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Winter Worries: Outdoor Cats

“I’ve got to get home- Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there”. The cats you see outdoors may not necessarily be strays; these cats may be your neighbor’s outdoor kitty out for a romp in the snow. Regardless of where the cat came from it’s important to remember during these cold winter months that cats depend on people for their warmth and survival during the winter months. Even if your cat is used to being outdoors you may need to take a few extra steps to ensure their safety during the winter.

Keeping Warm in the Hood
As the days get longer and the nights get colder so do your kitties. Cats may seek the warmth and protection your car’s engine bay or wheel wells offer. In the morning a quick walk around the car to check the wheel wells and a good thump on the hood should scare off anyone who may be sleeping inside. Cats can be injured or killed by the cars fan belt or crushed by the tires when you begin to drive.

Winter Water
Once outdoor temperatures dip below freezing it is important to remember that all outdoor water sources will freeze. To ensure your outdoor cat has access to fresh, unfrozen water you may want to look into a heated water dish. If an electrical source is unavailable, water kept in a covered and enclosed warm space may not freeze as quickly. Thick plastic containers are better insulated that thin plastic or ceramic containers and may not freeze as quickly.

Shelter
Many people build small cat shelters for their communities’ cats over the winter. These can be made from anything from a cheap storage bin to a small dog igloo. The shelters size must be small enough to trap the cat’s body heat inside to keep the space warm. Filling the shelter with straw will allow the cats to burrow into it while being a great insulator. Anything you place in the shelter should be replaced if it gets moist or too dirty as it will not keep the heat in as well as fresh straw or newspaper would. This being said there are a few things to avoid placing in a cat shelter such as hay which can cause allergies or irritate the cats noses. Blankets and towels may keep us warm but they tend to absorb the body heat away from the chilled cat.

Storms
Even cats that are used to being outside during the winter can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. If the weather station has issued a severe storm or cold weather warning and is recommending that humans stay indoors your cat should be kept indoors too. If the weather is dangerously cold and you see a cat outdoors don’t assume he will find his way home in time. Do your best to bring the cat indoors to protect him from the cold. If this is not possible the garage or mud rooms are good, warm alternatives to bringing a strange cat into your home.

When the weather starts to get frightening keeping your cat indoors is the number one way to keep them safe and warm. If you have any questions or concerns about keeping your cat safe and warm this winter contact your local veterinarian and we would be more than happy to help!

This blog post was written by McQueen Animal Hospital, a veterinary clinic in Brampton providing quality affordable veterinary care

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