On a hot summer day, it sure can be nice to take a dip in an inviting swimming pool to cool down and have some fun with family and friends. However, similar to young children, companion animals are at risk of getting hurt or even killed if they are not properly supervised around swimming pools. While most cats won’t voluntarily jump into water, they certainly can fall into a swimming pool accidentally, especially at night or when they are being chased by a dog or some other pursuer and can’t pay close attention to where they are running. Cats are naturally good swimmers. However, they can’t climb out of a pool if its sides are steep or have an overhanging ledge. Cats can drown if they don’t have a ramp to climb out on or if they panic and swim themselves into a state of exhaustion. They also can be injured or drown when falling through ice on a frozen pond or pool during the winter months, or if they step on and getting trapped under a pool cover.
Here are some tips to help ensure a safe and enjoyable summer by the pool, for people and pets alike.
- It can get extremely hot poolside and elsewhere in many areas during the summer and early fall months. Excessive heat can cause cats to suffer heat stroke, or hyperthermia, which can be fatal. Cat owners should keep their eyes out for the symptoms of heat stroke in their pets, which include restlessness followed by lethargy, dullness, weakness, recumbency (lying down), excessive drooling (foaming at the mouth) and difficulty breathing (dyspnea).
- A cat’s ears should be carefully cleaned and dried with soft cotton balls after they swim, fall into water or are bathed, to reduce the risk of ear infections.
- It’s a good idea to install a Skamper Ramp, Super Skamper Ramp or some similar product that is specifically designed to help four-legged critters climb out of a body of water.
- Don't assume that your cat (or dog) knows how to swim. If he or she has never been in a pool before, make sure to introduce them to the water very gradually. Never throw your pet into a pool or pond on the assumption that they will swim to safety. Most cats won’t enter water voluntarily, as anyone who has ever bathed a cat knows. However, there is the occasional cat who takes to swimming, just like some cats enjoy riding in a bicycle basket or walking on a leash.
- Don't let your cat drink the pool water. The chlorine and other chemicals in the pool can make him or her sick.
Owners have to be particularly careful about pools that are covered. Many pool covers, especially those that are basically large plastic tarps stretched over the water, are loose around the edges. Pets can accidentally walk onto the cover because to them it looks like part of the patio. When this happens, they can slip into the water between the side of the pool and the cover’s edge and become trapped underneath the cover. This can be fatal, because the cat has no way to get its bearings, even in daylight, and won’t be able to find a way out of the water. More solid, and safer, pool covers are readily available. These do not have room around the edges for animals or children to slip through, and many can withstand a person’s weight.
By keeping these things in mind, cat owners will be prepared to have a fun, festive and safe summer enjoying their swimming pool and their feline (and canine) friends.