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Summer may be your favorite time of year, but for your cat, this season can mean a host of health troubles. Fleas top the concerns, along with others that can make these months miserable for your feline. Here’s what you need to know to tackle cat health threats:
No. 1: Fleas
Fleas thrive in summer heat and humidity. Although over-the-counter products and flea collars may help, topical prescription medications offer the best protection, says Susan Nelson, DVM, clinical assistant professor at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The medication is applied directly to your cat's skin to kill existing fleas and prevent future infestations. The length of time to apply this medicine depends on where you live, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian. Flea medicine isn’t just for outdoor cats, either. "Indoor-only cats should also be on flea prevention medication, as fleas could enter your home on your shoes, clothes or via an outdoor pet's fur," says Dr. Nelson.
No. 2: Allergies
Excessive scratching, biting at the base of the tail and red, inflamed skin are allergy symptoms. The most likely triggers? Fleas and pollen. For allergies related to the latter, cut your cat's exposure to pollen by regularly changing air conditioning filters and washing your cat's bedding, dusting, vacuuming and keeping your cat inside at all times, says Diane Delmain, DVM, medical director of Bay Hill Cat Hospital in Orlando, Fla. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medication or give allergy shots to treat pollen-related health problems in your cat.
No. 3: Hairballs
Although spring is the main shedding season for cats, indoor cats also shed when it's hot, ingesting more hair and spitting up hairballs. Frequently brushing your cat helps. You can also investigate some of the hairball prevention products on the market, including flavored lubricants, treats and fiber tablets. "It's a matter of finding one that both the cat and the owner agree upon," Dr. Delmain says.
No. 4: Heat-related Illnesses
Dehydration and heat stroke can plague pets. Although they are less likely than dogs to be in situations where heat is an issue, cats can still get sick from heat. Traveling or having to leave your cat outside for extended periods -- such as while you're having your house worked on -- could put your pet at risk. Always make sure your cat has water and a cool place to rest. If you have air-conditioning, keep it running during heat waves. If you don't have air-conditioning, turn on an indoor fan. And if you're traveling by air with your cat, check the airline's policies about warm-weather travel. (Some airlines won't let pets fly if the temperature is too high, simply because the heat may cause illness or even death.)
No. 5: Fireworks
Although we tend to associate fireworks with Fourth of July, these colorful yet noisy displays are often featured at baseball games, outdoor concerts and other events too throughout the summer. The din of these celebrations can make cats anxious and skittish, forcing them into hiding. Close your doors, windows and curtains during firework displays. Also turn on soothing music or the TV to help drown out the noise, especially if you're going to be gone when the fireworks are scheduled to go off.
Overall, keeping your cat indoors is the best prevention for any health concern. If you want to still provide your cat with the fresh air and sunshine of summer, consider installing a screened-in enclosure. As Dr. Nelson explains, “You can then give your cat a taste of the outdoors and still offer protection.”
Karen Asp covers health, fitness, nutrition and pets for numerous publications, including Prevention, Woman's Day, Shape, Self, Fitness, Health, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping and Natural Health. She shares her office with two cats.