Winter Weather Safety Tips for Cats
Hypothermia is a major concern during cold weather, especially for outdoor cats. Inadequate shelter, insufficient calories, or becoming wet can make a pet much more susceptible to this condition. Pet parents should be aware of the additional indoor and outdoor hazards associated with cold weather and how to keep cats comfortable and safe during the winter weather season.
If your cat is an outdoor cat, you must provide shelter that will keep her warm on the coldest winter nights. Make a small warm area, preferably a crate or box, in a place away from the wind and the elements, such as the garage. Line it with warm blankets or a cat bed. If the sleeping area is too large, it will not provide proper insulation to keep your cat warm and frostbite can occur. Frostbite occurs most commonly on the tail, paw pads, and tips of the ears.
Cats who are outside in cold weather will also need to eat extra calories to keep warm. When the temperature is below freezing, you may need to increase calories by as much as 30%, depending on the pet and housing conditions.
Shivering is a sign your cat is too cold and is one of the first signs of hypothermia. A shivering pet should be slowly warmed until signs of hypothermia are gone. It is also a good idea to contact your veterinarian for any further recommendations regarding your cat’s care.
It might seem obvious, but remember to provide your cat with fresh, unfrozen water at all times. It is easy to forget that water left outside in a dish will quickly freeze and your kitty will not be able to drink. Avoid stainless steel or metal bowls; instead, use heated buckets or bowls.
Walking in the Cold
Sidewalk ice melters like sodium, magnesium, potassium or calcium salts can cause severe irritation to paws and are toxic when ingested. If ingested, these products can cause stomach upsets and electrolyte imbalances. To prevent salt from hurting your pet’s feet, we recommend using a non-toxic ice melter which is urea-based for your own sidewalk. If your pet has walked on a treated area, wipe off her paws with a moist towel.
Keeping Warm and Safe
As in people, cold can increase the discomfort of arthritis. Providing an orthopedic bed in a warm part of the house can help arthritic pets be more comfortable.
Warm vehicles can attract cats who may climb into the engine compartment to get closer to the heat. This can be fatal if a person starts the vehicle, unaware of the presence of the cat under the hood. It is a good idea to knock on the hood of the vehicle or blow the horn (if it is not too disruptive to the neighborhood) before starting your car or truck.
During the cold winter months, many people use space heaters and wood burning stoves. Do not allow unsupervised pets in areas with space heaters which could be knocked over by a curious pet and cause a fire. Wood burning stoves are especially dangerous for cats who may try to jump up on them and burn their paws. Train kitty to stay away from the stove by using a squirt bottle of water or shaking a pop can filled with coins near the stove when the cat approaches it. Placing “scat mats” on the floor may also be helpful in keeping cats away from stoves and heaters.
Antifreeze should be out of any pet’s reach. Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, is extremely poisonous; a few teaspoons can be lethal. Its sweet taste attracts pets, and ingesting even a tiny amount causes fatal kidney toxicity. So, when tuning up your car for that holiday trip, make sure your pet does not have access to antifreeze containers and clean up any spills immediately. Better yet, use the new types of antifreeze such as that are not poisonous. If you think your pet has consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence.
Boarding and Traveling
If you are traveling during the holidays and need to leave your feline companion at home, start to make accommodations for your pet early. Many boarding facilities fill up very quickly. Responsible pet sitters are a good alternative. If they are unfamiliar with your house or cat, have them come over and get acquainted before you leave.
If traveling with your feline friend, be sure to make the necessary plans early. Reservations with airlines and hotels should be booked as soon as possible. Be sure they know you are bringing your cat so they can advise you of any special requirements. A health check-up for your pet and up-to-date vaccinations are important when traveling. An interstate health certificate and a copy of the vaccination records may be necessary in some cases.
Pet carriers and crates are the best way to restrain your cat while traveling. Check the condition of your pet’s crate, and if traveling on public transportation, be sure the crate meets the carrier’s requirements. Don’t forget to clip your cat’s nails so they will not become caught in the crate door or other openings.
Pack your pet’s medications and special diets where they are easily accessible. Feeding your cat her own food can help prevent stomach upsets. Be sure your pet has water available during the trip.
Place a harness on your cat and always have a pet identification tag attached to it. Make sure the address and phone number are current. Include a phone number that can be reached when you are away from home.
Have a safe and wonderful winter season with your furry feline friend!