How to keep your cats safe when you have a summer BBQ.
With the weather warming up it means BBQ season is right around the corner. While a party in the garden is great fun for us, if you have a cat there are a few things to consider to make sure they have a good time too.
1. Keep the BBQ off-limits
Of course, open flames are always a risk around animals, so make sure that the BBQ is never left unattended and the grill is kept covered, even while it is cooling down. You could even set up a playpen or other barrier around the BBQ to keep your cat away.
If your cat does go near the BBQ, make sure you do not reinforce the behaviour by feeding them trimmings from the food that’s cooking or about to be cooked. Remember, it’s not just food that can encourage your cat, so avoid giving them strokes and attention when you’re around the BBQ as this may keep them coming back for more. Instead, get someone that isn’t cooking to encourage your cat away with a toy or some fuss.
2. Create a safe space
You want your cat to be as relaxed as your guests are, but it’s important to remember that they have different needs. While your cat may be happy to spend time in your company, they may not like having a group of strangers in their territory.
Before your guests arrive, set up a quiet area of the house with everything they’ll need (eg food, water, litter tray) so they can get away from the noise. Cats like to hide and get up high when they feel scared, so make sure they have plenty of opportunities to do this to prevent them from becoming stressed. Make sure your guests leave your cat alone while they are in their quiet area, no matter how tempting it is to give them a cuddle!
If your cat has dried food, you could put a puzzle feeder in the quiet room to keep them entertained. The problem-solving aspect will help release endorphins, also known as ‘happy hormones’, to keep your cat feeling comfortable. While there are lots of enrichment feeders on the market, some as cheap as £5, you can make one yourself from things you will have lying around the house. Watch our video to find out how.
3. Don’t feed them BBQ food
For us, the best bit of the BBQ is of course the food, but there are a few things you need to be careful about if you don’t want your evening to end in a trip to the vets.
Foods in the onion family can break down a cat’s red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia, and also cause gastrointestinal upset meaning you could end up with a rather messy litter tray later on! To be on the safe side, keep onions, garlic and chives well out of reach.
Chocolate is also poisonous for cats, due to a chemical called theobromine. While this is in all chocolate it is most concentrated in dark chocolate and can cause an abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizure and death. So make sure all chocolate puddings are stored out of harm’s way, up high in an airtight container.
If your cat eats grapes or raisins they can develop kidney failure and the signs to look out for are vomiting and hyperactivity. To be safe, keep an eye on any that you may have lying around.
Unsurprisingly, cats cannot drink alcohol. Alcohol has the same effect on cats as it does on humans but due to the size difference it takes very little for the negative side effects to become apparent, sometimes as little as a teaspoon can cause liver and brain damage. The higher the proof the less the cat needs to ingest to experience the negative side effects. While it may be tempting to relax with a glass of wine as you are waiting for your food to cook it is important to make sure that there is no way your cat can get to your glass. Especially if they are of a naturally curious disposition!
Make sure your guests also know not to feed your cat any scraps from the BBQ and if you do think your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t, contact your vet immediately. You can find more information about items that are poisonous to cats here.
4. Keep your cat sun-safe
Cats can get sunburn just like we can, so if they are joining you in the garden, make sure they have plenty of shady spots to snooze in. You can also talk to your vet about a suitable sunscreen for your cat, particularly if they have white fur as this makes them more susceptible to sun damage.
For more tips on keeping your cat safe in warm weather, visit https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/home-and-environment/cats-and-warm-weather.