Manage your cat in hot weather, their life depends on it
Hot weather can make travel very risky for your cat. So how do you keep your cats cool in hot weather? One of the biggest challenges is what to do with your kitty when life’s circumstances, or the need for a coffee run, suddenly gets in the way.
Cats run hotter than humans in their nice fur coats, and they don’t sweat like us. Cats cool themselves by panting and, if your cat is panting, it’s already too hot. So, what can you do? Let’s start by stating that “at no time is it safe to leave your cat, or any other animal, unattended in a car”.
You read it correctly. There is a belief that a few minutes is not harmful. Not true. Even warm days can produce high heat in a car.
Common misconceptions for travel with your cat in hot weather
Can I crack the window?
Nope. Cracking the window does not reduce the heat in the car enough to make a difference for cats in hot weather. You have also upped the chance of (shivers just thinking about it) kitty theft.
I’ll only be a few minutes
On an 84 F (29 C) day, it can reach 110 F (44 C) inside the car in under 10 minutes. Unbelievable, you say? Go ahead, give it a try. Turn your car off and sit for a few minutes. Take note of how long it takes for you to become warm, then uncomfortable, before finally reaching for the door for some air. Your cat will warm up faster than you do.
The air-conditioning, can I leave it on?
If the car stalls or the air-conditioning fails, the interior will get very hot very quickly. It may be that your air-conditioning fails, and it is blowing hot air, heating the cat even faster.
The opportunity for car and kitty theft may increase when a villain notices your engine running and nobody inside. If you have a vehicle that runs air-conditioning without the engine running, a good Samaritan may smash your window to save the cat in the parked car.
Does the cat have water?
Water does not stave off heatstroke. If your cat is too hot, it will not matter if it has a bowl of water. Of course, water is important but it is not going to offset unsafe temperatures for kitty.
It is worth mentioning that leaving your pet in a parked car is illegal in most countries.
If leaving the cat in the car is not an option, what is?
Hot weather – Cats in the car
Travel days can be stressful when you set out on your nomad adventure with your kitty. With preparation you can manage your cat in hot weather, it will become routine. We have a loose rule (most of our rules are pretty loose) that we only travel for a maximum of four hours per day. This is not just for kitty. It has made life better for all of us. Here are some other tips to consider on travel days.
When traveling in your RV, it is best to run the air-conditioning during pack up even if it’s not that hot. This will give you a comfortable start. If kitty will be in the car with you, then a good routine is to start the vehicle with air-conditioning on “high” for a few minutes before transferring kitty. Your cat will settle in for the drive much faster if the temperature is comfortable.
If you are too hot, your cat is hotter. A good investment is a cooling mat (or several) placed in your kitty’s travel cage. Many cooling mats claim to be able to cool a cat by up to seven degrees. We have four cooling mats placed throughout the RV and in our kitty’s travel cage in the car. They are inexpensive.
A good travel cage should fold flat. The one pictured folds flat, allows the cage to be open, partly or fully covered, and you can have the tray bottom in or out. Kitty will enjoy being on the grass from time to time.
Running to the store
If you have to run to the store for a few minutes, leave your cat in the car as long as you leave a human there too. This is truly the only time it is safe to leave your cat in the car. Cars and cats in hot weather are a bad combination without a cooling strategy. It is incredible how many times one of us has stayed with the cat even though we felt it was not too hot, only to start the car and air-conditioning after a few minutes because we have become uncomfortable.
We all need short breaks, even those of us that travel single. What to do if you are traveling single? Invest in a cat backpack. Our backpack, which doubles as a pull case, is one of the top investments we made for traveling with a cat. Want to stop for coffee? Throw (metaphorically speaking) kitty in the backpack and, off you go. We have taken our cat to cafes, shopping (not in the grocery store), the hairdresser, the washroom, the post office, and for hikes. A backpack is a perfect solution for those times when you have to leave your car.
If you have a bad back and you have the storage space, you might want to consider a pet stroller.
As mentioned, a backpack is perfect for lunch breaks as long as you are sitting outside. We place our cat (in her backpack) either under the table or on a chair in a cool, quiet spot. Kitty relaxes and often takes the opportunity to have a cat nap. The adventure cat only gets grumpy when people stop to “ooh and ahh” over her or, heaven forbid, a dog picks up her scent and thinks he can cop a sniff.
Another option (our fav) for lunch breaks is to pack a picnic. We find a good spot to sit under a tree and let kitty feel the grass under her feet from the safety of her travel cage. Whilst the cage offers safety and security, please do not ever leave your cat unattended in the cage outside.
