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 cat parents forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Some people will leave their cats outside for extended periods of time, thinking that they will adapt to life outdoors. This can, however, put 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 shiver 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. The result could be frostbite. If this happens, remember - frozen tissue 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 area and lightly cover with a clean, dry, non-adhesive 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 cats, so you should fortify their coat. Supplementing their diet with essential fatty acids that will cause the coat to grow 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 weather. Be careful, though, because providing additional vitamins can actually cause imbalances in 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 chilly nights.
- Make sure your cat has a warm place to sleep far away from all outside drifts 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 it 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 are social animals that crave human companionship, so your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family. But if you permit your cat to go outdoors or live outside completely, here are some tips that will keep them in good condition:
- Keep your cat outside as the weather starts getting colder so she can adapt. She or he needs to physically adjust to the temperature change, grow a thicker coat and build up a resistance to the weather.
- Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. So cat owners may also have to change the eating habits of their pets during the winter.
- Check food and water often to make certain they are fresh and not frozen. Don't use metal bowls outside during the winter. Your cat's tongue may accidentally stick to the bowl. Sometimes the cat owners don't realize that a water bowl has frozen and their cats can't get anything to drink. The cats that don't have access to clean, unfrozen water are more likely to drink out of puddles or gutters, which can be polluted with oil, antifreeze, household cleaners and other chemicals.
- Especially important for every outdoor cat is to have a safe shelter for the cold winter nights and an insulated outdoor cat house would 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 away from the wind, and its doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
- Never use newspapers, towels or blankets inside a cat's shelter. They will retain the cold and become stiff and hard. Instead, use a straw.
- During the winter, cats sometimes sleep under the hood of your cars or in the garage where it is warm and comfortable. You should be aware that the antifreeze is of particular concern, as it can be deadly for cats that lick it from garage floors. If your cat sleeps under the hood of your car, when you start the motor she could get stuck or flung about by the fan belt, causing serious injury or even death. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood and sides of your car before turning on the ignition to give the cat a chance to escape.
LEARN HOW CAN HELP HOMELESS CATS
Thanks for the postings for winter. First winter I have had many abandoned cats, including kittens. It seems that the policy of catch and release may be the problem in this town. Not sure. However, seen cats in other locations during that seem to have no home. My neighbor keeps old cars in large numbers so that was the first indication of these homeless cats. He absurdly decided they had to leave to protect the junk cars. To my yard next door they came because I began to feed them. I provided shelter in my barn-garage but in winter it is not warmed but warmer. Keeps them from the wind. So I use plastic bins with open access so they can have escape from raccoons and others that seem to like my trees. Particularly careful about opposums since one of these killed my blind cat three yeas ago when she was sitting on my porch with her buddy. The buddy fought but she was eaten. Found her body parts. That was a lesson learned about my wild life so I am vigilant about the ferals as well as my own. Inside I have an extra room that I use for a nursery for the kittens and now when my car no longer is available, I am concerned about how to get them to the best city shelter (no kill). This is a constant worry and the expense I take on for food because of my long history of taking care of my own animals. I was a kid with a serious injury and my Mom and grandfather introduced me to many homeless animals when we lived in the mountians of California. Even spiders were interesting to me although not allowed in the house. I would continually find homeless dogs in the 50's and my mom had to get them to safety. We learn very young about wild and domestic animals when we have a family that loves them. I do not live in a community that appears to understand why catch and release may be more harmful then taking care and having a no kill shelter or a fund to make sure cats are not faced with constant pregnancy. Here in my area some programs do exist but there are also people that we are warned are pretending and the objective to to get animals for other then pets. Not sure what that is about but maybe need more information. Frankly, my goal is to sell my house and move across the river to PA where I rented from a doctor that was involved in wildlife rescue. Focused on injured migrating birds. But the lessons learned apply to all animals it is only in the details of understanding why those lessons also apply to abandoned or homeless domestic animals that show up. I learn a good deal about the physical needs for winter weather and how to prevent suffering from the Internet so thanks to all that post about this.
I got two cats called Sydnee and Annabel and outside cats and snow at movement ask my mum if could go to in her living room and she said no bit worried about my pets cats sneek out saw cats sleep in shed under dog kennel both shows will be ok till morning? I did put some cat blacket at heat up and food but I still worry
Barbara Brandt; Are you certain it was a opossum that killed your cat? We have a outside 9 year old feral cat that we saved 3 months ago.from starvation. There are possums and raccoons outside also. The possum steals the cat food and fights with other possums, The raccoons rule the roost and eat their fill first but none bother the cat. I am very concerned about our little rescue cat. He is small, partially blind and has hyperthyroidism. Due to his health condicondition, his body weight is low, he has neurological difficulty in the backend (he shuffles and walks very low to the ground) but the worse part is he has no bladder control and sprays urine like a fountain and drops poop when he walks. For these reasons, it is impossible to bring him indoors. We have a big oil heater in a nice cathouse box with straw and pee pee pads for him in this cold weather. He appears happy and is gaining weight. His coat is also coming back as we have him on thyroid medicine and fish oil. Ofcourse, I can’t save him from a scenario like you went through with your blind cat out here in rural suburbia but I watch over him and feed him very often and small amounts. He has fresh water and lots of love. I pray he is safe. We do all we can for the strays. I used to manage veterinary hospital and have a cat colony from 20 years - 2 years. All but the little sick one are indoors.
