Weather consistently poses challenges for those overseeing feral cat colonies but, as with most dilemmas, a little foresight and ingenuity conquers all.
In summertime as in winter, food and water management is key. Keeping the cats’ water supply abundant and cool is the main concern during the hot months. Be sure water containers are kept in shady places to avoid rapid evaporation and consider placing additional containers near feeding areas, in case cats drink more than anticipated.
“I also like adding ice cubes to the water dishes which helps to keep it cold a bit longer,” offers Elizabeth Cabral, who manages three colonies citywide. Wet food can augment hydration but it comes with its own issues – namely, it dries out fast and attracts flies.
To combat the latter, Cabral instructs her volunteer feeders “to put the wet food out either first thing in the morning or later in the evening when flies don’t seem to be as active.” Adding water directly to wet food slows the drying out process with the added benefit of providing extra hydration for the cats.
With dry food, pest invasion of the dishes – especially invasion by ants – is a problem. But there are multiple ways to fight this: by raising the dishes off the ground with feet or by surrounding them moat-like with water or a ring of baking soda. Alley Cat Allies’ Summer Weather Tips offer links to recommended ant-proof bowls available for purchase online, or clever replication at home.
Bonus summertime feeding tip, according to Alley Cat Allies: “Deter slugs and snails by creating a barrier around food dishes or feeding stations with copper tape. Copper tape can be found at most hardware and gardening stores, or online. It doesn’t kill slugs or snails, but its natural electric charge deters them.”
Cabral also advocates erecting shaded feeding stations for her colonies (made from found wood) and keeping dishes clean by bringing along an extra set. That way, emptied food dishes that have been outdoors all day (acting as landing pads for flies) are not re-used for evening feedings.
Finally, if you are performing Trap-Neuter-Return during the summer months, make sure to consider how heat affects the cats’ safety. Ensure cats don’t remain in their traps for long by making your neuter appointments for directly after your trapping and never place traps on surfaces that can get extremely hot from the sun, such as asphalt, where a metal trap will absorb heat and burn the cats’ paws.