Helping animals during a heatwave
After long and dark months, summer has finally arrived. The once empty, covered in snow parks became entirely green and packed with people having picnics with their friends.
Summer is highly celebrated in Europe and everybody wants to stay outside enjoying the good weather. However, summer is not all roses – it can also bring a dreadful phenomenon most of us know only too well – the heatwave.
According to the Red Cross, a heatwave is a period of excessive heat paired with above average humidity. This extreme weather condition can have disastrous and fatal consequences for all forms of life.
As temperatures rise all across the globe, safety measures are broadly communicated and applied among people, for example remaining indoors during the hottest part of the day, staying hydrated, wearing appropriate clothing.
But what about our “furry” friends?
The truth is, wild and domestic animals are severely affected by these extreme temperatures and they desperately need our support!
While I appreciate it may not be straightforward to help mountain goats or hippos, what we can all definitely do is to look around the places we live in and extend our shelter to those in need there.
During high heat, hedgehogs will often need our help to survive in the city because it’s much harder to find water and food. They are nocturnal mammals and, although their body is covered with sharp spines, they are harmless. I can only advise keeping your pets inside during the night, as an encounter could lead to both animals being hurt.
We can help these animals by adding these items to our garden:
- Few shallow bowls of fresh water. Never give them milk, as it can cause sickness.
- Fresh food near the water bowls. Dog and cat food can be a good choice too, but the best option is a specialist hedgehog food which you can easily find in pet stores and supermarkets.
- If you have a pond, make sure to put a few rocks inside, so hedgehogs can easily get out if they fell into the water.
- A pile of dry leaves and logs as a possible shelter. Or even better, you can buy a proper hedgehog house. They need to gain a lot of fat before they hibernate in the winter.
By doing these simple things you would be helping these helpless animals to thrive all year long.
Birds can usually find food and resources more efficiently than mammals, but during heatwaves, everybody needs a helping hand to survive. What you can do is very simple:
- Leave a bowl of fresh water in your garden. Ideally in a high place, so birds can have a refreshing bath and drink.
- Leave seeds, fruits and proper bird food easily accessible for both small and large birds. Remember to change it every day as in the heat fruits can rot very fast.
Insects need our help to survive too. In fact, without bees there would not be enough food to feed the planet; without bees, our own lives would be at serious risk (you can read more about it in my previous article). We definitely owe them a friendly and welcoming garden and here’re few steps on how to get started:
- It’s very common for bees to die of exhaustion in high heat, so leave a few shallow bowls of water on the ground. But, and this is very important, put a few rocks inside the bowls to create landing sites and bridges, so the bees don’t drown.
- If the heat is extreme add a bit of sugar to the water to turn it into an energy drink. Never add honey, as it can introduce a deadly bacteria into the hives.
- Plant different, colorful flowers. Bees especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, native plants attract native bees, and exotic plants attract honey bees. So make your garden is as vibrant as it can be, full of “juicy” flowers for them to get nectar and pollen.
Last but not least, we can never forget about our four-legged children. They also suffer a great deal, not only because of their thick fur but also because they don’t have sweat glands like people do. They cool down through their mouth and nose. Have you ever notice how panting your dog gets after a long walk in the sun? That’s exactly how they reduce their temperature and unfortunately, it’s not that efficient under extreme heat.
How can you guarantee comfort and safety for them then?
- Always provide easily reachable and plenty of water for your dog. That said, please do not forget about their less fortunate brothers and sisters and leave a bowl of fresh water on the sidewalk in front of your house.
- Don’t walk your dogs during strong sun. It’s often that they get their paws burned because of the hot pavement. You can easily check if it’s OK for them to go out by standing yourself on the pavement without shoes or socks for five seconds. If it’s too hot for your feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
See? It’s really simple to be friendly to your local animals.
Now that I told you the basics, it is time to work on your garden. I’m sure you have a few spare bowls or containers in your kitchen?. Fill them up with water, add few fruit pieces and you’re already making a huge difference. I’m sure the animals will be grateful and the birds will thank you with beautiful songs!
And don’t forget to check my Instagram for videos and photos:)