Wondering how to keep your cats safe, dry, and warm during the chillier months of the year? Like you, your pet needs to adjust and adopt new habits as the temperatures drop.
Additionally, exposure to the winter weather could be a factor in frostbite and hypothermia, two very dangerous conditions for a cat. The outdoors also becomes much more unsafe, with the exposure to cars on icy streets and chemical anti-freezing products.1
Continue reading for some tips to keep your pet cats safe and cozy until spring.
Health And Safety For Cats: Help Them Stay Warm When Temperatures Drop
One of your key considerations to help keep cats safe in winter should be body temperature regulation. You may think your cat’s lustrous fur is enough to help them retain some warmth, but this might not always be the case. Help keep your cat cozy with the following tips.
Your Best Bet: Provide A Heated Cat Bed Or Heating Pad
Your cat might switch up their usual napping spots when it gets colder. They may seek out warmer and cozier spots in or around the house. You can help your cat by providing a safe and comfortable spot to rest.
An easy way to help either an indoor or outdoor kitty stay warm is to line a cardboard box with a warm blanket. If you feel this may be inadequate, a heated cat bed or heated pad may be a good option. If you do choose this method, just make sure they are under constant supervision while using the heated pad. There are some potential risks associated, such as your cat chewing on the electrical wire connected to the pad.2
Caring For Indoor Cats During The Winter: Tips For Shelter And Feeding
- Maximize sunlight during the day time. Leave curtains open, observe where the sun hits, and place a comfy pillow or cat bed on the spot, to encourage your cat to sun themselves there.
- Winter-proof your cat’s favorite hangout spots, like window sills. Seal your doors and windows against any drafts. Consider padding the windowsill to insulate the surface against the cold, or place a lined perch in the area to keep your cat warm.
- Adjust your thermostat accordingly, but do keep in mind that older or sick cats might need to stay warmer at night. You may also want to consider a humidifier since winter air can be very dry and uncomfortable for house cats.
- Watch your cat’s eating habits closely. Some cats may change their feeding routines and preferences during the winter. Always provide plenty of fresh food and water. Talk to your vet if you notice your cat’s appetite decreasing significantly during the winter.3
- If your cat is having trouble eating read our what can cats eat guide. It might just entice them.
Caring For Outdoor Or Feral Cats During The Winter: Tips For Shelter And Feeding
If you have an outdoor cat, or you’re responsible for feeding some ferals that are part of your spay-neuter efforts, you will have to adjust your feeding and shelter strategy during the winter. To keep outside cats safe and warm, here are a few ideas.
Set Up Fortified Winter Shelters
You can opt to purchase these brand-new or do a little DIY. There are a lot of ideas online about repurposing old pet cages and fortifying plastic bins with insulation, but generally, you’ll want an enclosed space that can repel cold and predators away from high-traffic areas.4
Additionally, you can line your cat’s winter shelter with hay, since this is a great material for keeping cats warm and dry. Make sure you replace the hay regularly, as well as do some maintenance on the shelter itself: Clear snow from the entrances and fortify with more insulation to keep drafts out.5
Build A Safe Feeding Station
Leaving canned food out in the cold won’t do. You’ll want to provide slightly warmed wet food at regular intervals, while also supplementing with extra dry food (since that can weather the cold temps better than the wet kind).
Fresh water is imperative to helping to keep cats from getting dehydrated in the winter. Opt for bowls that won’t crack or freeze when it gets too cold out. You can look for heated bowls in pet stores, but you can also just check the water you set out a few times each day to make sure it stays clean and isn’t frozen.6
Other Tips For Helping Outdoor Cats In The Winter
- Always check under the hood of your car and your tire wells before starting the car. Some feral cats might huddle in there for warmth.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast. In the event of a snowstorm, leave out extra supplies of food and water in case you can’t get to the cats as scheduled. You might also consider bringing them inside during the storm or at least in an enclosed area such as a screened-in porch or garage.
- Avoid chemical snow-melting agents and antifreeze. These products are toxic to pets.7
Observe Your Cat’s Behavior
You may not know it, but your kitty might already be suffering from the effects of hypothermia. It’s important to always observe your cat’s behavior and check for physical signs such as:
- Cold extremities or paw pads
- Rapid or irregular breathing
- A marked decrease in appetite and other regular habits8
While your cat may shiver or shake for any number of reasons, it’s important to bring your cat to the vet immediately if you see any cause for alarm.9
Ultimately, your cat wants the same creature comforts you crave when it’s chilly outside: a warm bed, good food, and a safe spot to get cozy and ride out the season until spring comes.