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Cold weather can be hard on cats, just like it can be hard on people. When the thermometer dips below freezing, it is important to protect your cats from the cold spell. The most important is to keep your cat indoors. Probably the best prescription for winter's woes is to keep your cat inside with you and your family. Being outdoors, unattended, does nothing to improve the quality of your cat’s life.
Cold weather problems
Sometimes owners forget that their cats are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Some owners will leave their cats outside for extended periods of time, thinking that they are adapted to live outdoors. This can put their pets in danger of serious illness.
Hypothermia, or a body temperature that is below normal, is a condition that occurs when the cats are not able to keep their body temperature from falling below normal. It happens when they spend too much time in cold temperatures, or when cats with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, your cat will shivers and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, her muscles will stiffen, her heart and breathing rates will slow down, and she will stop responding to stimuli. If you notice these symptoms, you need to get your cat warm and take her to your veterinarian.
Another cold-related problem is frostbite. Sometimes your cat may accidentally be left outside or become lost during a heavy snowstorm. Frostbite may result. If this happens, remember - frozen tissues should never be rubbed. This causes additional tissue damage. Prompt veterinary treatment is needed. If this is not possible, warm the affected area rapidly by immersing in warm, never hot, water or by using warm, moist towels that are changed frequently. As soon as the affected tissues become flushed, discontinue warming. Gently dry the affected tissues and lightly cover with a clean, dry, non-adhering bandage. If frostbite is in the later stages, gangrene may set in and cause all kinds of infections. So, if you suspect your cat has frostbite, take her to the veterinarian.
How to deal with cold weather
As winter weather really sets in, don't forget to help keep your cats warm and safe. Help your cats remain healthy during the colder months by following these simple guidelines.
- The winter season can be harsh on our cats, so that you should fortify their coat. Supplementing their diet with essential fatty acids that will cause the coat to grow in a bit thicker for the cold months. Vegetable oils such as canola oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, butter and fish oils are high in these fatty acids. They can be added to the food. Cats do have a preference for the fish oils!
- Increase your cat’s supply of food, particularly protein, to keep her fur thick and healthy through the winter months. So long as your cat does not have a weight problem, give her extra food and treats during the winter months to help her keep warm.
- Give your cat vitamins E and B-complex that will strengthen the tissues and make cats more resistant to cold. But you should be careful because providing additional vitamins can actually cause imbalances in her diet and medical problems.
- Be particularly gentle with elderly and arthritic cats during the winter. The cold can leave their joints extremely stiff and tender, and they may become more awkward than usual. Stay directly below these cats when they are climbing stairs or jumping onto furniture. Consider modifying their environment to make it easier for them to get around. Make sure they have a thick, soft bed in a warm room for the chilly nights.
- Make sure your cat has a warm place to sleep far away from sall outside drafts and preferably off the floor - such as a basket or a cardboard box with a warm blanket in it. If your cat normally sleeps on the floor, provide her with a warm and comfortable mat or a cat bed.
- Keep fireplaces screened. Cats luxuriate in its warmth. However, if they lie too close to the fire, they are in danger of hot cinders or sparks. Fireplace heat also contributes to dry skin. Fumes from the fireplace may cause respiratory problems in some cats.
- If you have to take your cat to the vet, put a hot water bottle in the carrier. You can also put the cat's bed in the dryer for a few minutes before putting into the carrier. A cover or towel on the carrier is good for blocking draughts.
- Keep your pet's coat well groomed. Matted fur won't properly protect your pet from the cold.
- Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. So the cat owners may also have to change the eating habits of their pets during the winter.
- Especially important for every outdoor cat is to have a safe shelter for the cold winter nights and an insulated house for outdoor use can be a good idea. The house should be large enough for turning around, yet small enough to conserve body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
- Never use newspaper, towels, or blankets inside a cat's shelter. They will retain the cold and become stiff and hard. Instead, use straw.