Tag Archives: summer

Help Your Pet Beat The Summer Heat

Summer is a great time to bond with your pet. Long summer drives, time spent in the park, hiking, gardening, and even taking a few pet-friendly road trips. But the summer months can also be dangerous for pets (and people). Here are a few tips to help your pet beat the heat this summer.

Keep An Eye On the Thermometer And Watch The Heat Indexresting2

Extreme humidity can be as dangerous heat to pets. Since animals pant to cool themselves (instead of sweating,) high humidity can prevent them from cooling down. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, get them into a cool area immediately, apply cold towels or ice packs to their head, neck and chest, give them small amounts of cool water to drink, and take them to a veterinarian. Pets with short muzzles are particularly prone to heat stroke.

Practice Summer Style

Pets are just as susceptible to sunburn as you are – especially light breed dogs. Fur is one of the ways that pets protect themselves from winter’s cold and the dangers of extreme sunlight. So if you do shave your pet in the summer, please be sure to leave enough fur to protect them from the summer sun. There are some pet-safe sunscreens on the market if you and your dog plan to hit the beach this summer. My favorite is Petkin’s Doggy Sunstick, but there are many other good all-natural products available.

Spent Some Time In The Shade

If you plan to spend the day outdoors, be sure to take time in the shade. Whether you’re running, playing, or just hanging out at the beach, your dog (and you) could benefit from some time out of the sun, as well as some fresh, cold water. Be sure to pack plenty of water (and ice) for you and your furry friend along with your sunblock. If you’re packing a picnic or lunch to go, consider a frozen treat for your pet like Frosty Paws or DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs.

Be aware that many products that are safe for dogs and even for horses are not safe for other pets, like cats. So be sure to read carefully. This goes for sunscreens as well as products like flea and tick repellent.

Don’t Let Summer Storms Get You Down

Be ready for summer weather. Summer storms can put a real damper on summer fun – especially if your A/C goes down during a heat index warning or if you live in areas prone to flooding. Have a pet emergency plan in place just in case.

Pets And Parked Cars Don’t Mix

Never leave your pet in a parked car under any circumstances – even with the air conditioning running for a few minutes. On an 85-degree day the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.

If you see a pet trapped in a locked car, get help immediately. Call your local police department’s non-emergency number and/or animal control, and wait by the car until they arrive. If you have bottled water, you may be able to help the pet if the window is cracked and they are in distress. Some states do now allow police, animal control officers, and good Samaritans to break car windows to save pets.

Remember that even though the summer can be a fun time, it can also be very stressful for pets. Your pet may have a tendency to “overdo” summer fun so it’s up to you to make sure they stay safe. Have a great summer and please be sure to check out the resources below for more information.


Humane Society of the US: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

ASPCA: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/hot-weather-tips

Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety/protecting-pets-from-heat


Caring For Stray & Community Cats In Summer

feral save summerIt’s hard to be a feral or community cat. Spring and fall seem to last no time at all compared to cold, wet winters and scorching summers. For caregivers, summer brings a relief from worrying about ice, snow, and below zero temperatures, but has its own set of challenges including summer storms, heat advisories, and parasites. Simple kindnesses like providing shade and cool water and making sure that shelters are tick and flea-free can not only make feral kitties happier, they can save lives.

If you’d like to give your ‘community critters’ a helping hand this summer, here are a few things you can do to help:

Provide Shelter

There’s no better way to beat the heat than a little shade. Offering feral and community cats a way to shelter from the sun is a great way to make their lives easier. Many pet and online stores offer shelters that are both insulated from the cold and reflective of sunlight and heat. But if you’re making your own warm weather shelters, you’ll want to find material that is reflective of sunlight (light colors work best) and weatherproof.

Although you can find ready-made dog and cat houses at your local pet store, it’s easy enough to make them yourself and much cheaper. You might even want to make a day of it with friends or your children. Lots of websites offer great tips on crafting ‘cat houses’ for feral kitties or strays who might need a little TLC this summer. For a few examples check out the Humane Society’s website, as well as Neighborhood Cat’s website and Alley Cat Allies. Although some of these designs are specifically for winter shelters, they can be used in summer as well.

