We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but winter isn’t over yet! Like it or not, many members of the Cuddle Clones community still have short, blustery days and long, bitterly cold nights ahead. The hazards and perils of this season’s weather are still a very real concern, and this is especially true for our outdoor feline friends! Providing proper care for your pets is already a full-time, year-round job, but winter brings with it a unique set of challenges and considerations to keeping your outdoor cats (and feral cats in your care) safe. However, by following these six cold weather care tips for outdoor cats, you can ensure your furry friends stay warm, safe, and happy all winter long.
Provide Safe & Stable Shelter
One of the most basic needs we all share is the need for safe, warm, and stable shelter. Adequate shelter is absolutely vital to ensure a safe outdoor experience for your cats. When building or buying your cat’s shelter, be sure to keep in mind size and material. A windproof construction is a must as the biting winter winds can quickly lead to frostbite and other life-threatening medical conditions. Also, when it comes to your outdoor cat shelter, bigger isn’t better! Heat dissipates quickly in larger spaces, making it difficult for the cat’s body heat to effectively warm the shelter. Size your shelter appropriately based on the number of cats you are planning to shelter.
Choose Straw for Bedding
We understand the urge to load your cat’s shelter with the softest, coziest blankets you can find, but blankets are a potentially dangerous bedding choice! Blankets soak up moisture and will freeze solid once saturated. Instead, choose straw for your shelter. Straw repels moisture and helps to store heat. Be sure to use straw, not hay. Hay quickly absorbs moisture and becomes a soggy, uncomfortable mess. Plus, soggy hay will become moldy, posing another range of potential health threats to outdoor cats.
Keep the Cat Fed & Watered
This tip may seem like a no-brainer, but winter is an unpredictable time of year, and failure to plan and prepare for inclement weather could potentially leave your cats without food or water. Given that outdoor cats’ bodies require additional nutrition and energy as a result of the harsh environment, this is simply not an option! Plan around the forecast and leave out extra food and water when the weather is expected to turn.
Stick to the Shovel
Check Beneath the Hood of Your Car
In the depths of winter, cats will often seek shelter inside a wheel well, or beneath or inside the car’s engine. This area is naturally shielded from the elements and retains warmth long after your car is turned off. Needless to say, operating your vehicle while an outdoor cat is beneath the hoodcan be dangerous and even fatal. Before you start your car in the winter, give the hood a couple of taps. If a cat is using your car for shelter, this should be more than enough to scare them from their hiding place and send them safely on their way.
Bring Your Cats Indoors
The absolute best way to keep your cat safe all winter long is to keep them indoors. According to TheRescueVets.com, “Anything 45 degrees and below is too cold for outdoor cats, so be sure to bring in your feline friend to prevent frostbite on their ears, tails, and toes.” Family pets should only be let out in winter weather for short periods of time and under close supervision. However, for those special pet lovers caring for colonies of feral cats, these tips can help to make their lives as safe and comfortable as possible all season long.