we have an outdoors cat named scruffy. he belonged to someone else in the neighborhood but they put him out when he got older. he is full grown male. he is pretty & I wish I could let him in but my husband is highly allergic to cats & dogs. cats r the worst for him, however he has a kind heart & he put a rubber maid box out up off the floor under our carport & placed a wood board across the top leaving scruffy room to get in & out. I put 2 rugs inside it & he sleeps good inside of it especially in winter. not far from his bed we put his food & water. I give him extra purina cat chow in winter & try to keep him water since his water will freeze. so I take him out fresh water when this happens.. I have tried putting hand warmers in his bed beneath one of the rugs but I guess he doesn't like it because he has a tendency to not want to stay inside. even a rubber hot bottle he don't like & I make sure it isn't too hot to burn him. but scruffy wont stay in. I think he thinks there is something foreign in his bed. so I just don't do that anymore,as much as I would love to.
There are so many animals that are left in cold, many kind people who help these neglected animals, I have been feeding three cats for nearly two years they belong to a neighbor who is a hoarder, then just recently along comes another one who is hungry so have been feeding her, but the three are very hostile either get in it face or leave, the three I have made beds or them in my garage some boxes with blankets and more I hope they manage to keep warm, I found a cats cotton tent to put over that bedding as my garage is cold.
I put a throw blanket on low for my 13 year old who has hip problems.
A timely post as we have just had our first big snow of the year. We have six cats but they are all indoor kitties. I feel so bad when I see them running around outside. We're in the mountains and there is just many different things that can befall the outdoor cats.
We had a feral cat colony in our subdivision, but we trapped, spayed and neutered all of them. Unfortunately, with bobcats, hawks and coyotes along with cars most of them are gone. We tried to tame them, but most of them would not come near humans.
Mine is a comfy house cat.
Our cats are indoor only, but in the winter we make sure we have fleece blankets out in the living room and bedrooms - the cats love to tunnel under the blanket and keep warm.
This information about cats and cold weather is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!
my cat stubby, who is 17, is like me ... when its cold out, his body is sore, just like me
This is very helpful, I had no idea. Thanks so much.
So sad to read. I have 9 cats. All are rescues. I have a safe friendly trap and if I see one that\'s a stray, I trap them and take care of them. All are spayed/neutered and whatever else they need.
I have 7 rescue cats that we have just relocated with us from Dubai to the Uk . They are feeling the difference in temperature even though they don’t go outside . What I have noticed is that they are eating a lot more food here in the uk . Are they just compensating for the colder climate
You have really amazing blog. thanks a lot for sharing kind of information. Your website gives the best and the most interesting information.
Porch - that\'s his name - has been living on my porch for 2 years. As the weather chills, he goes to the crawl space under the house. Still, I\'m concerned; in Colorado, the temp is already approaching freezing and in Jan/Feb can go well below 0 with snow. He survived a week last winter when the wind/chill was -17! I can bring him in for 10-15 minutes before he wants to return outside. I\'m afraid to compel him to stay since I fear he may run away. How can I get him to want to stay inside?
To Richard. I adopted a cat living on the roof of my rented house. I brought her when I moved.She protested. I made a place for her to live outside in all our next locations. She never wanted "in." Finally, years later., she hissed her way in the door, past my indoor cats. I guess she had "retired." After this she was an indoor-outdoor cat.Maybe your cat will come in too. In the meantime maybe a heated door mat or bed put out of the wind. Good luck.\r\n\r\n\r\n\'.
Thank you for sharing good knowledge and information it’s very helpful and understanding. As we are looking for this information for a long time.
please help me i have a feral cat that i been taken care of for years she lives in my screen porch all winter i made her a nice bed with straw away from all elements now i have to move and can’t picture leaving her behind i think she was a house cat at 1st when she comes to eat at 5am she just blinks at me and meows if i move slow and talk to her she doesn’t budge unless i move fast. If i trap her and bring her inside with her rug and her comforter all with her scent on them a litter box food and drink and us slowly go in and just talk to her and sit a bit can she settle in as a house cat. i mean she trusts us big time she lays on my steps in front of my door all around my perimeter if were on the porch she comes to lay on the steps about 10ft away DOES IT SOUND LIKE SHE WILL SETTLE I can’t leave her behind but i also can’t hurt her by doing this either
This information and your stories are absolutely wonderful and very heartwarming. I myself have a feral cat that I rescued from the bush last November so we’ve been together a year now and he is 16 months old. He is an indoor cat now that I walk daily on a leash. I live in Ontario where the weather gets extremely cold, and I am wondering if I should protect his paws with anything when I take him out for a walk especially as I don’t know what type of salt, the neighbourhood uses on the ice. \r\nAny information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated by both myself and ZakkAttack!!
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