If you do decide to use bedding or straw, you will want to change it every other week to keep the shelter clean and free of parasites. The most important thing is that the bedding be kept dry. So be sure to place your ‘cat house’ in an area sheltered from the wind and rain. Shaded areas will also help keep the heat to a minimum.

cat tryFresh Water & Kibble

Be sure to place fresh water and kibble near (by not right beside) the shelters. Leaving food right beside the shelters will attract predators and make the shelters less attractive (and safe) for their occupants.

Place water bowls in the shade and make sure you choose light colors to reflect heat. You may even want to place a large block of ice in the center of the water dish so it can melt throughout the day and provide your community kitties with a cool treat. I’ve seen a few kitties who enjoy playing with ice chips in water, as well as licking ice.

As for food, dry kibble is the easiest to provide (cost-wise and because it doesn’t attract insects like ‘wet’ food). But if you can afford some canned cat food, it is always a welcome addition to a feral or stray cats’ diet. If you feed your feral community at a set time each day, the cats will quickly adjust to your schedule and show up while the food is still fresh from the can.

As a warning, the strong smell of ‘wet’ food does tend to attract hornets and other stinging insects, as well as flies. So be sure to clean up any food left after your feral kitties have had their fill.

You can find many more tips on feeding and caring for feral and community cats on Alley Cat Allies website: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295. They also have a great network for people who care for stray and feral animals in case you’re looking for help or just a sympathetic ear.

feral help3Summer Precautions

There are also some very simple things you can do to protect outside cats, dogs, and other critters year-round like knocking on the hood of your car to warn animals who may’ve taken refuge there that you’re about to start the engine. You may also want to honk your horn once so they can take flight before you do. This is good advice summer and winter. Your car is an attractive patch of shade to critters who are trying to beat the heat.

If you chose to use fertilizers, mulch, or other garden care supplies, look for products that are pet-friendly, as well as plants that both you and your furry friends can enjoy. Many fertilizers, insecticides, and even mulches are toxic to animals and harmful to people. You can find animal-friendly products at most larger garden stores or you might want to consider organic, do-it-yourself options, as well as plants that are pet (and child!) safe.

Summer pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitos are another hazard to consider. You might not have the resources to apply tick/flea repellent to an entire colony of feral cats, but if you can afford Frontline or another similar product and heartworm products that protect against heart worms like Heartgard, they are the best option. In addition to repellents, you can help keep feeding and rest areas free of parasites by encouraging parasite-predators like birds and ‘possums. Consider setting up a bird and/or a bat feeder. Both will help cut down on ticks and mosquitos, as will changing water frequently. Stagnant water attracts lots of unsavory biting creatures including mosquitoes. If you live in an area with ‘possums, they’re going to show up for the kibble you leave out and will probably munch a few ticks while they’re visiting.

Consider a Donation

cat fosterSummer is kitten season. So it’s not only a hard time of year for outdoor animals, but also for those who care for them. You might want to consider donating your time or extra cash to a local organization that cares of stray and community animals or volunteer to become a kitten foster. At this time of year, volunteers are always needed to help socialize and feed kittens and pregnant cats, clean and clear out bedding, and provide food and water to the feral communities that sometimes double in size as kittens are born into the colony. Even donations of old (but clean) bedding, cleaning supplies, and wet and dry food are welcome.

Summer can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and happy one for feral communities too.

P.S. If you’re a little confused about the difference between a feral and a stray cat, here’s a quick primer. But, in general, a stray cat is an animal who has had a home at some point and who is socialized. A feral cat is a wild creature who may or may not seek human attention.

Feral cats often live in colonies with other cats. These colonies, if given a little help, can be safe and stable places for the cats to live out their lives. TNR (trap-neuter-release) helps control the colony population and cut down on disease. Some feral cats may choose to become socialized and may find homes. Others prefer to live their lives ‘wild’ accepting help only when they need it.