Hot weather – Cats in the RV
Whether you are in an RV, caravan, or like us, in a bus, it is kitty’s home. Like any home, you will want to make it as comfortable and safe as possible for your cat, especially in hot weather. This is especially essential when you choose to leave your cat home alone in that vehicle. These smaller spaces are prone to the effects of heat so you must think ahead to manage your cat in hot weather.
Control the heat
In the heat of summer (we are in Australia) it gets hot, very hot. It can be a struggle to keep your tin can (essentially, that’s what it is when it comes to the sun) cooled enough for both you and your cat. Park in the shade if possible. You have to consider the trade-off if you rely on solar power. For hot cats, and people, the shade will be the likely choice over solar.
Cover as many windows as possible with RV Shade Screens for windows and, if you have awnings, they can help to cover the windows from the outside. RV fans will keep the cool air moving. It can be valuable to have curtains or doors strategically placed to block off areas of the RV, so the air-conditioning does not have to work so hard. If you don’t have air-conditioning, there is never a safe time to leave your cat alone in the RV.
Never trust your air-conditioning
If you are leaving the cat in the RV for a short time and you are not going far, the air-conditioning can be a lifesaver. Your RV will have the benefit of mains power, generally more reliable than cars. That said, never trust your air-conditioning with your cat’s life. The power could go out. The air-conditioning could fail. Some well-meaning (ahem) person might come along and unplug your RV from power. It has happened.
If you are only a few minutes away (perhaps parked behind the pub for those who enjoy pub camping) enjoying a rare dinner out, then it is likely your cat will be just fine. You can even go and check on the cat regularly. Just know that air-conditioning can fail. Please don’t bet your cat’s life on the idea that your air-conditioning is fail-proof because it’s not.
Watch the weather
We had a three-hour window where we both had to work. The original plan was to leave the cat in the bus. We were camping in a vineyard and had let the owner know that our cat would be alone with the air-conditioning on. At the last minute, a large storm formed, and our weather app indicated a potential for severe thunder. Our cat is afraid of thunder, and the chance of the power going out had gone from distant to high.
We decided not to leave our cat’s life to chance with busy working people, who had better things to do. So, we packed her up and took her with us. Luckily, we could leave her locked away from the resident dogs in a friend’s bedroom. We took some of our dirty laundry to place on the bed. As expected, she curled up in the laundry and fell asleep. All of our training had paid off as she adapted beyond our wildest imagination. After work, we swung by, picked up our adventure kitty from the last-minute sitter, and headed home, confident that we had made the best decision.
What to do in the situation that you don’t have a sitter? A remote temperature sensor may be the answer. There are various levels of sophistication and price. We like the two options shown available on Amazon.
Installing a remote monitor will give you peace of mind if you have to leave kitty for any length of time. Of course, you have to allow for equipment failure. You can never be sure you have power and internet so use these tools wisely.
One “out there” solution we heard of is an automatically starting generator. With your cat in your RV in hot weather conditions, and you experience loss of power, an automatic generator may be the answer. Having a backup system will give you peace of mind while you make your way home.
Thunder, Lightning, very, very Frightening
Whether you are home or have to leave kitty during a thunderstorm, if you have (like us) a fraidy cat, then a Cat Thunder Jacket is for you. They work brilliantly. Our cat used to experience high anxiety (stuffing herself in corners, drooling) whenever a thunderstorm was upon us. Now, whether we are home or not, if she is wearing her thunder jacket, she finds a place to lay (probably the dirty laundry) and goes to sleep.
Please remember that if you leave your cat in your RV in hot weather in a thunder jacket, they will be more vulnerable to heat stress if the air-conditioning fails.
Manage your cat in hot weather – Cats at the resort
If you need to leave your cat for the entire day, check the area you are in for daycare centers or pet resorts. You will find that there are often options near attractions (such as some National Parks where your cat is not welcome). Some vets also offer daycare services, as do the occasional caravan park.
If you are in a caravan park, check with the manager to see if there are professional cat sitters in the area. You can also network with other travelers. Often you will find reciprocal-minded people who will look after your cat if you are willing to take a turn at looking after their cat or pooch.
Social media offers a wealth of information through cat travel or pet travel groups as well as house-sitting groups where you may find people in the area willing to come and look after kitty for a day or two.
Take kitty with you
Like you, your cat is more comfortable around their people (the staff) than being left alone. When possible, take precious kitty with you. You might be pleasantly surprised as to adventure kitty’s newfound adaptability.
Although it may be tempting to leave your cat while you run into the store for milk or to grab a take-out coffee, it is illegal. For a good reason. Heatstroke is a real danger for cats even when parked in the shade or on a day you might think is cool. Unattended cats are also susceptible to pet theft. Not a scenario any of us would want to risk.
If you do need to leave your cat unattended, please do everything in your power to ensure kitty will be safe. With technology and forward planning, there are safety options that will leave you and kitty worry-free.