting.

6. Water
Domesticated cats, even outdoor ones, tend to avoid water. That doesn’t mean they can’t swim, but most of them are not accustomed to it. Still, summer pool parties or parties at the lake can attract your outdoor cat and, if they are mesmerized by the water or chasing something near the water, they may end up taking an unexpected dip. Keep an eye on them, as many will be able to swim, but may be shocked to be submerged in water.

If for some reason you have one of those rare cats that likes to swim, always rinse them off afterward. Chlorine in pools and bacteria in lakes can be harmful. Always offer them fresh drinking water when they’re done.

Written by the staff at petplace.com

How and why dogs play

Play, by definition, is fun. When play stops being fun it stops being play. Play is a pleasurable activity during which animals engage in behaviors that are not part of the immediate business of life, but rather are performed in mimicry, rehearsal or display. During play, dogs behave without real seriousness – running, jumping, chasing, mouthing, chewing, wrestling, biting, hiding and even humping. In play, all behaviors are a game to the players and are performed for fun. There is no hidden agenda.

Dogs have a unique gesture, the play bow, that signals “play mode.” The signal involves dogs going down on their elbows with their rear end elevated, tail raised and wagging. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked. They may bark to signal their wish to solicit another’s involvement, and may approach or withdraw from a potential play partner while pouncing and leaping about.

Play is usually, but not always, between two or more individuals. Sometimes dogs without partners will play by themselves. Solitary play is a rather sad event and may even have unwanted long-term repercussions.

Why Do Dogs Play?

It has been suggested that play is a necessary part of growing up for all young social animals and that without it they may not develop to their full potential. This does not appear to be the case, as animals deprived of play for reasons of sickness or ill health grow up to be behaviorally indistinguishable from their play-satiated peers. This is not to say that “players” may not develop more rapidly than their play-deprived peers, just that the end result often turns out to be more or less the same.

If play is not absolutely imperative for normal development to develop, what good is it? Well, play is a role-playing rehearsal for adult behaviors and as such will prepare a youngster for what lies ahead. During play, pups exercise their bodies and minds, making them healthier and smarter for it. In nature, this may give players the edge over their unrehearsed counterparts who may be still struggling to learn the Ps and Qs of canine etiquette or the rudiments of the chase. Note that different types of play unfold in parallel with sensitive periods of learning, so that play learning is most efficient. Mouthiness is first seen at 3 weeks of age, right after the transitional period. Then come play solicitation, play fighting, scruff holding, deference, and finally sexual play.

All these forms of play start in the socialization period between 3 and 6 weeks of age and they intensify as the pup approaches adolescence. Object play, chewing and chasing objects, occurs a little later, becoming most intense after about 16 to 20 weeks of age.

Types of Ways Dogs Play

Social Dog Play
Social skills are honed by playful interactions between individuals. One pup may jump on another pup, pin him, and then mouth him around the head and neck. If the pressure of the pup’s bite exceeds tolerable limits, the temporary underdog will roll over, yelp or run away. Both parties learn an important lesson. The biter learns to inhibit his bite if he wishes the fun to continue, and the pup that is bitten learns that deference or escape will cause the unpleasant experience to come to an end. Of course, sudden role reversal is also a feature of play, with provisional subordinates suddenly becoming pursuers and “attackers.” A happy medium is reached when truly dominant dogs learn their gift for mastery, and subordinates learn how to avoid or deter unpleasant exchanges. This dynamic may explain why dominant dogs are less successful than their subordinates in soliciting play. Aloof pups that don’t play much, and orphaned pups, often grow up to be socially inappropriate. In repelling borders, they may send a message that is too profound, failing to inhibit their bite – and they may not be able to deliver convincing messages of deference.

Sexual Dog Play

This mostly takes the form of mounting, clasping and pelvic thrusting (“humping”). The lack of seriousness is indicated by the somewhat haphazard orientation of this behavior, initially. Male and female pups are equally likely to be targeted, or in their absence, peoples’ legs and cushions may have to suffice. Dogs that have had no humping experience will not be as immediately successful in mating as previously rehearsed counterparts. Also, dogs without playmates may imprint on inanimate objects or human appendages as substrates for humping behavior, and become an embarrassment to own if not neutered. In addition, the relationship between humping and dominance must be born in mind if the correct human-companion animal relationship is to be preserved.

Oral Dog Play
Young puppies have a biological need to mouth and chew malleable objects. It seems to give them almost undue pleasure. Unlike social and sexual play, this type of play does not require a partner, though socially-testing tug-of-war games sometimes evolve as a spin off. Of course, by teething time, at around 6 to 8 months of age, object chewing becomes an extremely useful adjuvant to assist with tooth loosening and dental eruption, and may even provide some relief from gingival discomfort.

Predatory Dog Play
Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs.

Playtime as Dogs Age

In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. Adults do not normally have the time or energy to waste in such trivial pursuits. Domestic dogs, however, seem to be enduringly suspended in a juvenile frame of mind. Thus play is not something they outgrow but rather an activity they keenly pursue throughout their lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health, and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed. Dogs that do not seem to enjoy playing should be carefully scrutinized to make sure all is well in their lives.

Written by Dr. Nicholas Dodman for petplace.com