Best Friends Animal Society maintains a very happy and successful feral colony in addition to providing support for other animal care networks and adoptions. To learn more about how you can help stray and feral animals near you, you can visit their website.

Girl vs. Squirrel

cover squirrel

There was a time, in the distant past, that I loved squirrels.  Having been fed squirrel propaganda all my life, I envisioned squirrels as tiny, fun-loving animals akin to Rocky the Flying Squirrel.  They were full of antics, friendly, and possibly given to wearing colorful hats.  Of course, the truth is a far cry from the cartoon reality.  I don’t believe I ever saw Rocky pull up a bed of tulips and take one dainty bit from each helpless bulb.  Nor, did he enjoy ransacking birdhouses and destroying birdfeeders.  Rocky was, despite his hijinks with Bullwinkle, a law-abiding squirrel.  The squirrels in my yard are a law unto themselves.

 And, of course, with every tale, there is a villain.  Since we haven’t been properly introduced, let’s just call him the Rat Squirrel or R.S. for short.  R.S. is not like other squirrels.  He fears nothing.  He scoffs at squirrel-proof feeders and cats and dogs are only nuisances to him.  Even the menace of Ryder, my previous neighbor’s fat, yellow tabby only slowed R.S.  Not only is he the biggest, baddest squirrel on the block, but he has the distinction of having absolutely no fur on his tail.  He has, in short, a rat’s tail.  Whether this is some genetic fluke or the result of really bad luck, I guess I’ll never know.  But, having a denuded tail has, in no way, improved R.S.’s temperament.

 I’m not really sure how long squirrel’s live, but R.S. made his appearance about two years ago.  I walked out on my deck to find a slice of pizza lying on my doormat.  Now, since I don’t usually leave old pizza crusts on my door mat, I found this odd—especially since I distinctly remembered putting last night’s pizza box in my trash can and securely latching its lid.  Yet, here was the pizza, on the mat, on the deck.  And, there was a squirrel, sitting nonchalantly in one of my floor barrels unearthing herbs and throwing them roots and all onto the deck.  I looked at the squirrel and he looked at me.  Then, he jumped up onto the overhanging branches that surround the deck and was gone.  My last sight of him was his hideous rat tail.  This was our introduction.

 Since that day, R.S. has led his minions on many merry adventures in my garden.  He likes to get up early, so that he can either dig in the barrels on my deck or check the trash for dainties.  Sometimes he puts things in the barrels; sometimes he digs things up depending on his moods.  He won’t stand for birdfeeders or birdhouses of any sort.  He’s not fond of wind chimes either and sometimes pulls them down.  It’s a 50/50 chance as to whether he’ll let them stay or not.

 Squirrel-proof feeders and houses don’t even slow him down.  He can pull one down within an hour’s time—sometimes with the help of his crew and sometimes alone.  The other squirrels follow him or at least imitate him.  And, he’s a chewer.  Advice on boarding up holes to keep squirrels out of eaves and attics would seemingly work, but I’ve seen the holes that he leaves behind.  Since I never catch him at work, I don’t know how long these excavations of his take.  He may start work as soon as I pull out of the drive.  I know that was Ryder’s usual M.O.  He actually would lurk in the witch-hazel bushes until he saw my car pull out and then make a run for the rabbit holes.  It may be that R.S. learned a thing or two from Ryder, his previous nemesis.  With Ryder gone, R.S. fears nothing.  Honey, our neighborhood dog, is safely enclosed in her electric fence and Fionna, Ryder’s apprentice, is no match for the power and glory of the Rat Squirrel.

 Case in point, I was given a glorious birdfeeder.  This wasn’t just any birdfeeder, but the Barbie Dreamhouse of birdfeeders.  It has towers, a veranda, and a miniature mailbox—should the birds ever need to send tiny missives to each other.  It has multiple levels for different types of food and a painted garden. This is the kind of birdfeeder that birds, if they do chat to one another, mention as a landmark.  “Fly south for about ten minutes and cut right at the glorious birdfeeder.  You know, the one with the steeple and tiny mail box?”  It was a beauty and with R.S. in mind, I hung it by a coated wire hanger far from the trees and the deck with no, to my mind, possible way for R.S. to gain entry.  I placed it bright and early Sunday morning.

