Some people detest stray animals and some love them. Stray animals are an integral part of our urban ecosystem. Whatever opinion we may hold regarding them we need to understand that just like for us, summer is incredibly harsh on them. This blog will give some basic tips on caring for stray animals in summer.
Summer heat hazards for stray animals
The onset of summer and the marked increase in temperature is often accompanied by the news of birds falling out of trees. Visible site of street dogs and street cats either finding refuge, seeking water or just wretched in the heat is common. Not only are our urban centres hotter than ever before they also provide scant spaces for street animals to hide from the merciless summer sun. While we have fans, air conditioners and roofs over our heads street animals bereft of these amenities are at our mercy and kindness. Heatstroke, dehydration, heat exhaustion and other heat-related injuries are real problems faced by street animals in the hotter months.
1.Water is essential
Finding a puddle of water to drink is incredibly tough for street animals in our urban settings. You can help by placing water bowls for strays. Large bowls made of terracotta are best suited for this purpose. Terracotta bowls tend to keep the water cooler for longer.
If there is more than one pack of stray dogs in the vicinity try and keep separate water bowls for each pack. Stray dogs fight over territory and a water bowl kept in the territory of one pack would not be accessible to dogs from another pack. Smaller bowls can be kept perched on boundary walls and higher ground for stray cats and birds to use. Water in these bowls must be changed frequently – at least twice daily.
2.Makeshift summer shelters
Animals will instinctively look for shade to escape the heat, particularly during mid-day hours. A simple summer shelter for stray dogs can be built using discarded materials like cardboard and old clothes. These makeshift shelters will give animals a place to rest in the hottest part of the day. Shelters also ensure that stray animals don’t seek shelter under cars and other undesirable places. Do keep in mind that the shelters are placed in cool shaded areas and are roomy enough to allow for good ventilation. A stray cat shelter should be made on higher ground.
3.Charred paws and heat injuries
Asphalt, stone and other such surfaces that make up all our roads and pavements get excruciatingly hot. We, humans, have shoes and slippers to protect our feet but our furry friends don’t have the same options. It is advisable to check the paws of stray dogs for signs of burns and other injuries. Any small wound can get quickly infected in the heat. Apply suitable ointments and medication in case of burns and other injuries.
Flea’s ticks and other parasites are more active during the hotter months; you can keep some ointments and flea resistant powder for the same. Asking a vet to visit the strays in your locality every once in a while is also recommended.
4.Pay attention and be mindful
In your day to day activities whether you are travelling to your office and back, going for an evening walk or simply hanging out with buddies pay attention to the stray cats and dogs around you. You are not required to do much. In case you see an animal in distress you simply have to call rescue centres or animal lover groups in your vicinity. If you see a stray animal that is panting excessively is lethargic, having trouble breathing, drooling excessively or not eating then you must help. These are signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
5.Check your car
The incessant heat and lack of shaded places may force animals to seek shelter under parked cars. Animals don’t always understand when a vehicle is about to move. Dogs and cats suffering from heat exhaustion or dehydration may be too weak to move out of the way. It is a good idea to check under your car before you open the door.
6.Bird food and water baths
Besides cats and dogs, urban birds like pigeons, sparrows, crows and kites also suffer from the sweltering heat. You can invest in a birdbath that will help them not only with water to drink but also a way to cool. Click here to learn more about birdbaths and how to use them. Providing grains for birds is also a good idea. You can invest in containers made specifically for feeding birds and hang them in gardens or balconies.
The discomfort caused by extreme heat may discourage stray animals from eating properly. Cucumber, musk melon and watermelons are examples of some of the fruits that stray animals can consume. Feeding stray dogs and cats with these summer fruits is helpful as are not only nutritious but also help keep them hydrated while being light and easy to digest.
8.Talk to owners of working animals
Donkeys, horses and bullocks may be beasts of burden but the heat does get to them as well. If you have the opportunity to speak to such animal owners, make sure to gently and politely explain to them the necessity of caring for their animals in the summer. You can share with them all the things you have learned here. Explain to them that they should avoid making animals work in the afternoons and if possible reduce the number of hours that they need to work.
9.Plant more trees
Rapid urbanisation and the felling of trees is a major cause of extreme heat that we experience in our cities today. Trees provide necessary shade from the relentless summer sun and also a place for birds and tree-dwelling animals to rest. Trees are also helpful to keep out neighbourhoods cooler. You can initiate planting trees in available spaces around your homes. Furthermore, you can grow saplings on your balcony and provide volunteers with healthy good size trees during plantation drives.
The bottom line
Whatever may be our opinion of stray animals the summer heat does not care, it will unleash discomfort and suffering on all of us. If for nothing else than just out of compassion be mindful of the suffering of strays. Provide for water, do try and make summer shelters and do watch out for suffering animals to help. It will make you feel better at the end of a hard day.