Tips for protecting your cat this winter
1. Provide an outdoor shelter
If your cat is allowed outdoors, make sure to provide your cat with an outdoor shelter. Some pet owners believe that if their cat was raised outdoors they will form a resilience to the cold. This is not true; these cats can still freeze in the cold temperatures. For tips on how to build a shelter click here.
2. Knock on the hood of your car before driving
Cats can seek shelter in the nooks and crannies of a car, especially in the cold winter months. Cats have been known to sleep on the tires, in the hood or in the engine itself. Knocking on the hood will scare the cat out of the car and prevent injury to the cat when you start the car.
3. Adjust the cat’s diet appropriately
Community cats require a boost in calories over the winter months, but owned cats who are allowed outdoors should not be overfed. Instead, these cats should be given more lean proteins to account for their increased activity in the cold.
4. Check your cat’s outdoor water bowl often
A cat’s water bowl will often freeze in the winter, so it is important to continually check it. Eating snow is not enough to protect cats from dehydration and can lower the internal temperature of your cat’s body. A cat without a water bowl might drink from gutters and puddles where they can come into contact with antifreeze, oil and other chemicals. You can use a thick, deep, plastic container to hold the water to slow down the freezing process.
5. Towel dry your cat as soon as they come in
The change in temperature from the cold of the outdoors to the heat of a house can cause itchy skin in cats. Make sure to pat your cat dry to prevent this and pay close attention to their feet and toes.
6. Massage petroleum jelly into your cat’s paws
This will protect your cat’s paws from salt and chemicals that are often used on the ground during the winter.
7. Be very careful when using antifreeze
Antifreeze is highly toxic in cats. Be very careful when using it and clean up any spills or leaks immediately. Antifreeze is sweet tasting to animals so they may be attracted to it if it is not cleaned up.
8. Keep an eye on your cat, especially if you live in a rural area
Predators such as hawks and eagles have less prey to hunt during the winter so cats are especially vulnerable to predation.
9. Consider alternatives to holiday plants
Holiday plants such as holly and mistletoe are toxic to pets. Plastic ones or other holiday plants should be used instead.
10. Provide your cat a warm sleeping area
Sleeping on the floor in the winter can be very cold. Provide your cat with a sleeping area with blankets, pillows or a pet bed that is elevated from the floor.
11. Look out for signs of hypothermia
Signs of hypothermia in cats are shivering, anxiety, crying and lethargy. Your cat’s body temperature and breathing rate can decline leading to a coma, therefore cat owners should take their cat to the vet immediately if they suspect their cat is suffering from hypothermia. Wrap your cat in blankets and use hot water bottles to keep them warm on the way to the vet.
12. Look out for signs of frostbite
Cats are most susceptible to frostbite on their ears, nose, tail and toes because these areas do not have a lot of fur. Areas affected by frost bite will become pale or bluish white in color and will feel cooler than the rest of your cat. Take your cat to the vet for treatment and warm the skin with warm water on the way.
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Cold Weather Safety Tips. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cold-weather-safety-tips
Crosby, J.T. (October 3, 2017). Holiday Plants That Are Poisonous to Pets. Retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/poisonous-holiday-plants-3385528
Frostbite in Cats. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.petmd.com/cat/emergency/common-emergencies/e_ct_frostbite?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PetMD_US_Search%3ENon-Brand_Emergencies-Cat&utm_term=frostbite%20in%20cats&utm_content=Frostbite%3EExact
Hall, C. (November 12, 2013). Be Good to Cats: Knock on the Hood of Your Cat Before Driving. Retrieved from http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/cat-health-safety-cold-weather-knock-on-car-hood
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How to Care for Outdoor Cats in Winter. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/feral_cats/tips/caring_feral_cats_winter.html