 By noon, the birdfeeder is utterly destroyed.  R.S. has led his minions in chewing a gaping hole in the wood.  I came outside to find him sitting like a king in the ruins of the birdfeeder that is now on the ground.  Somehow, he and his cronies had chewed through the rubber-coated wires.  Wires?!  They chewed through wires.  With the different types of birdfeed and suet scattered everywhere R.S. and his flunkies were having a merry feast.  The crows sit cawing in the trees waiting for them to clear out.  I resolve at that time to thwart him somehow. . .   This has become a game of spy vs. spy played at its highest level.  But, somehow, I keep ending up on the losing side.

 But, how is it possible to stop the Rat Squirrel?  I’ve consulted with the wildlife specialist down the road—she is the park guide at our local nature park and cares for injured animals that folks bring by the Nature Center.  Currently, they have a hawk, two bunnies, and a large, belligerent skunk.  She recommends feeding R.S. (I laugh and laugh since he is the best-fed squirrel in the county!) And, she also recommends putting birdfeeders on poles and then greasing the poles with Crisco.  This seems a good plan to me.  But, I suppose I chose the wrong sort of poles since R.S. and his cohorts managed to knock them down with help from the large, bossy crows.  I’ve also tried putting feeders higher and then lower, using reflective and glowing yard decorations and encouraging Fionna to chase squirrels.  The hose does work, for a minute, or until my back is turned.  Apparently, only eternal vigilance will control the rampages of the Rat Squirrel. 

 One of my neighbors actually feeds squirrels.  She still believes they are cute little woodland critters—the type taken to perching on Snow White’s shoulders.  I have tried to explain to her that the R.S. is evil, but she continues to make homemade suet for him and his brood.  I’ve included the recipe below, in case you would like to offer bribes to your squirrel population.  I choose not to encourage R.S., but then, endorsement or admonition seems to be all the same to him.  Seemingly, the Rat Squirrel and I are at a stalemate.  Yet, hope springs eternal.

Yesterday, I saw Patrocles, the brown tabby feral I’m hoping to tame, eyeing R.S.  Pat is small and skittish, but I can tell he has a lot of moxie.  It could be in a few weeks or months, he’ll challenge the Rat Squirrel’s authority.  Until then, I’m only biding my time.  Outside my window, I can hear the chitters of the squirrels and I know that R.S. is out there somewhere, waiting and watching.  I refilled the chewed and battered birdfeeder and rehung it (again) only an hour ago.  It will soon be empty and the R.S. will be once again hungry and on the prowl.  But, Pat is waiting and watching and growing. 

 Advice on deterring Squirrels (not effective on Rat Squirrels):

  • Buy squirrel-proof feeders – metal ones are the best as squirrels can chew through plastic quite easily.
  • Hang birdfeeders on poles (metal if possible) and grease with Crisco.  Hanging feeders on branches or on fence posts only encourages squirrels.
  • Feed the squirrels.  Fat, happy squirrels are “less likely” to ransack birdfeeders.  Squirrels like many foods, including critter mixes, suets, dried apples and berries, peanutbutter, peanuts, nuts, sunflower seeds, stale bread, and beans.  They apparently enjoy pizza crusts as well.
  • Faux predators, such as plastic owls, and shiny reflective glass beads and lights are endorsed by some.  However, my squirrels knocked down the owl and chewed him a bit.  Clearly, they were not impressed.
  • My advice is learn to live with the squirrels.  There is, possibly, no getting rid of them.  They may accept bribes.  See below:

 Critter Suet:

  •  1 ½  cup chunky peanutbutter
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ dried berry fruit (cranberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp. Cornmeal
  • ¼ cup assorted nuts

 Mix together until berries, raisins, and nuts are well distributed and then put in feeder.  If you happen to have suet dough (available at most garden stores) you can mix it in too.  Experiment.  Squirrels have different tastes, but I haven’t notices that they turn down much.