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Caring for Community Cats in Hot Weather

Follow these tips to keep outdoor cats cool and healthy in the summer

  • Learn the basics of feeding outdoor cats in the summer. Photo by David Fyfe/For The HSUS

  • Outdoor cats can thrive in summer with a nice shelter and reliable sources of food and water. Photo by New Rochelle Humane Society

Warm weather and high humidity can be dangerous for community (feral and stray) cats.

Follow these general tips to keep cats who live outdoors cool and healthy.

For more detailed information, read the Neighborhood Cats book.

General tips
Feeding: the basics
Keeping food slug- and bug-free
Trapping in summer

General tips for community cat care

  • Make sure the feeding station and shelter are in a place that's as shaded and cool as possible. If you're ever in doubt about whether a shelter, trap or any other place is safe for cats, follow this rule: If it's too hot for you to stay there for any period of time, it's too hot for the cats.
  • Keep the feeding station and shelter clean.
  • Provide lots of fresh water at all times. Place bowls in shaded areas, and put ice cubes in the water to keep it cooler for longer. Avoid putting water in the shelter, where it could spill and get the cats wet.
  • Protect the cats from fleas. If you see fleas on them, ask your veterinarian about flea preventative for the cats you can handle safely.
  • Apply cat-safe sunscreen to the ears and noses of light-colored cats you can safely handle. Options include Virbac Pet Guard Insecticide Gel with Sun Screen. Your veterinarian can also recommend a cat-safe sunscreen. (Not all "pet sunscreens" are safe for cats.)

Feeding community cats: the basics

  • Food bowls should be protected from the elements. You can simply lay a storage bin on its side in a stable location so it won't fall over.
  • Use light-colored bowls; dark colors absorb heat.
  • Switch to dry food or add water to canned food when it's really hot.
  • Don't leave food sitting around. It will attract unwelcome wildlife, especially at night, and canned food will spoil if left out for too long in the heat. If the cats don't show up when you arrive, use your best judgment about how much they will need at each feeding, and leave that amount.

How to keep insects and slugs out of cat food


  • Place the food bowl in the center of a tray that's filled with an inch of water. The cats can lean over the water to eat, but the ants won't be able to cross it. 
  • Surround the food bowl/feeding area with food-grade diatomaceous earth. (You can find this at a home-supply store and some feed stores.) Be sure the package contains only food-grade diatomaceous earth, not industrial-grade, which may contain chemicals harmful to animals.


  • Use diatomaceous earth as described above or place the food bowl on a large sheet of rough sandpaper.


  • Don't leave food sitting around, especially wet food. Again, leave out only as much dry food as the cats will eat.

Trapping community cats

If you are trapping cats to spay or neuter them, keep them safe by following these guidelines:

  • Schedule the spay/neuter appointments before you trap.
  • Trap during the cooler hours of the day, such as early morning or early evening, to avoid keeping cats in traps when it's most hot and humid.
  • Don't place traps in sunny spots or on surfaces, such as asphalt, that get extremely hot. A metal trap can absorb heat and burn the cats' paws.
  • Make sure the area where you confine the cats before and after surgery doesn't get too hot.

Share your suggestions

If you have other hot-weather tips for caring for outdoor cats, please email them to us at cats@humanesociety.org.

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