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Pam’s Cold Weather Safety Tips for Cat Parents

Keep Your Cat Indoors

This is the number one way to keep your cat safe and warm in the winter. Cats are more at risk outdoors all year long but the danger increases in extreme weather. An outdoor cat can suffer frostbite on paws and ear tips and can actually end up freezing to death.Cat siting in snow

Outdoor cats who look for shelter may seek warmth in very dangerous places such as inside the warm engine of a car or inside wheel wells. This often ends up being fatal when an unsuspecting person starts the car up or in the case of a cat inside the wheel well, puts the car in motion.

Even if you keep your cat indoors exclusively, use some form of identification. Microchipping is the most reliable because collars with ID tags can come off. It’s not uncommon for an indoor cat to slip out the door and find himself lost and confused in the frigid outdoors. The best way to get him returned to you is through identification. If you do use microchipping, make sure you keep the registry information current.

Bang on Your Car Hood to Alert a Cat

To protect the cats and other small animals who may seek warmth in car engines, give the hood of your car a couple of good hard smacks to startle any animal who may be in there. This will hopefully give an animal time to escape to safety.

Clean Up All Antifreeze Spills to Protect Cats

Traditional antifreeze has a sweet taste and can be enticing for animals to ingest. It’s not unusual for antifreeze leaks to occur so be aware of any puddles you see in your driveway or garage. If you happen to spill antifreeze while adding it to your car, clean it up immediately and make sure all antifreeze containers are wiped clean on the outside and tightly sealed before storing them away in the garage.

Don’t Leave Your Cat in the Car

When traveling, don’t leave your cat in the cold car. Depending on the weather, the inside of the car can become cold enough to be fatal to your cat. In the summer, the inside of the car can become an oven that can turn lethal in mere moments and the winter temperature can be just as dangerous.Cat in the snow

Watch for Frostbite on Outdoor Cats

If you allow your cat outdoors, keep in mind that he’s susceptible to frostbite, especially on the ear tips. Always make sure your cat is indoors when the temperature gets uncomfortable and check your cat over physically to look for signs of frostbite.

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Check the Paw Pads of Your Outdoor Cat

If you allow your cat outdoors during snowy or icy conditions, his paws pads can become burned and irritated by the ice melting salt products that get spread on sidewalks and driveways. To protect outdoor animals, switch to one of the pet safe ice melt products available instead of using traditional rock salt. You should also wipe the cat’s feet before he has a chance to begin licking his paws.human hand and cat's paw

Create a Draft-Free Indoor Environment for Cats

Even indoor cats can get uncomfortably cold. Make sure your cat’s favorite napping areas and bedding are located away from drafts. Since many cats love to sit at the window and watch the outdoor activity, address any drafts that leak through poorly sealed windows. If the house is drafty in general, set up some cozy napping places for your cat by using semi-enclosed beds or heated pet beds.snuggling kittens

Pay Close Attention to Sick or Elderly Cats

Cats who are inactive, have lost muscle tone, lost weight or have trouble maintaining their body temperature will need extra care to ensure they have adequate warm places for snuggling. An older cat with arthritis will truly appreciate being able to curl up in a soft, warm bed. Be extra mindful of cats who need a little extra help when it comes to staying warm and comfy. If your elderly cat has been used to going outdoors, this is the time to transition him to indoor life. The cold outdoor environment is especially tough on the stiff joints of older, arthritic cats. Older cats can also become more easily disoriented, especially in snow, so keep your cat indoors.

Take Action When You See a Cat Outdoors

All-too-often, many people ignore the cat spotted outdoors. If the weather is dangerously cold, don’t assume that cat will find his way home in time. Do your best to bring that cat indoors to protect him from harsh and dangerous temperatures. Hopefully, the cat will be mircochipped and if you bring him to the shelter or veterinary clinic, his family can be contacted. At the very least, keep him safely indoors during bad weather. Don’t assume that someone else will take care of in snow

Taking Care of Ferals

If you feed and care for ferals, provide dry, safe, outdoor shelters that will protect them from harsh temperatures and winds. Keep in mind that the cats will create moisture inside the shelters so you’ll have to change whatever bedding you use on a regular basis.  Use heated bowls for water or else you’ll have to change the water multiple times a day. Keep track of food as well because of how quickly it can freeze. For information on how to create outdoor shelters for feral cats visit the website of Alley Cat Allies.

Need More Information on Cat Behavior?

For more information on cat behavior and how to create an enriched and healthy indoor environment, refer to the book Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett.

Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett

We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.