How to keep pets cool in the heat

We are currently going through a heatwave here in England, with temperatures this week hitting 40 degrees Celsius. This is largely unheard of in the UK and we are definitely not set up for this type of heat: I kid you not when I say that roads melt and train tracks bow. Aircon is also very rare to find in UK homes unless people have installed their own, and even then they are no where near the power or the efficiency that aircon is in hotter countries like the US or the Mediterranean. The UK is notoriously a very cold country and so our houses are built to keep the warmth in – so in this heat it can be very hard to keep places cool.

But at least as a human we know how to cool ourselves down: we can have fans on us, drink lots of water with lots of ice in it, and wear loose fitting clothing – if we chose to wear any clothes at all or if we just opt to wear a swimsuit with shorts. Now these heatwaves in England tend to only last a few days of obscenely high temperatures before they settle back to a bit more reasonable 25 degrees on average, but with the summer holidays fast approaching and the height of summer approaching, we can only assume that this heat will get worse and last longer. While I could go into how this is all impacted by global warming, I shall instead focus on how you can keep your companion animals cool in the heat.

1. The obvious fixes

Now the very obvious things you should be keeping your blinds closed, the windows open and lights off as much as possible. You want to try and limit the amount of sunlight coming in and increase the amount of air circulating the house. Granted in the UK the heatwave wind is also warm, but having any sort of breeze can help keep your house cooler.

Put fans out around the house too to help circulate the wind around but do make sure that these are set up where your pets cannot knock them off or hurt themselves in some way – we have to have our fan on the kitchen counter, otherwise that power cable will be chewed in half by our bunny rabbit.

2. Refill water regularly

Now this may vary depending on your pet but make sure to change their drinking water frequently and to also keep it topped up. Now with rabbits, for example, ice cold water can be quite damaging to their sensitive digestive system, but cold water from the fridge should be fine for most animals. I think dogs and cats should also be able to lick an ice cube every so often if the heat seems to be getting too much, but do make sure that they are supervised so they do not choke on it at all.

3. Freeze some ceramic tiles

We have found this works amazing for our rabbit and it also gives her something new to play with. We bought 3 small floor tiles from our local home ware and DIY store for £3. We put them all into our freezer and we circulate them throughout the day. We find it helps to cool down the area around it so it keeps Lola’s favourite sleeping spots nice and cool throughout the day, and they also provide a fun new thing for her to play with. Her favourite thing seems to be to scratch and dig at the top of the tile, which also causes a very satisfying and very cute chiming sound as she does so, which in turn also helps keeps her paws cool and helps to wear down her nails. We tend to only have one out at any time, so the other two can be kept nice and chilled. The upside as well is that tiles tend to stay cool even in the heat (provided you do not have them in direct sunlight) so even leaving one out can give your little friend a nice respite from the heat throughout the day.

4. Buy some cooling mats

I think these are probably best for cats and dogs, but again make sure to supervise them when using these for the first few times to make sure they don’t try to dig into it or tear it apart. You can buy these cooling pads from most pet stores or online, and believe they work in the same way as the tiles do above in that you put them in the freezer and then leave them around for your pet to lay on. I wouldn’t really recommend these for rabbits as they will most likely just try and dig it up and tear it to pieces, but they may work for cats, dogs, chinchillas, rats or guinea pigs. Again though, always supervise your pet when they first try these cooling mats just in case they do decide to tear through it.

5. Freeze rocks for cages

Now this can be a very cheap (basically free) solution if you have animals that mainly sleep in a cage, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice or rats. We used this solution with our gerbils and it worked like a charm. You can buy bags of rocks from your pet store (normally kept in the fish tank section) and freeze the whole bag, or you can do what we did where we found two or three rocks from our garden. Obviously, wash them thoroughly beforehand, then place them in the freezer for at least a night. Then in the morning you can place a rock in the cage and this will help keep the cage cool throughout the day. It also means there is no condensation as there is no actual water that has been frozen so the bedding in the cage won’t get wet. We found one or two rocks a day was enough to keep them cool, and it is very cute to see them rub themselves all over the rock to help them cool down a bit quicker.

Again, always supervise your pets at first to make sure they don’t immediately try to eat it or dig at it too much so as to cause any injuries to themselves. The occasional little nibble or slight dig at the rock should be fine while they work out exactly what has just appeared in their cage, but always check.

6. Freeze water bottles

Another trick that is quite inexpensive is to freeze bottles of water. Personally, Lola didn’t really take to this too much so the bottle would simply melt and then we’d end up with wet patches all over the rugs, However I have seen this work quite well with cats and dogs, who do enjoy rolling it around the house and licking the cold water off the bottle as the water melts. Make sure the bottle is made out of a sturdy material – those tin/metal water bottles would probably work best, otherwise use one of the thicker plastic bottles – just so you know your pet can’t bite through it and leave massive water puddles everywhere!

7. Ensure there are shaded areas for them to rest in

If your pet has access to the outside, make sure that there are plenty of shaded areas for them to rest in to avoid the sunshine. Even if they are 100% house bound – such as rabbits or caged pets – make sure that their cage is not in any direct sunlight and also ensure that there are spaces around your house that gets zero sunlight throughout the day. Usually the corners of rooms are a good shout as they rarely get direct sunlight and if on the ground floor the heat should rise up through the house so downstairs areas are likely to be cooler than higher floors. Now if you live in a flat this may not always be possible to be low to the ground, but if in doubt use chairs/desks/blankets to block off certain areas of the flat from any sunlight so it stays dark and cool.

Do you guys have any other tips for keeping your pets cool in the heat? Please leave them in the comments or feel free to send me a direct message if you wanted to share any tips and tricks that you may have learnt, especially if you are someone who lives in a generally hot country.

T xxx

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