With winter in full swing, it is important to be sure your cat is staying safe and warm during the colder months!
While it’s hard to pin down a number of outdoor cats in the United States, estimates range in the tens of millions. Keeping warm during the winter season is absolutely vital for these cats. If cats are left outside in temperatures that are below freezing, they can potentially develop hypothermia or frostbite — conditions that might prove fatal.
Here’s a few tips on how you can make sure your cats — both outdoor and indoor — stay safe and warm this winter.
First things first: give your outdoor cat plenty of food and water.
A nutritious diet and steady hydration will help your furry friend stay healthy and have the body fat they need to thrive during the cold months. Put out dry food instead of wet food so it doesn’t freeze, and make sure to regularly check that the water source isn’t frozen over. Filling the bowls with hot water and placing them out of the wind can help delay the ice.
Make sure your outdoor cat has a place where he or she can go to get out of the wind and rain. If possible, bring your outdoor cat inside at night when it’s cold, especially anytime the temperature is below freezing. Even letting the cat into your garage is better than leaving him or her outside overnight.
If you aren’t able to bring your cat in your house or your garage, you’ll need to build or purchase an insulated shelter to put in your yard. Put an old sleeping bag inside the shelter to provide some insulation so your cat can snuggle up. Straw can also be used for bedding, and thick Styrofoam can provide insulation. If possible, place the shelter in your garage or carport. If not covered, make sure you weather proof the shelter and weigh the shelter down so it doesn’t blow away or deteriorate over time.
It’s also important to make sure the shelter is in a safe place to protect your cat from any predators. Place the shelter on stable ground, away from any busy roads, and off the ground by a few inches.
You might think your indoor cat is good to go during the cold months – after all, they already live inside. But even indoor cats need a little winter love — especially kittens and senior cats! An indoor cat won’t be used to cold weather, so bring him or her inside anytime the temperature gets below about 45 degrees and watch them carefully when and if they go out to explore during the winter months.
When it comes to keeping your indoor cat warm, many of the same principles that you’d use with an outdoor cat still apply. Provide plenty of dry food and water and change it out daily. If the forecast is showing inclement weather, stock up on food, litter, and other pet supplies (this is also a good idea year-round in case of emergency).
You’ll also want to make sure your cat has a warm place to sleep inside your house. Put a bed, towel, or blanket in a warm room for your cat to enjoy (bonus points if you place the bed in a spot that gets the full sun). Making time to play with your cat is a good way to get them up and moving and keep their blood circulating. Keep feather wands or a laser light on hand for supervised playtime.
Finally, you may want to consider turning up the heat a few degrees before you leave the house, especially if you’ll be traveling for the holidays and gone for several days. Turning the heat up a few degrees will ensure your cat stays warm.
If you have any additional questions or concerns about how to keep your cat warm in the winter months, speak with your veterinarian directly.