Summer is officially underway – and for many of us, that means barbecues, parties, picnics in the park and large family gatherings. But some fun activities for humans can present dangers to our feline friends, so before you start planning your next big backyard barbie, add these pet-safety pointers to your pre-party checklist.
Picnic & barbecue special treats
While these foods are relatively harmless for humans, they can be extremely dangerous for cats so it's especially important to keep little snouts away from these summertime luxuries. Human foods often aren’t suitable for cats at any time but the greasy, spicy, fatty foods often served at barbecues can all cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and that’s not much fun for anyone the morning after the night before.
Your post-barbecue rubbish will likely contain bones, which are very harmful to cats, particularly cooked bones that splinter more easily. Bone fragments can pierce your cat's palate and other soft internal tissues like his stomach or intestines. Garbage may also contain left over alcohol, Styrofoam plates, pointy plastic utensils, and human food that's started to turn rancid. Keep your cat away from barbecue rubbish and ensure the rubbish bin lid is on tight.
Fire, fire-starters and fuel
Anything you use to get the barbecue going such as matches, lighters, lighter fluid – should be kelp far out of reach of pets. Matches contain phosphorus, which can be poisonous if ingested; the tiny amount on the end of a match may not harm your pet, but better safe than sorry. Lighter fluid is dangerous across the board: eating it, inhaling its fumes, even getting it on the skin or fur can all cause injury and illness.
We all know that cats are quite nimble on their feet however this can sometimes get them into trouble when it comes to hot surfaces. Cats are heat seekers so a warm barbecue on a cold night may seem pretty enticing but extremely dangerous. There’s also the possibility of kitty deciding to be athletic and leap onto the hotplate. We recommend keeping your cat indoors when using the barbecue to make sure that accidents can’t happen. It's also a good rule of thumb to keep pets safely indoors for any party with an open flame, whether it's tiki torches, gas heater, candles in paper bags, or a simple fire pit in the back yard. Most pets understand fire, but accidents can happen; if you won't be able to keep any eye on your cat throughout the event, keep them inside for safety.
Your extra barbecue visitors can also cause stress for some cats who become anxious around visitors. It's a good idea to keep your cat in the same room as your guests, giving her a box or a high shelf to retreat to. Here she can see, hear and smell your visitors, learning their behaviour, without having to interact. You can read more about scaredy cats here.
Citronella candles, mozzie coils, bug zappers, insect spray, insect oils. All these things can burn, harm, or poison your pet.
If your pet is bothered by insects, ask your vet or local Pet Specialty store about specifically formulated insect repellent for pets. Human formulations should live in a secure cabinet and only used on humans.
Fun in the sun
Pets, just like humans, cats can get sunburnt too, which can lead to Skin Cancer. If your cat has light coloured fur on the nose or ears they are more susceptible to Skin Cancer due to the light pigmentation of the skin. Skin cancer in pets usually develops due to the skin being sunburnt a number of times.
As sunburn is one of the major causes of the development of skin cancer, it is important to prevent it. If possible it is recommended to keep pets with light coloured noses, ears or eyelids inside during the hottest parts of the day (11am – 4pm).
Pet sunscreens or zinc can be applied to their ears and nose if they do go outside but do not use human sunscreen as it can be toxic to pets. Pet sunscreen needs to be re-applied regularly to maintain effectiveness: check the package directions. Pet sunscreen is available from your local vet clinic and pet specialty stores.
Never give your cat alcohol, all alcohol contains ethanol which can be lethal for cats. Just a small amount can result in a change in behaviour, breathing problems, cardiac arrest, induced coma and even death. While you’re probably not intentionally feeding your cat alcohol, unattended drinks and minor spills can happen during a party. Keep all drinks out of paws-reach and clean up any little spillages immediately.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.